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The Yale men’s hockey team has a daunting home weekend ahead of it with games against No. 16 Quinnipiac and Princeton on the
horizon.

Goalie Corbin Kazcperski ’20 saved all but four shots last weekend against No. 6 Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Yet, the Golden Knights skated away with a 3–1 win over the Bulldogs after Yale failed to equalize on a six-on-four power play. Clarkson found the open Eli net with one second left in the contest. The following day, the Blue and White secured one conference point in its 2–2 tie with St. Lawrence.

Weekend play commences with the “Battle of Whitney Avenue” — the often physical contest between Yale and Quinnipiac that began in 2006.

“College town rivals,” defenseman Phil Kemp ’21 said, describing the relationship between the Bulldogs and the Bobcats. “We definitely respect them, but we hate them, so every time we play them it’s going to be a fun time. We’re just trying to get better every day. Keep building towards the playoffs — that’s our goal. [We are] taking it one day at a time.”

This year’s Elis have yet to play Quinnipiac or Princeton thus far.

The Connecticut Ice Tournament two weeks ago featured Quinnipiac along with UConn, Sacred Heart and Yale. But a Bobcat-Bulldog clash eluded the bracket as Quinnipiac progressed into the final and Yale headed into the consolation round after the semi-finals.

Since the first Yale-Quinnipiac meeting, the Bobcats boast a significant 22–7–5 lead over the Elis. Quinnipiac has won the last four games, and another victory for the Hamden team will tie their longest win streak against the Bulldogs — a streak that lasted from 2015 to 2017.

“[Quinnipiac plays] with good structure,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “I think they’re really good in the neutral zone. They create a lot of their offense out of counter-attacking, so it’s going to be important for us to create good
puck decisions.”

Sitting fourth in ECAC Hockey, Quinnipiac is hot off of a 5–0 triumph over No. 2 Cornell. The Bobcats tallied three goals over a span of 2:36 during the first frame and proceeded to walk away with the sweep against a bewildered Big Red. Quinnipiac appears to control the scoreboard by outshooting its opponents and heavily defending its side. On average, the Bobcats have outshot their competitors 32–25.9, and the team ranks second in the league for total shots on net. Additionally, the Bobcats hold a league high 83.3 power-play kill percentage.

Forwards Wyatt Bongiovanni and Odeen Tufto have proven themselves as the duo to watch out for on the ice Friday night. Though Bongiovanni has only posted three goals thus far, including the game-winning goal against Colgate last weekend, he has registered a team high 26 assists this season. Meanwhile, Tufto is tied with Yale’s forward Curtis Hall ’22 for number of goals — the two players each lead their respective teams with 13.

“Our goaltending has gotten better, our team defensive structure has gotten better and our special teams have gotten better since the first half of the season, so there’s been lots of progression,” Allain said.

The Bulldogs will then switch focus to Saturday’s duel against rival Princeton.

Though Yale scrimmaged Princeton in November, Saturday night will be the first official face off since the Tigers defeated the Elis 3–2 last March. Princeton is 1–3 in its past four matchups and most recently competed against No. 1 Cornell and Colgate — the same teams that Quinnipiac found success against last weekend. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Princeton did not showcase the same strength as the Bobcats, and the New Jersey team fell 5–3 and 3–0, respectively.

Though the Bulldogs won ten straight games, except one tie, against the Tigers from 2012 to 2015, the Blue and White has not secured a winning streak against Princeton since then. Following a Yale victory in 2018 of 7–2, the Tigers have gone on to clinch a pair of games 4–1 and 3–2.

Still, on Saturday, the Bulldogs “want to run [Princeton] out of the building,” Kemp said.

Yale’s 2020 offensive line appears much stronger than Princeton’s. Hall has registered over twice the number of goals than the Tigers’ lead scorer Corey Andonovski. The Blue and White’s second and third goal scorers, forwards Justin Pearson ’22 and Tyler Welsh ’21, have each scored at least the same number of goals that Andonovski has.

A quirk of the Princeton roster is their three solid goalies, each of whom have received considerable time in net. Princeton’s Jeremie Forget boasts the best save percentage, stopping .917% of all shots while Yale’s Kaczperski falls closely behind with a .906 save percentage.

The Bulldogs must use this homestand as an opportunity to jump up the conference standings as they currently languish in eighth out of 12 in the league.

“We’ve definitely grown as a team, [and] we’ve focused a lot on our team defense,” defenseman Billy Sweezey ’20 said. “I think that’s one big aspect that’s helped us out, gotten some games closer and will help us win some more down the road. It’s going to start defense-out, and a big part of that is just playing physical and playing hard. But also keeping a level head, and if we do that, I think we’ll be able to play with [Quinnipiac] and any other team in the country.”

The puck drops at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night at Ingalls Rink.

Margaret Hedeman | margaret.hedeman@yale.edu