Blackened Blue: the price of Yale’s stumble

Players of the Week

Player of the week:Chase Polacek, Rensselaer

Chase makes it two weeks in a row, as the senior striker opened the weekend with a power-play game-winner against Brown (plus a first-assist on the second goal), and wrapped it up with another power-play goal and two assists in the big win against Yale on Saturday. Polacek now has 16 goals, 39 points, and seven power-play goals in 26 games. He leads the league in overall productivity, and is fourth in the nation in said category with 1.50 points per game. Hello, Hobey run?

Honorable mention: Danny Biega, Harvard (3-0-3 vs. Colgate); Taylor Fedun, Princeton (2-2-4, +2 at St. Lawrence and Clarkson)

Rookie of the week: Andrew Ammon, Princeton

Ammon kicked things off with a short-handed goal and an assist at St. Lawrence, and put a cap on the weekend with power-play and even-strength goals and another assist at Clarkson. A +3 player this week, the product of Aldie, Va. now holds seven goals and 13 points in 16 games.

Honorable mention: Brock Higgs, Rensselaer (1-2-3 vs. Brown and Yale)

Goalie of the week: Allen York, Rensselaer

There were quite a few superb goaltending exhibitions this weekend, but York stole the prize by stealing 74 of 76 shots against Brown and Yale. The junior pitched a 36-save shutout over Brown on Friday, then stoned the Bulldogs on 38 of 40 shots in the Big Red Freakout! on Saturday. With a .932 save percentage, York – a Blue Jackets prospect – ranks seventh nationally; his 1.86 goals-against average, third.

Honorable mention: Andy Iles, Cornell (3 goals against, 64 saves at Dartmouth and Harvard); Keith Kinkaid, Union (4 goals against, 54 saves vs. Yale and Brown); Eric Hartzell, Quinnipiac (4 goals against, 54 saves at Clarkson and St. Lawrence); Ryan Carroll, Harvard (4 goals against, 45 saves vs. Colgate and Cornell)

Op-ed: Yale’s stumble

The Blue just dropped consecutive games for the first time in nearly two years. What’s it signify?

Well, the most obvious ramifications are that Yale drops out of the top spot in the polls for the first time since November, and more importantly, Union climbs to within one point of Yale for the league lead with an equal number of games played (14).

Beyond that, it means that the external perception of Yale – whatever it may have been – is diminishing, if only incrementally. The Bulldogs are beatable: Air Force, Brown, Union, and RPI have shown as much. I don’t think anyone in the Yale locker room ever felt his team was indomitable, but the sense of confidence that may develop when riding a 10-game winning streak can change in a heartbeat, when you lose two straight and three of five.

Now Yale faces Harvard and Dartmouth at Ingalls, where the Blue hope to remain the nation’s only undefeated – in fact, perfect – home side. At 12-0-0, that’s a serious home-ice advantage. Yale has averaged 36 shots a game, and averaged 33 in each of its last three losses… not a huge step down. Injuries don’t seem to be playing a major factor, if any, but senior goaltender Ryan Rondeau may have just a smidge more self-doubt than he did when he was en route to remaining the nation’s last unbeaten goalie.

So what’s the toll of the tumble? The aphorism that you learn more from defeats than from victories may be put to the test: Will Yale’s defense and goaltending rise to the challenge, with foes smelling blood in the water? Will the offense play with the same easy poise and creative flow that got them to the top spot in the PairWise?

I think so. Yale has more margin for error than it – or we – may believe. The Bulldogs are still atop the PairWise, and could likely lose out the rest of the way and still pull a No. 1 seed in the NCAA’s. The Ivy, regular season, and league tourney titles are worth a lot, but unlike some of its ECAC competition, Yale doesn’t have to solve all its problems overnight.

Chin up and eyes ahead, Big Blue… there’s still a lot of work to be done.

My Top 20

Made a few adjustments this week… some were obvious (Yale dropping), some weren’t: I took a new look at teams’ winning percentages, and adjusted a few spots for strength-of-schedule afterward. Let the whining commence.

1. Boston College
2. Yale
3. Minnesota-Duluth
4. Denver
5. Rensselaer
6. North Dakota
7. New Hampshire
8. Merrimack
9. Union
10. Princeton
11. Wisconsin
12. Michigan
13. Western Michigan
14. Dartmouth
15. Notre Dame
16. Miami
17. Boston University
18. Maine
19. Colorado College
20. Nebraska-Omaha