As 6’5, 235-pound Alex MacDonell of Waterloo exited the game late in the third period for a major penalty, it appeared he left the ice with more penalty minutes than he had teeth. Battered and bruised, MacDonell represented a Waterloo team that could not match the discipline, physicality or precision of a more talented Yale men’s hockey squad and — more importantly — could not stay out of the penalty box.
The Bulldogs were able to convert on three of their man-advantage situations and held the Warriors to only one power play goal, as the Bulldogs defeated the Waterloo, 3-1, at Ingalls Rink on Saturday night in a preseason matchup. Jeff Hristovski ’06 and Brad Mills ’07 scored less than two minutes apart from each other on five-on-three situations in the second period, as the two veterans set the tone for the game and, coaches hope, for the season.
After a scoreless first period rife with penalties and sloppy play — normal behavior for teams playing their first games — the power play units for both teams got on track in the second period. Heady passes from defenseman Shawn Mole ’07 and Mills set up Hristovski’s goal, a quick wrist-shot from the slot that beat Waterloo goalie Curtis Darling. Mills scored one minute and thirty seconds later on a pass from Bill Leclerc ’07, after a penalty on Hristovski’s goal gave the Bulldogs another five-on-three.
Special teams play was tremendously important in a game in which 34 total penalties were called, 13 for Yale and an astonishing 21 for Waterloo. As a team, the Warriors served 61 minutes in the box during the 60-minute game. A high number of penalties is not uncommon for fight-ridden games, but this game was not fight-ridden. Well over half of the penalties were called for interference, hooking or holding as officials cracked down on obstruction fouls. Associate head coach C.J. Marottolo said this is a trickle-down effect from the National Hockey League.
“We’re taking a lead from the NHL,” he said. “A lot of them were for interference or hooking. There was a lot of special teams play and all four goals were power play goals.”
Josh Gartner ’06 recorded 17 stops and Matt Modelski ’07 made 10 saves as the goaltenders combined to limit the Warriors to only one goal. Last season, the men between the pipes held opponents to one goal or less in only three games. Nate Jackson ’06 said he was encouraged by the play of the goaltenders and by the improved team defense.
“The fact that we only held them to one goal was huge for our [defense],” Jackson said. “We kept them down to something like 25 shots, which is a big change from last year when we were giving up 40.”
Matthew Iannetta scored the lone goal for Waterloo at the end of the second period on a power play to shorten the gap to 2-1. The Warriors outshot the Elis 15-13 in the second period and arguably had the momentum going into the third. But the penalty-killing unit was able to hold the Warriors scoreless for the first two minutes of the third period to turn the tide. Jean-Francois Boucher ’08 added a key insurance goal in the third period, assisted by Leclerc and Hristovski, to put the game away.
Assistant coach Bruce Wolanin ’91 said he thought holding the 2-1 lead and adding the third goal was a positive indicator of a good performance, but it was very hard to judge in general.
“Overall, we were pleased, not satisfied,” Wolanin said. “With so many penalties, it was hard to get a sense of how the team will play five on five.”
But Marottolo emphasized how important the penalty-kill and power play will be to the team.
“Last year our Achilles’ heel was penalty killing,” Marottolo said. “I was pleased to see how we killed off the penalty [at the beginning of the third period] and we came back with a power play goal.”
Yale ranked dead last in the 12-team ECACHL in penalty killing and team defense last year, and close to the bottom in all of Div. I. Jackson and other players cited penalty-killing and special teams in general as the one area that will make or break their season, especially if the rate of penalties matches that set by officials in the first exhibition game. Pundits believe Yale will not improve in these categories, placing Yale tenth in preseason ECACHL rankings.
But there are two big reasons for hope to prove naysayers wrong and reverse a 5-25 season: seniors and freshmen. When asked what the biggest difference is between this year’s team and last year’s, Jackson did not hesitate.
“The obvious answer is the role of our senior class,” Jackson said. “We had a few guys last year who everybody liked and respected. This year we have 10 seniors ready to take over the team and set a good example for the young guys. Having senior leadership, 10 guys talking it up in the locker room, will keep morale up.”
Marottolo said the coaching staff as a whole is also very impressed by the freshman class, with its diversity of skills and game-readiness. Although held scoreless in Saturday’s game, all seven made an impact and generated numerous scoring opportunities.
“As a class, we have very high expectations,” Marottolo said. “They all bring something unique to the table. Each player in the [freshman] class is different.”