Of the five nationally ranked teams the Bulldogs have played this season, they have won four of six contests, helping them earn a national ranking of 15 in the most recent U.S. College Hockey Online polls.
After a slow start to the season, with a tie and loss to No. 11 Dartmouth, the Elis (5–2–1, 2–2 ECAC) went on to defeat No. 19 Harvard 5–1, previously No. 13 Saint Lawrence 4–2, No. 18 Colorado College 6–5 in overtime and No. 2 Denver 2–1 in overtime. Scoring and winning when it counts has been a coordinated team effort from the Bulldogs that depends heavily on focus.
“It’s just plain focus,” leading goal-scorer Antoine Laganiere ’13 said. “When you’re not focused, a lot of the systems break down, and that’s when you allow the opposition chances to score.”
Three other players interviewed said that their success is a direct result of their focus. But the Bulldogs also attribute their wins against nationally ranked opponents to the team’s philosophy both on and off the ice of always thinking only about the game ahead of them.
“We try to approach the game the same way and play our style of fast-paced, physical play,” said leading point-getter Kenny Agostino ’14, who had the game winner against Denver last Friday.
Five players said that the in-your-face, aggressive, speedy and high-tempo style the Elis try to implement every game has won them some of their most important victories. Laganiere said that some of the teams they have played, including No. 2 Denver and No. 18 Colorado College, try to slow the game down and play more strategically. By keeping the pace up, the Bulldogs try to force the opposition to play Yale-style hockey.
This fast play also helps the Bulldogs gain momentum throughout the game. For example, despite Saint Lawrence dominating puck possession in the first period, the Bulldogs kept playing the body and outskating the Saints, eventually putting them in a position to win.
While the attitude and approach the Elis have taken to every game have brought them success this season, captain Andrew Miller ’13 said the Bulldogs have taken steps to develop their game-by-game attitude as a team.
With some time off last weekend, Miller said the Bulldogs were able to work on systems but also take time to develop their team mentality. While it is common for the team to eat or catch a movie together, the ropes course offered something more for the team.
“It was refreshing,” Laganiere said. “It was a trust thing.”
As a result of the success the Elis have had so far this season, they have developed some confidence. Forward Jesse Root ’14 said that beating a good team, whether they are ranked or not, gives the team confidence..
“We have shown ourselves that we can compete with the best teams in the country,” Miller said.