The Yale men’s hockey team seeks to defend its home ice with rematches against No. 2 Cornell and Colgate — two teams that defeated the Bulldogs back in early November.
Last weekend, Yale (11–12–2, 8–8–2 ECAC Hockey) demonstrated immense strength against No. 20 Harvard and Dartmouth, earning three league points total. The surge in both offensive pressure and defensive strength from the Elis could not have come at a better time, as the league concludes its regular season two weekends from now. The Bulldogs look to surpass three ECAC programs who are currently tied or one point ahead of the Blue and White in the rankings. Yale returns to Ingalls Ice Rink to contend with the Big Red (19–2–4, 14–2–2) who bested the Bulldogs 6–2 in the fall and currently sit tied for first in the conference standings. Though Colgate (10–14–6, 8–7–3) also defeated the Blue and White earlier this season, the Elis have a good chance of securing two points against the Raiders on Saturday.
“For these last couple weekends, at least practice-wise, we have continued to have fast, intense practices to prepare for the weekends,” defenseman Michael Young ’23 said. “As for games, we know that every point matters in the standings right now, so we are focused on trying to play the right way and come out with two points in every contest. Our recent games have definitely felt a little more intense than earlier in the season, as other teams are fighting for ECAC points, too.”
As Yale hopes to secure home-ice advantage in the first round of the ECAC playoffs, a win against one of the best collegiate teams in the country would help to further its cause. For Cornell, who enters the final road stint of the season as controllers of its own destiny, a win against either Yale or Brown this weekend would guarantee its third straight Ivy League title. The Big Red has also clinched a top-four ECAC finish which guarantees the squad a bye through the first round of the playoffs and home-ice advantage in the quarterfinal series.
After falling to Quinnipiac to close out play in January, Cornell has rattled off five-straight wins since — tied for the third-longest active streak in the country — with the two most recent wins coming in a home sweep of Union and RPI. The Big Red tacked on three goals in the first period alone against the Engineers, which has been a trend over this winning stretch. Of the 23 goals scored in its last five games, Cornell has scored 14 of them in the first frame. If the Blue and White hopes to not play from behind this Friday, this is definitely something to be weary of.
“Even though Cornell is one of the highest ranked teams in our conference, the preparation stays the same and we are not going to change how we practice at all,” forward Luke Stevens ’20 said. “We’ve been focusing on getting better in practice every day so when Friday rolls around we’re ready to go.”
For as good of an offense as the Big Red possesses, defense is what defines the team. In the 18 ECAC games the squad has competed in this season, it has allowed just 33 goals — a 1.83 average. For the season as a whole, Cornell’s scoring defense ranks third in the entire nation. Big Red senior defenseman Yanni Kaldis was just named ECAC Hockey Player of the Week. Yet, it wasn’t for his lockdown defense, it was for his three goals and one assist in two games against the Empire State teams — suggesting how deep Cornell’s roster is.
Colgate comes to New Haven fresh off of a split weekend — the Raiders lost to Renessaeler Polytechnic Institute 4–1 yet returned the next day to its home arena to defeat Union 4–0. In its last battle, Colgate defeated the Elis 2–1. The game started out slowly for the Blue and White, who did not score its first goal until the third period. The Bulldogs failed to capitalize on any of their three power play opportunities. Despite this defeat, the Elis beat RPI twice this season while Colgate failed to do so.
The Raiders’ squad features a plethora of top goal scorers including the duo of talented senior forwards Bobby McMann and Ben Sharf who lead Colgate in points. As for its defense, netminders Andrew Farrier and Mitch Benson split time between the posts, and both goalies boast a superior save percentage to Yale’s Corbin Kazcperski ’20.
The Bulldogs look to maintain their hot streak after they tied No. 20 Harvard last weekend, a team that Yale previously fell 6–1 and 7–0 to, and upset Dartmouth 4–3.
Over the course of last weekend, forward Justin Pearson ’22 scored a career high of four goals. Though his mindset going into the Harvard rivalry was one of internal focus, the loss at Madison Square Garden still festered in the team’s mind, Pearson said.
“We wanted to make a statement about how we wanted to respond,” he said. “Although a tie was not the result we wanted, it goes to show our progress we have made as a team. At Dartmouth, we came back from two deficits to win the game because we never stopped competing, and we had confidence in each other to get the job done. We have been fighting through adversity all year, and this comeback win was a big step in the right direction for us as a team.”
The Bulldogs face off against Cornell and Colgate at 7 p.m. in New Haven on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
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