MEN’S ICE HOCKEY: National champs return to the ice

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Photo by Brianne Bowen.

Root is replacing Andrew Miller ’13 as the captain of the 2013 National Champion Men’s Ice Hockey team as it approaches a new season with a winning mentality, and a shot at further glory.

“First of all, it’s just a huge honor to be selected [captain] by my teammates and I’ll do everything I can to make sure we have another successful season,” Root said. “The captains before me were incredible in the way they handled themselves and the team. I tried to learn as much as I could from them and hopefully I can be as effective as they were.”

The team is coming in with a strong core of returning players and an influx of young talent. The Bulldogs (22–12–3, 12–9–1 ECAC) lost five letter winners from the team that beat three of the four No. 1 seeds in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Four of those players are continuing their hockey careers in various leagues.

The Elis will have to work on replacing last year’s offensive talent but have a solid core to build off of. The Elis have lost their all-time career assists leader in Miller and perennial points producer Antoine Laganiere ’13 to the NHL, but Root, who scored three goals in Yale’s NCAA tournament run last season, returns with his line mate Kenny Agostino ’14 to lead the Bulldogs on offense. The Pittsburgh native (12–11–23) finished fourth on the team in points while Agostino (17–24–41) finished tied for first. Agostino, a Calgary Flames prospect, was picked on the preseason All-ECAC team. The duo will anchor the Elis top line again this season and are expected to be the top goal scorers for the team.

Agostino turned down a chance to play in the NHL in order to return to Yale for his senior year, and most college hockey experts and coaches assume he will continue to be the Elis’ main scoring threat. He has featured in over 30 games in all three of his seasons for the Bulldogs and has increased his points production each year.

“Kenny is a phenomenal player and he’s also one of my best friends off the ice so I think that helps,” Root said. “He has a ton of skill and grit and I think that combination makes him a very effective player who is also very easy to play with.”

However, Yale will need more than just Agostino and Root to fill in for the departed players on offense. Classmate Clinton Bourbonais ’14 (4–13–17), who had a goal and an assist in Yale’s championship game again Quinnipiac, played an increasing role on offense towards the end of the season and will also be expected to carry the load on offense.

A trio of juniors will hope to help fill the gap up top as well. Headlining the Class of 2015 are forwards Trent Ruffolo ’15 and Nicholas Weberg ’15. Ruffolo (4–7–11) led the class of 2015 in points last year. Weberg (4–7–11) improved his numbers from the pervious year despite a concussion that caused him to miss much of the season. Anthony Day ’15 (1–4–5), who scored against North Dakota in the NCAA West Regional Final, played in every game last year for the Bulldogs and looks to set to play an important role this season as well.

Sophomore forward Stu Wilson ’16 (9–8–17), who scored two game-winning goals last season, led last year’s freshman class in points. Wilson played as a top-six forward for most of last season and is expected to add to his points tally as he continues to register big minutes. Forwards Carson Cooper ’16 (1–5–6) and Charles Orzetti (2–1–3), who scored in the National Championship game last season, are poised to step up after productive freshman campaigns.

The incoming freshman class brings five new forwards into the Yale lineup to help spark the Bulldog offense. John Hayden ’17, a third-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Frankie DiChiara ’17, who had 72 points in 75 games last season with the USHL Champion Dubuque Fighting Saints, are both powerful forwards who mix physicality with skill on the ice. The duo are expected to take on a large role in their inaugural season with the Bulldogs. Classmate Mike Doherty ’17 was second in scoring in the EJHL last season and is another freshman to look out for this season.

While the offense will need to be revamped, the Bulldogs can count on their solid defense from last season, as the Elis return six blueliners and add Dan O’Keefe ’17. The defense will be the Elis most experienced unit this year as they return all four top defensemen.

Tommy Fallen ’15 will return as Yale’s top offensive player in the group. He tied for fourth on the team with 23 points. Fallen, who was voted fastest on skates by his teammates, has always been known for his offensive potential having scored 20 points in his freshman season as well. Fallen’s partner Ryan Obuchowski ’16, who had a fantastic freshman campaign, can also be expected to be seen careening up the boards this year. Obuchowski had 12 points and led the team in +/–, going +12, en route to receiving the team’s Freshman MVP honor. He was also named to the ECAC All-Rookie team. The Michigan native was picked as one of the top-20 defensemen to watch in the college hockey season by the USCHO. Both Obuchowski and Fallen should feature on the power play and penalty kill units for much of the season.

Gus Young ’14, a three-year mainstay of the hockey program will return as the most experienced member of a talented unit. The senior, who tied for the most penalty minutes on the team last season, is a rock on the blueline for the Bulldogs with his physical style of play. His partner Rob O’Gara ’16 rounds out the top four defensemen. O’Gara, a Boston Bruins draft pick, impressed this summer at the Bruins training camp and will again receive top four minutes this year.

“Having all the boys back on the blue line is great for our team,” Fallen said. “Not only does it help in games knowing that we have a great working unit with experience but it also helps us in practice competing against really talented guys day in day out.”

The Elis will have to replace star goalkeeper Jeff Malcolm ’13. Yale will need one of its three goaltenders to step up if the team hopes to continue its success. Connor Wilson ’14 is the lone returning goalie. He featured in only five games last season behind Malcolm’s backup Nick Maricic ’13.

Wilson’s relative inexperience leaves the door open for a pair of freshman net minders, Alex Lyon ’17 and Patrick Spano ’17.

“With the goalies, it is up to them to decide,” Fallen said. “All three have proven themselves for Yale and their various other teams leading up to this season and we all have the confidence in them to step up.”

Yale has also made a coaching change, bringing in Jason Guerriero to replace the departed Red Gendron when he left to take over as head coach of The University of Maine. Guerriero will work primarily with the forwards this season. This shifts fourth year assistant Dan Muse into the role of coaching the defensemen. Muse has usually coached forwards in his career and will face a new challenge this season in coaching at the opposite end of the ice.

“Muse has been talking to other coaches around college hockey and has gained a wealth of knowledge from their incites over the off season,” Obuchowski said. “He is bringing new ideas to the d-core like different reverses behind net, keeping the puck on the forehand, and smaller things like edge work.”

The Elis start the season with question marks on offense and in the net, but they return a core of veterans who will look to replace key losses and continue to elevate the hockey program. Fallen stressed the Bulldogs will not be complacent heading into the new campaign and will set new goals for the team this season, while still aiming high.

“This year, we do not have the mentality that we are ‘defending’ anything,” Fallen said “Last year is over, now it is time to start fresh and improve throughout the entire year and come together as a team.”

Yale begins the new season Oct. 25 against Brown in Newark, NJ.

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