Forward Denny Kearney ’11 has come out blazing this year, scoring 12 points through just six games after finishing third on the team last season with 37. His point total has him tied for the lead with linemate Broc Little ’11 and has helped the team to a No. 5 ranking in the national polls. His tallies also put him second in the nation in points per game. The News sat down with this linchpin of the high-flying Bulldog offense to talk about practice, scoring and referees.
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Q The team is ranked fifth in the country now after being nowhere near the rankings just a few years ago. How does it feel to be on a team that has become arguably Yale’s premier program?
A It’s just been really exciting coming from freshman year when we weren’t that popular — I think we were .500 — we’d fill like half of Ingalls and then moving to sophomore year and last year, we’ve generated a lot of buzz just by winning and making people respond to it. When teams win and they’re doing well and that’s great and the support has been unbelievable. It’s been awesome just to play in front of a packed house and people around campus are supporting us and it’s awesome.
Q What’s your style of play like?
A I’m more of a passer. I think that’s why coach Allain has put me and Broc Little ’11 together, because he’s a goal scorer. I look for him and try to set up goals.
Q But you’re still tied for the team lead in goals.
A I think I’ve just been fortunate. Shots have just been going in for me. Hopefully that continues but I’m usually a pass first guy, but I’ve been trying to shoot the puck a little more and get to the net, and obviously that generates a few more goals. So far, I’ve been fortunate, looking to get pucks on net, and things happen when you do that.
Q You share the team lead in games played with captain Jimmy Martin ’11. What’s your role on the team like as a veteran?
A The whole senior class just tries to be good leadership and set a good example for these guys and I think we just have great leadership with Jimmy, our captain and our class as a whole does a good job.
Q You’re one of the bigger forwards on a team known for being small and speedy. How does that affect your role on the ice?
A I don’t think it really changes much. We try to move the puck quickly, and we have a lot of small quick guys, but we really move the puck quickly and obviously the puck can move faster than any one person so just quick puck movement I think is a big key to our success.
Q Despite that quick puck movement, you guys are leading the nation in penalty minutes right now.
A I think just early on we’ve got caught up — hopefully we can correct that and be more disciplined. We’ve also had a couple major penalties which have tacked on some major minutes. Hopefully we can cut that down and be a little more disciplined. Our penalty kill has been playing well, but we’d rather not be killing off any penalties.
Q You’re one of the anchors of the power play unit. How do you feel about your performance with the man advantage so far?
A I don’t think it’s as good as we have to be. Last year, we were close to the top. Hopefully, we can get more reps, and that will lead to more comfort between guys in each unit, and hopefully that will lead to more power play goals.
Q Central to the program’s resurgence has been head coach Keith Allain ’80. Can you talk about his style as a coach?
A He preaches having up-tempo practices. There are never any dull moments. He has everyone working hard and competing. He tries to make every drill a competition between two sides. That’s great, because it plays to everyone’s competitive nature, which makes everyone work hard. Obviously, us working hard and having a good week of practice leads to us having a good weekend of games.
Q After the Air Force game, he laid into the refs a little bit. Is he the type to often be vocal on the bench?
A He’s a real competitive guy. If the ref makes a call he doesn’t agree with, he’ll definitely let them know. I think that’s something that our whole team has to work on. Not worrying about the refs, just putting that aside and just trying to stay disciplined and focusing on winning on our own.
Q This weekend, you’re playing two teams — Cornell and Colgate — that have struggled early this season and have losing records. What are you looking forward to in the games against them?
A Cornell’s always one of the top teams in the league, and I think they have been for the past 10 years. They may have had a slow start, but I don’t think this year will be any different. They’re going to be up there. Also, their rink is always one of the toughest to play at. We’ve had some success the last couple years, and it’s always a fun atmosphere with a packed house, plus their crowd is awesome. It’s always fun to play there, and hopefully we can get a win. Then obviously Colgate has been up and down, but they have a lot of skilled forwards. Every team in this league is dangerous, so you can’t overlook them.