Dutchmen bidding for sweep of league-leading Bulldogs

Union will host 10th-ranked and ECAC Hockey-leading Yale tonight at 7:30 at Messa Rink.
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The last time Union and Yale faced one another, the Dutchmen found themselves down, 2-0, after the first period. They came back to win that Dec. 6 game at Ingalls Rink, 5-2.

The Dutchmen certainly don’t want to tempt fate again, not with how hot the Bulldogs have been.

Union will host 10th-ranked and ECAC Hockey-leading Yale tonight at 7:30 at Messa Rink.

“It’s huge,” said Union forward Jason Walters, who missed the first meeting because of an upper-body injury suffered the previous night against Brown, the Dutchmen’s Saturday opponent. “You always look for a test, especially going down the stretch.”

With six games left in the reg­ular season, the Dutchmen (7-8-1 ECACH, 14-12-2 overall) are in a three-way tie for sixth with Clarkson and St. Lawrence. They are 2-0-1 in their last three games.

Yale (12-3-1, 17-5-1) has won six in a row, and is 6-0-1 in its last seven. Since losing to the Dutchmen, the Bulldogs have gone 10-2-1.

“We want to keep rolling,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “Yale’s in the top 10 . . . and this is the first-place team. It was a really hard-fought game down at Yale, and we were fortunate, too, that our opportunities went in the net. But we’re expecting nothing less than a battle [tonight].”

The game at Ingalls could have been a lot worse. The Dutchmen were outshot, 20-8, in the opening period, and goalie Corey Milan kept the game from being a blowout by making 18 saves. The Dutchmen outshot the Bulldogs, 25-17, over the final two periods, and scored once in the second and four times in the third.

“In the first period of that game, we had opportunities to extend the lead, but we didn’t,” Yale coach Keith Allain said. “That was our biggest mistake that night. I give Union a lot of credit, they stuck to it, and were able to get the first goal and turn things around.”

The Dutchmen have given up the first goal of the game 15 times this season. They are a respectable 6-8-1 in those games. But they don’t want to keep playing catch-up hockey, especially against a Yale team that has some of the league’s top forwards in junior Sean Backman (14-11-25), sophomore Broc Little (13-12-25) and junior Mark Arcobello (11-12-23).

“The last time we played them, we won,” Dutchmen co-captain Matt Cook said. “But because of that first period, we came away with a great respect of what that team can do, and they’re a dangerous team. If you give them an inch, they’ve got quick forwards who are all very dangerous, and they’re great in transition. Every turnover comes right down your throat.”

Since getting swept in the memorable 2006 ECACH tournament first-round series, capped by the five-overtime loss in Game 2, the Dutchmen are 4-0-1 in their last five games against the Bulldogs. It’s a streak that doesn’t mean much to Leaman.

“You go through different spurts in league play,” Leaman said. “We may have played well against Yale, [but] Brown has played real well against us. It’s one of those things that every game is a different game, and I’m sure they’re not going to be living in the past. We’re not living in the past.”

RPI hosts brown

The Big Red Freakout takes place Saturday, when RPI hosts Yale at Houston Field House.

But coach Seth Appert doesn’t even want to talk about the Freakout. He wants the focus of his team on tonight’s game against Brown at the field house at 7.

Appert doesn’t want the attention on the Freakout because it distracts the team. In the last six years, RPI (5-10-1, 6-20-2) has gone 1-5 in the Friday game before the Freakout. And with the last-place Bears (2-11-3,

2-17-4) just three points behind the 10th-place Engineers, the Freakout is the least of Appert’s worries. RPI has lost its last four games.

“We haven’t mentioned Yale,” Appert said. “We haven’t mentioned the Freakout. We’re not going to. Our record on Friday nights before the Freakout is embarrassing, and it [ticks] me off. To me, that’s disrespectful to your opponent.”

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