MEN’S HOCKEY: Bulldog offense packs bite

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Photo by Jennifer Cheung.

Coming into the 2013–’14 season, many doubted the No. 8 men’s hockey team’s ability to recover from the graduations of Andrew Miller ’13 and Antoine Laganiere ’13 up front. But Yale’s offense has not skipped a beat, ranking 12th in the nation with 3.50 goals per game this year.

“Replacing those guys was a hard task, but we’ve had a great group of freshmen that have added to our offense,” wing Carson Cooper ’16 said. “Also, the juniors and sophomores have stepped into more ice time and have been able to contribute.”

Despite being picked as this year’s preseason favorites to win the ECAC regular season by ECAC coaches, the Bulldogs figured to struggle without Miller, Yale’s all-time assist leader and Laganiere, one of the most dominant power-forwards on the ice last season. Both graduated and headed to the NHL following last season.

Miller, Yale’s captain last season, was signed by the Edmonton Oilers. The Michigan native has skated in 22 games for the team’s AHL affiliate, Oklahoma City, and has registered nine points so far this year. In high school, he was named Mr. Hockey in Michigan in 2006, and for Yale, registered over 34 points in all four of his seasons. He notched a career-high in goals in last year’s championship season, lighting the lamp 18 times.

Laganiere joined the Anaheim Ducks and has spent the season with AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals, playing in 22 games and posting three points. A former prep-school standout at Deerfield, he was constantly a goal-scoring threat for the Elis, especially in his last two seasons, when the Canadian scored 19 and 15 goals.

Despite winning the national championship, the Bulldogs were not known as a high scoring team. Yale finished the 2012–’13 season ranked 24th in the nation in team offense, averaging 2.89 goals per game. The Elis had a total of five games where the team scored more than four goals.

Yet with only 10 games played so far this year, the Elis have already etched five games where the team has tallied more than four goals. Going into the season, the Elis were expected to lean heavily on an experienced d-core that returned all top four defensemen, as well as a few key players on offense. However, the offense has unexpectedly exhibited depth this year.

“The best part about our offense this season is that the scoring has been spread out,” captain Jesse Root ’14 said. “Everybody in the lineup, from forwards to defensemen, is contributing and that’s what has made us effective so far.”

Many looked to wing Kenny Agostino ’14 and Root to be the main scoring threats for the Bulldogs. Agostino has tallied eight points, while Root leads the team with six goals. But the preseason all ECAC team selection and captain, respectively, have by no means been the only offensive contributors this season.

Seven players have posted seven or more points already. Additionally, 16 players on Yale’s roster have registered a goal so far, including 11 with two or more. Each class has put in its share of goalscoring. The sophomore class leads the team with 11 goals while the senior, junior and freshmen classes each have eight goals.

“We have a relentless attack all over the ice,” forward Mike Doherty ’17 said. “We like to transition quickly and catch teams off guard. Our hard work on the forcheck has helped us create chances and score goals around the crease. Our quick pace tends to wear teams down when they can’t keep up with our speed.”

A number of unexpected players headline the Bulldogs’ scoring thus far. Before falling victim to a knee injury three games ago, forward Anthony Day ’15 led the team in points, posting three goals and four assists through seven games. The Buffalo, N.Y. native had eclipsed his career high of six points and looked lively.

Returning forwards Carson Cooper ’16, Stu Wilson ‘16 and Trent Ruffolo ’15 have also contributed heavily. Cooper, with two goals and six assists, has improved his numbers from his inaugural season, during which he posted five points. Wilson has picked up from an impressive freshman campaign and is tied for second on the team with three goals. Ruffolo, with seven points, is on pace to smash his career-high of 13 points.

Another key to the Yale offense has been the Yale blueline, as its top four skaters have amassed 19 points between them. Move-the-puck defenseman Tommy Fallen ’15 has posted seven points with two goals and five assists to his name. Ryan Obuchowski ’14, who is similarly offensively inclined, has registered five points. Rob O’Gara ’16 and Gus Young ’14, both of whom scored in last weekend’s game against Merrimack, have also thrown their hats in the ring, each adding four points.

The most surprising element of Yale’s offense, however, has been the freshman class. The class of 2017 has consistently put four forwards on the ice each night. In ten games, the rookies have combined for 20 points. This includes eight goals, two of which — including Chris Izmirlian’s ’17 overtime goal last Saturday — were game winners. So far, the freshman have accounted for 22 percent of Yale’s offense, which is the most since the 2007-’08 season when rookies compiled 31.8 percent of the season’s points.

“Our class has a lot of talent offensively,” Doherty said. “[Frankie DiChiara ’17] and [John Hayden’17] are two big strong forwards who use their bodies well and have a lot of skill on the puck [Izmirlian], my linemate last year in juniors, is extremely smart and great with the puck as well. He has a great release and can find the open man. Overall we can create a lot of scoring chances.”

Doherty, who has been skating with Root and Agostino on the Eli’s top line, currently leads the team with 9 points. The Reading, Mass. native had his best night against Colgate on Nov. 22 when he scored and added two assists.

DiChiara has popped up with five points, including the assist for the overtime winning goal last weekend. Izmirlian leads the rookies in scoring with three goals. Hayden, a Chicago Blackhawks third round draft pick, has been a force to reckon with on the ice, using his 6’3” 210 frame to tally three points so far.

The freshman and the rest of the Yale offense will have to continue to execute as Root and Day remain out, injured for this weekend’s games.

“We’re going to have to have guys step up into those roles left open by Day and Root,” Cooper said. “Izmilrilan is a great example, scoring an overtime winner for us. He stepped up into an open center spot and brought what we needed.”

The Bulldogs will hope to capture a victory this weekend again opponents Dartmouth and Harvard. In the past two seasons, seven of Yale’s eight matchups with these Ivy foes have resulted in games that totaled more than six goals.

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