MEN’S HOCKEY: Heart of a Lyon, goalie uncaged

While Yale’s goaltending situation stood unresolved at the beginning of the season, the No. 13 men’s hockey team has found its starter in Alex Lyon ’17.

The Baudette, Minn., native has featured in 16 games for the Bulldogs and has been red hot as of late. In the Elis’ most recent game, a contest against Brown on Jan. 25, Lyon showed his claws, stopping all 28 shots he faced for his first collegiate shutout.

“I know it’s cliché, but it is really about wins more than anything,” Lyon said. “If we win, that’s the main goal. Obviously it feels good, but I think being a mature athlete means taking it all in stride and moving on to the next game. Obviously, some games I play better than others. Some games I play poorly, and some games I play great. I like to have a short memory.”

At the beginning of the season, many questioned whether Yale’s inexperienced goaltenders, including Lyon, classmate Patrick Spano ’17 and veteran Connor Wilson ’15, would be able to step up and perform in the national spotlight. Joining a team on the back of a national championship run is a tough adjustment for anyone, let alone a goaltender trying to replace Jeff Malclom ’13 in net. Malcolm, who proved crucial in the Elis’ championship run, was named to the 2013 Frozen Four All-Tournament team and left a huge hole to fill after his graduation.

Rather than feeling apprehensive about the job at hand, Lyon was encouraged by the prospect of being able to help make an instant impact on the team. Lyon said that he had hoped to bring stability to the program, just like any other goaltender would. In addition, he was buoyed by the positive reputation of goalkeeping coach Josh Siembida, to whom many attribute Malcom’s success in 2012-2013.

“That’s what appealed to me about Yale was to try and give stability,” Lyon said. “Yale was a huge transition, especially coming out of two years with no school. It is just one of those things: You go to Yale, and you have to expect to put in the time in the classroom as well as in athletics. I had already been away from home for two years, so I think that helped me make the transition a little bit easier.”

At the beginning of the season, head coach Keith Allain ’80 rotated Lyon and Spano in net. Lyon looked shaky when the season opened, failing to win any of his first three games and conceding 10 goals. His classmate, on the other hand, led Yale to three victories, including one against nationally ranked Clarkson on Nov. 2.

Despite his early troubles, Alex fell back on his USHL experience and mental toughness. Lyon mentioned the biggest difference at Yale stemmed from the coaching staff, who have demanded constant discipline and refused to accept complacency.

It was after a solid performance in the Bulldogs’ 3-3 overtime tie to Quinnipiac that Lyon began to take the reins of the starting job. Lyon stopped a career high 48 shots in that game and was praised by Allain for his poise under pressure.

“He comes to practice every day, he prepares, so he earns the right to play,” Allain said. “And he plays well, so he earns the right to play again.”

The next weekend he started both games, winning both, and never looked back. Lyon has played the second most minutes of any freshman goaltender in NCAA division I, featuring in 16 contests so far.

The rookie has excelled since returning from the December break. Lyon has posted a .938 save percentage and a 1.84 goals against average in all seven of Yale’s non-exhibition games since Christmas.

“I think that I have become more comfortable,” Lyon said. “Off the ice is a pretty big factor as well. Socially and with my school work, I have felt more at place. Every day, I try to get better, and that’s all I can do.”

Yale (10-5-4, 5-4-3 ECAC) currently sits two places outside the top 16 teams in the PairWise rankings at no. 18. The Bulldogs will need a strong second half surge to vault into the playoffs. The Elis will have a chance in the coming weeks to improve their PairWise and ECAC positions, as the team faces off against teams ranked ahead of them in three of the next four games.

With Lyon looking untamable at the moment, the Elis are primed for a late push for an NCAA tournament berth.

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