NCAA Tournament | Analysis: Elis unable to play ‘Yale hockey’

BRIDGEPORT — In Thursday’s press conference at the Arena at Harbor Yard, Yale head coach Keith Allain told reporters that the Bulldogs’ key trait was being ready to play, game in and game out. But the Elis didn’t bring their best to the table in the season’s most important game.

What was most surprising was not simply that the Bulldogs lost, but how they did. The team came out with energy and had several opportunities to take an early lead, including a stretch in which they had a 5-on-3 advantage.

But Yale could not convert on those chances, and when Vermont left winger Peter Lenes scored 14:28 into the first period, the momentum shifted towards the Catamounts and never returned to Yale. Heading into the third period, the Cats were up 3-0, and the crowd’s energy had been predominately concentrated in the one corner of the arena packed with Vermont fans.

“I think we played our game; we just didn’t get bounces our way, and they seemed to get some,” center Mark Arcobello ’10 said when asked what went wrong for the Bulldogs. “We never really had the momentum the entire game.”

The Bulldogs looked out of sync throughout the contest. Passes that were usually crisp and on point were anything but. And when the Elis finally did get on the scoreboard with 1:45 on the clock, most of the capacity crowd had emptied the arena.

“I don’t think they saw the best Yale hockey team tonight, either,” Allain said. “Our reaction time just wasn’t what it normally is, and I don’t know why.”

Yale, whose power play ranked in the middle of the pack of the 16 NCAA Tournament teams, could not take advantage on the power play all night against a Vermont penalty kill unit that ranks in the lower third nationally. The Elis went 0-for-7 on the power play and, although the teams each had 26 shots on goal, it seemed as if the Catamounts were constantly on the attack.

It was not the kind of ending one would have predicted for the Bulldogs’ dream season. Picked prior to the season to finish seventh in the ECAC, the Elis went on to win three championships — the ECAC regular season, the Ivy League regular season and the ECAC tournament titles. By the end of the season, the Elis were a serious contender for the NCAA championship, something that few people outside of the locker room legitimately believed months ago would be a possibility.

Although the Elis will lose a few key cogs to graduation, including goaltender Alec Richards ’09, most of the team’s nucleus will be intact next season. The team will return its top 10 points leaders as well as two goalies, Ryan Rondeau ’11 and Billy Blase ’10, with experience in net at the collegiate level.

Add that talent to the experience Yale acquired during this winter’s campaign, and the Bulldogs will head into next season as the favorites in the ECAC and as legitimate contenders for the national title.

“This season will certainly help us,” right defenseman Jimmy Martin ’11 said. “We took big strides as a team and as a program. We are motivated to get better this summer individually, and bring that back into practice next fall. The fact that we have played in the tournament should also help in that we know what it consists of and how better to approach it.”

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