After a roller coaster 2005-’06 season, in which Yale finished with a 10-20-3 record and fell in the second round of the ECACHL playoffs, the Elis have gained a new coach, a talented crop of freshmen and a new attitude for the 2006-’07 season.
Under the leadership of head coach Keith Allain ’80, who broke numerous school records while donning blue and white for four years as Yale’s starting goalie, the Bulldogs are off to their first 2-0 start since 2000-’01 and have the potential to be the most successful Eli squad in recent history.
Yale faces a tough schedule this season with a game against No. 4 Boston University at the end of this month and two meetings each with ranked ECACHL rivals Cornell, Harvard, Dartmouthh and Clarkson. After a successful campaign against Holy Cross and No. 8 New Hampshire last weekend, the team has been practicing hard in anticipation of this weekend’s matches against Colgate and Cornell at home.
“I am pleased with the results from the first two games,” Allain said. “We need to work on all areas of our game. Our passing needs to get sharper, we can be more together in our systems work and we can become more efficient in our execution of offensive rushes.”
The Elis have a solid core of experienced players to go along with the fresh talent this season. Although three of Yale’s top four assist and goal contributors graduated, the squad boasts eleven veterans and four rookies on the forward line. Brad Mills ’07, who managed eight goals and eight assists last season despite missing 11 games because of injury, will be “a leader of the offense,” captain Matt Cohen ’07 said. The Bulldogs will look to 2006 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Mike Karwoski ’09, who led Yale freshmen in points and assists last season, to continue to dominate on offense. The squad will also rely on the contributions of Rob Burns ’07, Will Engasser ’08 and Blair Yaworksi ’08, among others, to get points on the board.
The Elis gained a strong core of freshmen in Mark Arcobello ’10, Sean Backman ’10, Greg Beller ’10 and Chris Cahill ’10, who as a group have already contributed three goals and two assists in regular season play.
“They’re great players, and they’re coming into their own very early,” Yaworski said. “I think this is a strong freshman class. Everyone, so far, contributes to the team.”
The Bulldogs also added two new defensemen this season — Tom Dignard ’10, who contributed a goal in Yale’s 4-3 OT win over UNH, and Ryan Donald ’10 — to go along with five returning starters. Cohen, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime at Union in the first game of last year’s playoffs, will anchor the blueliners this season. Bill LeClerc ’07, whose eight goals and nine assists last season helped him earn second team all-Ivy honors in 2006, has already demonstrated his ability to help the Bulldogs on both ends of the ice with an assist and a goal in the first two games.
Between the pipes, the Bulldogs will rely primarily on Alec Richards ’09 in 2006-’07. In his rookie season, Richards stopped the puck 885 times, shattering the all-time Yale record for saves in a single season, which was previously held by Alex Westlund ’99 with 839 saves. Richards finished with a .912 save percentage and made more than 40 saves in five different games last season, including a career-high 57 against Union last March, to help Yale advance to the second round of the ECACHL playoffs.
“In this league, if you don’t have good goaltending you’re going to struggle,” Cohen said. “Alec is going to be a big part of our success this year. We need him to be consistent, and so far he is doing a great job.”
Allain’s different style of coaching will also factor into the Bulldogs’ success this season.
“He definitely is more focused on team speed,” Cohen said. “We’re a faster team, and we’re in pretty good shape. But the biggest change is that the attitude in the locker room is a lot better this year. Guys are upbeat, and he’s fostering some of that. I also think the guys we have this year just have a little bit of a better attitude. Everyone is really pulling together and working together.”
In order to reach their potential, the Bulldogs stressed that they will focus on each practice and each game individually, rather than getting ahead of themselves. If they can do this, they are confident that they will be a contender in the ECACHL.
“Our goals are to work hard every day to become better as individuals and as a team and to enjoy every opportunity we get to represent Yale on the rink,” Allain said.