The challenge for any freshman at Yale is finding a sound footing in unfamiliar surroundings. For the five men’s ice hockey recruits in the Class of 2007, this could be an even harder task on the ice of Ingalls Rink.
The Eli rookies have to adjust to the quicker tempo of the games, the size of the players, and the skill level of playing collegiate hockey.
“These guys are used to being the dominant player,” men’s ice hockey head coach Tim Taylor said. “Now they are 18-year-olds playing against 22-year-old men.”
Just in the first week of practice, the freshmen have already noticed the differences between high school and collegiate ice hockey.
Defenseman Matt Cohen ’07 said he had to adjust to two and a half hour practices, a significant increase from the hour-long sessions he endured in high school. While Cohen admits he still has much to learn about Taylor’s system and his teammates, he said chemistry is forming and he feels like a part of the team.
Cohen may not have as much adjusting to do as some of his fellow rookie recruits. Collegiate hockey was not entirely foreign to Cohen when he arrived at Yale. As a member of the national under-18 team, Cohen played against college teams, including a 3-3 tie at Yale in the beginning of last season.
For other new arrivals at Ingalls Rink, the adjustment has nothing to do with playing ice hockey.
“I played two years in Chicago [on a junior league team],” goalie Matt Modelski ’07 said. “The biggest adjustment for me was to be back in school and taking classes.”
At the end of last season, Yale lost significant offensive power with the departure of five forwards. The squad lost two scoring threats to the NHL, Nick Deschenes and Chris Higgins. Deschenes signed with the Philadelphia Flyers after recording eight goals and eleven assists in his senior campaign. Higgins departed after his team-leading 41-point sophomore season to join the Montreal Canadiens.
“The biggest hole we have is on offense, but there is where we are deepest,” captain Vin Hellemeyer ’04 said. “This could be a real break-out year for the sophomores. Some of them put up 15 points last year, and that’s very good for a freshman.”
Taylor said the team will play a more conservative style due to the exodus of scoring power, but he feels his squad will still be able to put the puck in the net.
“We are a little down on forward depth, but I like our forwards,” Taylor said.
Both Taylor and Hellemeyer are optimistic about the upcoming season after the Blue-White scrimmage on Saturday, Oct.18. Hellemeyer said the defense played well. A key for this season will be team defense, rather than placing the entire load on the two defensemen.
“We are getting some of the kinks out,” Taylor said. “Our success will depend on how things mesh together and people accepting their roles.”
The freshmen will get their first game experience in an exhibition match against Guelph University on Oct. 25 at Ingalls Rink. Taylor said he will try to spread around playing time but will rely on “the guys who have already earned their stripes.”
“I don’t ever want to put too much responsibility on a freshman who has yet to prove himself in a game,” said Taylor.