For a number of eager Bulldogs, the time has finally come. More than a week after Yale’s dramatic wins over Minnesota and North Dakota, the men’s hockey team is leaving today for Pittsburgh, the site of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four.
The team will depart campus around 4 p.m. for a 7 p.m. flight to Pennsylvania, where the team will have a night to get settled in downtown Pittsburgh before a series of practices and press conferences Wednesday morning at the CONSOL Energy Center, home of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. The 10-day gap in between the NCAA West Regional in Grand Rapids and the trip to Pittsburgh has been excruciating for some.
“Obviously [it’s] tough to focus on school,” said Nico Weberg ’15, who is out for the rest of the season with an injury but will still travel with the team to the Frozen Four. “I think a lot of guys just can’t wait to leave. I don’t know what to tell you, but school has kind of been … out of the question lately.”
Freshmen who have known nothing but unprecedented success echoed the sentiment.
Carson Cooper ’16 said that it was an unbelievable experience to make it all the way to the national semifinals in his first year of college hockey and that he just hopes they can continue their success all the way through the championship game.
The senior leadership, including captain Andrew Miller ’13, has instead focused on the positives of the break in advance of the national semifinal.
“It’s nice to get a few days off to rest your legs and refocus,” he said. “It was an exciting weekend, but a little layover will give you time to get your mindset ready for next weekend.”
Yale head coach Keith Allain ’80, who was nominated last week for national coach of the year honors, noted his team’s past success after extended breaks. The team swept WCHA heavyweights Denver and Colorado College in November after a 13-day pause, and the Elis blew past St. Lawrence by a combined 9–1 margin over two games in the ECAC quarterfinals after a weeklong bye during the first round of the conference playoffs.
“We thought we came out pretty well against St. Lawrence,” Allain said. “We’re trying to mimic that week [off] as closely as possible.”
But one unique aspect of this layoff is a media frenzy that has not let up since the Bulldogs clinched their Frozen Four bid. Defenseman Rob O’Gara ’16, a Boston Bruins draft pick, and forward Kenny Agostino ’14, whose draft rights were traded from the Penguins to the Calgary Flames before the NCAA tournament began, both said they had received congratulatory messages from their respective NHL organizations.
During a Thursday press conference at Ingalls Rink attended by the Connecticut and college hockey press corps, Allain said he appreciates the media attention but is mostly just happy to be with his team.
“What I’m basking in is [that] I love being around this group,” he said. “This is a group that gives me energy, and to have the opportunity to come to the rink with them every day for two more weeks … I’m basking in that for sure.”
Miller added that the team would take a moment to appreciate its accomplishments but would remain focused on the task ahead.
“It’s an honor to be in Pittsburgh. It’s an honor to look back at the work you’ve done this season to get there,” he said. “But we’re not there to be happy and jolly and bask in the limelight. We’re there to win games.”
The West Regional champions will practice Wednesday at 11 a.m. on the CONSOL Energy Center ice before facing the media at a 12:35 p.m. press conference. The team faces off against the UMass-Lowell River Hawks on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in the first national semifinal.