Perhaps it may be time to start taking the Yale men's hockey team seriously.
After failing to win two games in a row over its first six games, Yale entered the discussion as a potential NCAA Tournament team last weekend by sweeping two top-15 teams on the road.
Yale traveled to Colorado last weekend and posted wins over previously No. 2 University of Denver (9-2) and No. 14 Colorado College (7-6-1) on back-to-back nights. That brought Yale's winning streak to three, and gave the Bulldogs a 4-0 record against nationally ranked teams on the season.
For the first time since Yale earned a No. 1 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs appear to be playing consistent hockey. Last season, the squad went 16-16-3 and failed to advance past the opening round of the ECAC Hockey Tournament. In fact, after a 5-2 start to the season, the Bulldogs went 11-14-3 the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs appeared primed to struggle with inconsistent play against this season when they got off to a 3-2-1 start. Two of the wins came against ranked foes in Harvard and St. Lawrence. However, both losses came against ECAC opponents in Clarkson (2-5-5) and Dartmouth (5-2-2).
Will the two wins in Colorado last weekend mark the start of a stretch of consistent play for Yale?
“That's the expectation,” says Yale coach Keith Allain (Worcester, Mass.). “In college hockey, with games on the weekends, it's more of a week to week thing. It's tough to establish momentum when there's so much time between games, but we feel like we can carry over our play from last weekend.”
Eight different players were responsible for Yale's eight goals last weekend, marking a shift from last year's team, which received most of its scoring production from one line. In addition, the Bulldogs held Denver, the second-highest scoring team in Division 1 hockey, to one goal on 33 shots and five power plays.
“We're going to need the entire team to get to where we want to go,” Allain says. “Everyone is going to have to contribute, and that's the way it went last weekend.”
The Bulldogs even received contributions from more than one goaltender. Jeff Malcolm was a rock in net against Denver, but he struggled against Colorado College the next night. Nick Maricic relieved Malcolm, who gave up five goals on 25 shots, and stopped all nine shots he saw in the third period and overtime.
“We have three goalies on our roster, and I'm comfortable with all three,” Allain says. “It's about everyone improving together as a team and individually. We like the way we played last weekend, so we need to continue that.”
Player of the Week
Andrew Ammon, jr., F, Princeton University
Ammon scored all four Princeton goals in the Tigers' 4-3 win over Sacred Heart Nov. 23. He is Princeton's first player to score four goals in a game since Andre Faust had four against Dartmouth on Nov. 17, 1990.
Game of the Week
Quinnipiac at Union, Nov. 30 (7 p.m.) at Messa Rink
The battle of top-20 teams is a potential ECAC Tournament Championship matchup with both teams playing extremely well in November. Quinnipiac is 5-0-1 in its last six games, and Union is 8-1-1 in its last 10.
1. Union (8-2-1, 3-1-0): Seniors Kyle Bodie and Wayne Simpson lead the Dutchmen, who carry four double-digit scorers and seven players with nine points or more.
2. Quinnipiac (8-3-2, 4-0-0): The Bobcats extended their unbeaten streak to six games (5-0-1) with a road win at Providence and a tie at UMass.
3. Dartmouth (5-2-2, 4-1-1): The Big Green held their own on the road at Boston College Nov. 24. They entered the third period tied 3-3 before taking a 6-3 loss.
4. Harvard (4-3-0, 3-3-0): The Crimson will be idle for the second weekend in a row. They will play a total of two games between Nov. 18 and Dec. 28.
5. Cornell (4-3-2, 1-3-2): The Big Red proved they are not to be counted for dead Nov. 24, posting a 5-1 victory over Michigan at Madison Square Garden.
6. Colgate (6-6-2, 2-3-1): The Raiders outshot Merrimack 24-22 in a 1-1 tie Nov. 24. Freshman Spencer Finney is making his mark in net for Colgate.
7. Princeton (3-4-1, 2-1-1): Tigers goalie Mike Condon allowed three goals in the final 1:55 of the second period in a 3-1 loss to UMass Lowell Nov. 24.
8. Clarkson (2-5-5, 2-1-1): Clarkson appears to have caught the “tie bug” from Harvard. Clarkson is 2-1-5 in its last eight games.
9. Yale (5-2-1, 2-2-0): Coach Keith Allain was particularly complimentary of Yale's Saturday opponent Brown in his weekly press briefing this week, knowing full well the sweep of Denver and Colorado College will be for naught if the Bulldogs lose this weekend.
10. St. Lawrence (6-4-2, 0-2-2): The Saints had a bit of a Beanpot swing last weekend with a win at Northeastern and a loss at Boston University.
11. Brown (3-4-2, 0-2-2): The Bears, coming off a 3-2 win at home against Holy Cross last weekend, are looking for its first conference win this season.
12. RPI (3-5-2, 0-4-0): The Engineers average 2.40 gpg and allow an average of 3.20. The power play is 8 for 44 (18.2%) and the penalty kill is 36 for 44 (81.8).