The men’s hockey team has grown substantially since last year, earning a spot in the NCAA tournament.
At 2 p.m. today, the Bulldogs (18-12-3) will face off against the No. 2 PairWise Minnesota Golden Gophers at Van Andel arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Elis are the fourth seed in the West Regional playoff and the Gophers (26-8-5) are the No. 1 seed. The Gophers have the No. 1 team offense in the country and the No. 3 team defense. Both Yale and Minnesota play a fast-paced and physical game, and the Bulldogs hope to come out on top of a game in which anybody could bring home the victory. To win the game, the Bulldogs will stick to what they know.
“Play our systems with high-energy and work them down low and get our chances,” top-scoring defenseman Tommy Fallen ’15 said.
Fallen, a Minneapolis native, will be playing against quite a few friends in a not-so-friendly contest. Growing up just 15 minutes outside of Minneapolis, he attended many games at Mariucci Arena and has played with or against “at least six to seven guys” from the Gopher squad.
“It’ll be interesting,” Fallen said. “I’ve always wanted to have some bragging rights over these guys.”
He also said his family is torn between rooting for the Bulldogs and their long-time favorite team, the Gophers.
While Fallen will be playing against familiar players, captain Andrew Miller ’13 will be playing in a familiar place.
The Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native, will be just two and a half hours from his hometown when the Bulldogs play in Grand Rapids.
Miller, like the rest of the Elis, has experience in high-pressure situations, as he has faced the currently No. 1 ranked team twice already this season.
“It’s [our] senior year and it’s [our] last opportunity to win a national championship,” Miller said. “The past two years we’ve learned a few things to help us win.”
“We want to make [Minnesota] play faster with the puck than they really want to,” head coach Keith Allain said. “They play on an Olympic sheet that gives them a little more time.”
While the Gophers only have one senior on their roster, their team is overflowing with talent. Minnesota has four players in the top 50 scorers in the nation, including forward Eric Haula whose 1.36 points per game make him the seventh leading scorer in the nation. The Gopher’s goaltender, freshman Adam Wilcox, has also had an outstanding year, posting a .922 save percentage in his freshman campaign.
Yale, meanwhile, is not far behind, with Miller and linemate Kenny Agostino ’14 in the top 50 for scoring, having put up some impressive numbers this season.
“I think we will have a really good opportunity to surprise some people,” Fallen said.
The Bulldogs landed in Michigan Wednesday evening and practiced at Van Andel arena Thursday. The puck will drop this afternoon at 2 p.m..