April 25th, 2011 | Sports

BOOLA BOOLA | Brian O’Neill ’12 to be men’s hockey captain

Brian O’Neill ’12, who led the men’s hockey team in scoring this year but whose season ended prematurely when he was ejected midway through the team’s NCAA Tournament tilt with Minnesota-Duluth, has been named captain of next year’s squad.

“It’s a great honor to be elected captain by my teammates,” O’Neill told Yale Athletics. “My class has gained a tremendous amount of experience since we arrived here on campus, and I believe we are fully prepared to lead the team as a class next year.”

O’Neill, who stands just 5’7″, is one of the team’s smallest players, but his speed, shot, and ferocious play have nonetheless made him a force among the Elis since his arrival on the team. He was named to the first-team All-ECAC in March.

Denny Kearney ’11 might have scored five points during his six-game professional tryout with the Springfield falcons of the American Hockey League earlier in April, but that kind of production was no surprise for the high-scoring Yale senior. In our eyes, Kearney really distinguished himself when he dropped the gloves and fought former Dartmouth star Adam Estoclet on April 9. Yale’s recent dominance over the Big Green continued as Kearney outmuscled his opponent.

The fight was notable not only for its Ivy League participants, but because Kearney beat down a certified thug: Estoclet was arrested in his native Minnesota three years ago for what police at the time called a “drunken crime spree.” The forward allegedly stole a cellphone and broke into a house before his mother helped the police track him down.

Fighting is banned in college hockey.

There was one notable exception to the list of five Yale seniors who had professional tryouts after the Elis’ season ended: Broc Little ’11, one of the team’s top scorers, stayed in New Haven. Sources say Little’s absence was due to wrist surgery the right winger underwent after the season, and Little has indeed been seen around campus with a cast on his wrist.

Union College beat Yale out for the ECAC regular season title this past season, but the Dutchmen machine has lost two key cogs and is unlikely to pose the same threat next year. Sophomore goaltender Keith Kinkaid, who won the Ken Dryden Award as the ECAC’s top goalie last season, signed an entry level contract with the New Jersey Devils on April 18, forgoing his final two years of college eligibility.

Union will enter next season not only with a void between the pipes, but also with one behind the bench. Coach Nate Leaman — who was named the top coach in Division I hockey this year after leading the Dutchmen to their first ever NCAA Tournament berth — has left upstate New York for Rhode Island. He will coach at Providence next year, and former assistant Rick Bennet will take his place at Union.

The ECAC coaching changes extended to Clarkson, which dismissed both head coach George Roll and associate coach Greg Drechsel on April 18.

The pair had led the Clarkson program since the 2003-2004 season, and won the league’s postseason championship in 2007 and the regular season title in 2008.