Yale, Harvard on the upswing; RPI stumbling

It wasn’t the best first half for Yale, but a young Bulldogs team is showing some signs of turning it around during the season’s final two months.

Yale beat Connecticut 4-2 on Saturday and is 4-2-2 dating back to the middle of November. The Bulldogs outshot the Huskies 41-15 and goalie Sam Tucker earned his first collegiate victory in a game that pushed the Bulldogs to .500 for the season.

If Yale is going to host a playoff series in March, it will likely be on the strength of its offense. The Bulldogs have scored at least four goals in three straight games, and are averaging more than three goals a game this season.

That’s a throwback to Yale teams of old, who often won in offensive shootouts. A young defense should get better in the second half, but the Bulldogs will need some stability in goal, as neither Tucker (.848 save percentage) or Patrick Spano (.891) has done much to distinguish themselves through the first few months of the season.

Yale is at home against Providence Tuesday in their final non-conference game of the year, and then host Clarkson and St. Lawrence this weekend.

Rensselaer’s struggles continue

It’s not getting any prettier for the Engineers. RPI lost 5-1 at home to Massachusetts-Lowell last Tuesday, and then fell 6-1 to Clarkson in Lake Placid on Saturday. Including a loss to Harvard a week ago, the Engineers have been outscored 16-3 over their last three games.

RPI coach Seth Appert said the team needed to put its first-half struggles behind. The Engineers weren’t awful against the Crimson, despite coming out of the wrong end of a 5-1 decision.

Still, it has to be disheartening to be on the wrong end of so many lopsided games. RPI has allowed at least five goals in six straight games. Only one of those games has been closer than three goals – a 6-5 overtime loss to Princeton on Dec. 3. For the season, the Engineers are getting outscored by just over two goals per game.

In the past, RPI was good enough on defense to make up for a lackluster offense. That doesn’t appear to the case this year and its looking like it will be a long two months in Troy.

Crimson on a roll

Despite being tied for the least amount of conference games played among the top six teams in ECAC Hockey, Harvard is sitting in third place, two points behind first-place Union. The Crimson have a game in hand over the Dutchmen.

Harvard swept Quinnipiac and Princeton at home by identical 5-2 scores and is in the midst of a six-game winning streak heading into this weekend’s matchups with Rensselaer and Union.

Friday’s game against the Bobcats marked the return of defenseman Adam Fox from the World Junior Tournament and the freshman had an immediate impact, finishing with two assists.

I still think St. Lawrence’s Kyle Hayton is the top goalie in the league, and Union’s top line makes it dangerous as well, but right now it’s hard to find a team in ECAC Hockey that is as deep and talented as the Crimson.