Forward Jesse Root ’14 helped the Bulldogs win the NCAA Championship last year in front of his hometown fans at the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, Penn. Now Root leads the way as the captain of the men’s ice hockey team. He paces the Elis with 26 points this season, including a two-goal effort in the Bulldogs’ 7–5 win over Princeton at home on Saturday. The News caught up with Root to discuss the team’s regular season, its freshmen contributors and the upcoming playoffs.
Q: What has the team improved upon most since the beginning of the season?
A: I think we’ve been playing more as a cohesive unit. I think there are still instances in our game where we can clean that up but in the beginning it was a bit more clustered. At first some guys played well together and others were trying to keep up. Now, everyone is more familiar with the systems, especially the forecheck and in the neutral zone. Guys are definitely more comfortable in their positions and getting to their spots.
Q: What have been some of the biggest contributions from this years’ freshman class?
A: Each of them individually brings something to the table. They have a ton of skill to begin with and all work really hard. As a class, they bring passion for the game and a passion to learn. We pride ourselves in that with Yale hockey and they really exemplify that.
Q: Can you talk about how important special teams — especially the penalty kill — have been recently given the three short-handed goals against Princeton?
A: I think our penalty has been pretty good — especially in the second half of the season. We still let up a few power play goals for them even though we put three short-handed goals in. I think we started to cheat a little bit after we got the first short-handed goal and it’s important that we don’t cheat and stay in position on the penalty kill even after we get a short-handed goal.
Q: What are the team’s goals going into the last few weekends before the playoffs?
A: From a logistical standpoint, we need to get two points in every game, but from a process standpoint, I would be really happy if we tightened up our defense and limited the high-quality chances of other teams and took away second chances and rebound chances. Doing those things will definitely help us win and be very encouraging going into the playoffs.
Q: How does the team keep focused after the season has been this long?
A: I know for a lot of the older guys we know how to pace ourselves over the course of the season, and this is the point in the season where we need to be peaking. The way the coaches and training staff run our program is such that we begin to peak around March and April. I think physically, we are in great shape at this point in the season. We can wear guys down in the third period. In order to stay mentally fresh, we need to keep a balance. Monday’s are our off days and I think guys know how to shut it down and get their work done. When we’re at the rink we make sure we focus at the rink and when we’re in class we make sure to focus on class work.
Q: What have been the biggest challenges the team has faced this season?
A: I think the biggest challenge we faced has been inconsistency. We’ve had games where we’ve scored a lot of goals and we’ve had games where we haven’t. Stringing games together when we’re great both offensively and defensively hasn’t been easy, but it is something we are improving upon. When we instill consistency in our game I think we’ll be a very dangerous team.