MEN’S HOCKEY: Same ice, more buzz

Most within the
men’s hockey organization view
last year's national title as only the first of many
for head coach Keith Allain ’80.
Most within the men’s hockey organization view last year's national title as only the first of many for head coach Keith Allain ’80. Photo by Brianne Bowen .

As the men’s hockey team approaches the new season, the dust on its 2013 National Championship trophy is starting to settle. But the luster surrounding the hockey team after its triumph over Quinnipiac last spring still shines, elevating the stature not only of the hockey program but also of Yale athletics in general.

“Certainly winning the championship was a great thrill for all of us,” said athletic director Tom Beckett. “It brought incredible attention to Yale athletics and it’s a source of great pride for all of us. We have had a great number of alums from all over the world mention how proud and exited they are. It clearly raised the sense of Yale pride around the globe in terms of those who got the word or followed the team. It was very inspiring for all of us.”

While the national title — the Bulldogs’ first in any sport since 1951 — came as a great surprise to many observers, most within the men’s hockey organization view the title as only the first of many for head coach Keith Allain ’80. The Malcom G. Chase Head Coach of Hockey arrived in 2006 with the intention of growing the program and winning championships.

In 2008-2009, during just his third season with the Bulldogs, Allain helped Yale to a 24 win season that included ECAC regular season and tournament championships, a No. 5 national ranking and Yale’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998. In the next season, 2009-2010, Allain’s squad became the first Yale team to repeat as ECAC regular champions, added an Ivy League title and earned the program’s first NCAA tournament win under the coach.

The next year brought further success, as the 2010-2011 team became the first Yale team to be voted No. 1 nationally and held its position atop college hockey for two months. The Elis went on to win an ECAC tournament championship before again prevailing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

From 2008-2011, Allain’s Yale teams had the best combined winning percentage in all of college hockey in that time span, and the program’s upward progression could clearly be seen. Bulldog faithful hope that the 2013 trophy hoist in Pittsburgh, PA on April 13 will be the first of many for Allain and Yale hockey.

Bulldog faithfuls hope that the 2013 trophy hoist in Pittsburgh, PA on April 13 was only the first of many for Allain and Yale hockey.

“Did we expect to win a national championship? I think if you ask coach Allain his feeling, he does expect that,” Beckett said. “It was a dream come true, certainly for me and I think for everybody that knows the program and who knows coach Allain. For him it was what he believes in; he believes the team is capable of extraordinary things and he expects them to [achieve them]. That’s why he’s the great coach that he is.”

The internal belief in the program and its consistent success has made men’s hockey one of the most popular sports at Yale. Tickets to games at Ingalls Rink sell out as quickly as many professional events and regularly feature a sold out crowd. The student section can regularly be seen overflowing with excited and passionate fans.

Additionally, Yale All-Access has seen an increase in viewership of Eli home games, which YAA streams online, according to broadcaster Adlon Adams ’15.

“The hockey games are absolutely my favorite sport to watch at Yale,” Jon Karp ’16 said. “The student section at Ingalls is definitely the loudest of any sport at Yale and the team always puts on a great performance.”

The Bulldogs should expect the crowds to get larger and louder as the team’s success continues. The excitement around the men’s hockey team has not only helped Yale spirit but also athletic recruiting.

Beckett noted that 2013 championship, along with the recent success of teams like women’s volleyball, men’s lacrosse, coed sailing and heavyweight crew, has helped elevate Yale in the eyes of many students looking for a school that combines the greatest in academic and athletic excellence. Allain added that while the championship has not automatically translated into hockey players wanting to come to Yale, it makes the program a much easier to sell to potential student-athletes.

“All of us want what we do to be important to the people around us,” Allain said. “I think the atmosphere might be a little bit heightened now and I think it’s really cool that people care about Yale hockey.”

Allain was quick to point out that this season poses a very different challenge than last year. While the goal remains to win the national title, the 2012-2013 triumph will not be mentioned at all by the players and coaches.

The hockey program’s concentration on growth has put this year’s team in a great position to continue having success. Yale’s experience in defense and depth at forward, combined with Allain’s and the rest of the coaching staff’s tutelage, should provide students, alumni and fans alike another exciting season on the ice. Going into a new season at Ingalls Rink may be business as usual for the men’s hockey team, but the whole New Haven hockey community is buzzing in anticipation for this season’s home opener November 1 against St. Lawrence.

“We have absolutely noticed the uptick in interest,” defenseman Tommy Fallen ’15 said. “If anybody were to know us personally, you’d know that we certainly don’t mind buzz.”

Yale takes on Ontario Tech in an exhibition game this Saturday at Ingalls Rink at 7:00 PM.

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