Former Yale men’s hockey goaltender Keith Allain ’80 was welcomed back to New Haven at Ingalls Rink on Saturday, replacing Tim Taylor as head coach of the men’s hockey team.

After relieving Taylor on March 29, Director of Athletics Tom Beckett announced Taylor’s replacement Saturday, bringing in a coach who is no stranger to Yale hockey. Allain played under Taylor’s guidance from 1976-’80 before joining the program’s staff as an assistant coach from 1982-’85. Allain is the 11th head coach in the 111-year history of the program.

“To be honest, this is a dream come true,” Beckett said. “To find a Yale man, who was an outstanding player, with a successful professional career, coached in three Olympics and in the NHL for 13 years, and have that man say ‘Yes, I’m interested in coming back to my alma mater and help the program.’ You have to pinch yourself. We have realized more than our dream.”

Allain comes to Yale via St. Louis, Mo., where he has coached the Blues’ netminders since 1998. His efforts helped earn the team a William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed in 1999-2000. Allain’s NHL resume also includes coaching stints with the Nashville Predators (1997-’98) and the Washington Capitals (1993-’97).

“Every day you come to practice you can learn something from [NHL head coaches], and I think I’ve been doing that for the last 13 years,” Allain said.

Allain’s experience is not confined to national boundaries. The new mentor has established an international career as well. This past February, Allain served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic Team in Italy. Later this year, Allain will serve as an assistant coach at the 2006 International Ice Hockey Federation world championship in Riga, Latvia.

At Yale, Allain started for all four years. He ranks second in the Yale record books for most wins (31) and third for career saves (2,337). After an informal meeting with Allain this weekend, where the new head coach stated his goal of consistently challenging for the Ivy League and ECAC titles, team members said they are happy with the new appointment.

“We’re really excited,” 2006-’07 captain Matt Cohen ’07 said. “There was a period that we didn’t have any coach, and now we can get on track and get going in the right direction. As for as what Keith Allain’s going to bring to the program, I think he’s going to bring a professional and fresh atmosphere to the program, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

It is not just Allain’s success on the ice that is important for the Elis; his experience with Yale academics and life in New Haven are equally important.

“Yale’s a very unique place,” goaltender Matt Modelski ’07 said. “And it does help that he knows what we’re going through. You can’t put academics in the background here. You have to have the best of both worlds, and it helps that he’s been there.”

Taylor leaves the program after 28 seasons with a 337-433-55 overall record, including a 10-20-3 record for the 2005-’06 season. During his 30-year tenure, Taylor took two leaves of absence to coach U.S. Olympic teams.

“We’ve all got great respect for coach Taylor,” Allain said. “But with a change comes new energy and new ideas. I’ve got a style that’s a little different from Timmy’s and I’m sure I will inject some enthusiasm.”