Series Record: 79-57-5
Friday, January 25
November 4, 2011 & February 11, 2012
The drought ended. That was the storyline from last season for the Cornell-Yale series. At least from Cornell's perspective. Cornell traveled to Ingalls Rink to confront the then-reigning ECAC Champions after a loss to Mercyhurst that could not be described scarcely as anything but embarrassing.
Cornell defeated the Elis by a score of 6-2. Freshmen from Cornell's highly celebrated and acclaimed then-freshmen class tallied three goals in the victory. The abrupt change in the complexion of the Cornell-Yale series continued until the end of the season when Cornell finished the sweep of the Bulldogs for the 2011-12 season at Lynah Rink.
Cornell would end its 2011-12 run in the ECAC with a loss to Harvard in the 2012 ECAC Championship Semifinals and a win over Colgate in the consolation game. Yale ended its season the week prior against its unrequited hockey rival, the Crimson.
16 points 7 points. Cornell's relatively successful 2011-12 season concluded in the 2012 NCAA Tournament with a crescendo as the Big Red upset the Michigan Wolverines while the Elis remained in New Haven to watch the national tournament from the outside for the first time in three seasons.
Youth has not reinvigorated the Bulldogs this season. No freshman ranks in the top eight of the Elis in terms of production of points. It is purpose that drives them. Yale was a highly regarded team in the 2009-10 season and a highly seeded, some would argue inflationarily so, team at the close of the 2010-11 season. The Bulldogs missed the national tournament and their elimination at Harvard in the 2012 ECAC Quarterfinals reminded Allain and his canine compatriots of the depths from which they climbed.
Dartmouth drew the attention of the college hockey world when it defeated Yale in the second meeting of the two teams in two weeks. The Big Green upended Yale after forcing it to settle with a tie at the incestuous Ivy Shootout. The news with hindsight would have been about the Elis, not our Ivy-League friends who clamor in the wilderness of New Hampshire. The Bulldogs have lost only three games since that loss.
That winning streak includes victories over Denver and Colorado College with a tie against Boston College. Yale has performed by almost any metric the best in its out-of-conference schedule against teams that have legitimate national aspirations of any program in the ECAC. Cornell is a close second with the Denver sweep swaying the balance away from the Big Red's favor.
Yale has returned to Allain's system of speed and opportunism. If there is a program in the ECAC that a philosophy resembling that of North Dakota guides, it is Yale. North Dakota fans will shutter at the comparison but the tenet of "speed kills" that guides North Dakota at its best was omnipresent in the intimidating and successful Yale teams of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.
Yale hockey under Allain is about speed and a barrage of offense. Yale has been following this approach during its success this season. Yale outshot its aforesaid stellar opponents 133 to 89 in the three games it played against them. The Bulldogs were not outshot in any of those games.
Yale averages taking 35.4 shots per game. Colorado College and Denver, two of the most offensively prolific teams that Cornell has confronted this season, take 27.1 and 27.8 shots per game respectively. Yale's closest statistical peer in this category among the nation's elite programs? North Dakota. The former Fighting Sioux average 33.1 shots per game.
Yale's offense is fairly balanced with six players that have tallied double-digit totals of points. However, nearly 30% of the offensive points awarded to a Bulldog have been attributed to Laganiere and Agostino. Laganiere, Agostino, or both have scored a goal in all of Yale's wins but the Bulldogs's defeat of UMass. The offensive production of the two forwards is not only prolific, but crucial to the success of the Bulldogs.
Even though puck possession and offensive speed are the staples of Allain's system at Yale, the Bulldogs feel emboldened this season with senior goaltender Malcolm between the pipes. He has tended the crease for all but one of Yale's four losses. Yale's first loss of the season to Dartmouth was the one time that Malcolm did not get credited with the defeat. Malcolm was chased from the crease in the Bulldogs's clash with RPI.
Keys to the Game:
The team that imposes its desired flow of the game on its opponent will almost certainly win the game. Only three of Yale's eleven wins have been in tight games that only one goal has decided. A controlled, tightly played defensive game that is grinding will prevent the Bulldogs from developing the transitions and open ice that they use to score a game. Cornell has the speed and endurance to win a track meet-like game like those that Allain prefers, but the closer the game treads toward such a dynamic, the less certain the outcome of the game becomes for Cornell.
Unsurprisingly, Yale's offense is among the ten most productive the nation. The Bulldogs have scored an average of 3.33 goals per game. Cornell has defeated Colgate and Colorado College this season. Both the Raiders and the Tigers tickle the twine more often than do the Elis. Two lessons can be extracted from the four games that Cornell played against Colgate and Colorado College. Cornell will need to be as disciplined in its system as it was in the Colorado College series and the second game against Colgate. Andy Iles may need to be as phenomenal as he was in the first Colgate game to give Cornell the best chance of winning.
Cornell needs to prepare and focus on this squad of Yalies like it is one of the teams from season's past. That is why the foregoing is of the utmost. Yale's résumé shows that what was once the gold of previous years may in fact be gilded this season.
Three of Yale's losses cast doubt upon its inevitable dominance. Clarkson shut out Yale 1-0 at Ingalls. The Golden Knights surrender more than three goals per game. Cornell defeated the Golden Knights 3-1 when it had the chance. The Elis then suffered an even more embarrassing loss at Ingalls to the other engineering institution in the ECAC.
Rensselaer defeated the Bulldogs 6-1. Rensselaer is not as defenseless as some believed early in the season but the manners by which Cornell and Yale lost to the Engineers are entirely different. Cornell lost a tightly fought contested game at Houston Field House. Yale absolutely lost control of a game in which it scored the first goal at Ingalls Rink.
The result that is Yale's badge of shame this season is a loss to Atlantic Hockey's Holy Cross. The Crusaders beat Yale in a high-scoring game 5-4 during which Holy Cross led for 48:47. A short-handed goal for the Crusaders opened the scoring in the game and the challengers from Atlantic Hockey had an answer for each goal that the Bulldogs tallied.
Yale defeated Boston College when the Eagles were without their leading scorer, Johnny Gaudreau, who was representing the United States in the 2013 World Junior Championship. Yale's victory over Denver occurred when the Pioneers began their eight-game winless streak at the end of the first half of the season. These facts must be considered when assessing the challenges that a Yale team that is coming to Lynah Rink will present.
Yale is very talented. There is no question. One cannot underestimate an Allain-coached Bulldog squad. Yale has defeated quality opponents. It is nearly irrelevant if Yale benefited from occurrences beyond its control in those games because Cornell can benefit just as readily from the comparisons that will be drawn from this meeting of Cornell and Yale.
Yale has won only one game when neither Agostino nor Laganiere has tallied a goal. The two combine to have scored just only one goal against Cornell in the entirety of their careers at Yale.
Cornell must dictate the pace of the game. The Big Red must keep Yale hemmed in its own zone as long and as continuously as it can. Cornell must avoid the temptation of making passes through heavy traffic that can lead to costly turnovers on which a team like Yale will convert. The Engineers of Rensselaer took advantage of such turnovers. Yale will make Cornell pay more if Cornell does not resist the urge.
Cornell must continue to play disciplined hockey in the realm of not drawing penalties. Cornell made great strides last weekend in terms of not getting penalties. The Big Red allowed only two even-strength goals in its trip to the Capital District. However, Cornell allowed three power-play goals over the weekend. Cornell's penalty killing was not at the stellar level that it was two weeks before in Denver. Cornell cannot risk having not returned to that superb level of penalty killing when Yale brings the sixth-best power-play unit in the nation to East Hill.
Discipline and patience in all realms of the game will be of the utmost importance to Cornell. Yale capitalizes on turnovers. Cornell will need to be patient cycling in Yale's end. Allain has stated that this season's team has dedicated itself to defense. Cornell's talented forwards will find the opportunities to score. A team and program with an offense-first mindset like Yale has surrendered and will continue to surrender offensive opportunities for the sake of trying to break out of the zone. Cornell cannot get too comfortable in its zone when penalty killing or on even strength. Cornell should play a grinding, puck-possession game that is true to Cornell hockey. Make Yale play Cornell's game at Lynah.
Allain, much like Schafer, is an alumnus of the institution at which and program that he coaches currently. The Bulldogs called upon Allain to tend the pipes during his time as a player in New Haven. Yale never made the championship weekend at the Boston Garden during Allain's time as a player. Allain was never part of a Yale team as a player that beat Cornell at Lynah.
There are disagreements from multiple sources about the series record between Cornell and Yale. Cornell sources report both 79-57-5 as well as 79-56-5 as possible all-time records between the most successful and oldest hockey program in the ECAC. Yale reports that the all-time series record stands at 79-58-5. All sources agree that the Cornell-Yale series has a total of 79 wins for Cornell and 5 ties between the two programs. The discrepancy in the total number of victories for Yale is perplexing. Yale has been accused of playing with ineligible players in recent seasons, but the Bulldogs have not been required to vacate any wins formally. This makes it unlikely that this is the cause of the discrepancy.
This post closes with highlights from last season's first meeting between Cornell and Yale. Cornell defeated the Elis soundly in a 6-2 victory that ended an eight-game winless streak for Cornell in the Cornell-Yale series in resounding fashion.