Men’s hockey forward Backman earns ECACHL Rookie of the Year honors

Sean Backman ’10 did in one season what many Yale hockey players hope to do in an entire career. The rookie forward was named co-ECACHL Rookie of the Year with Quinnipiac’s Brandon Wong on March 15, the latest in a long string of accolades that he accumulated this season.

Although Wong scored more points than Backman did, Backman’s numbers were nearly as solid. He played in 29 games — 11 fewer than his Bobcat rival and most other leading rookies — and amassed 18 goals and 13 assists. His goal tally, which ranked fourth nationally among freshmen, helped the Bulldogs secure an Ivy League Championship and earned him Ivy League Rookie of the Year and first team All-Ivy honors. He was just shy of the Yale freshman record for goals in a season (19) when an illness prevented him from skating in the first round of the ECACHL playoffs. Nonetheless, his outstanding performance during the regular season earned him first team All-Rookie and third team All-ECACHL honors.

Backman’s debut season was filled with highlights, including two shorthanded tallies and a beautiful goal on his only penalty shot attempt. He was the lone Bulldog to be recognized as ECACHL Player of the Week, for his hat trick against Quinnipiac on Feb. 3, at which time he also received his second Rookie of the Week award.

The only other player in the school’s history to be named ECACHL Rookie of the Year was Chris Higgins in 2001-’02, who left Yale after his sophomore year to play in the NHL. Although pro hockey is certainly a future possibility for Backman — his father, Mike Backman, played for the New York Rangers — right now he is looking forward to his second season at Yale, he said at the conference championship banquet in Albany.

—Danielle Kehl

Swimmer Righi represents Yale at NCAA Championships

Although almost all of Yale’s swimmers have already wrapped up their seasons, a lone Bulldog was still fighting during spring break, competing among the best swimmers from colleges all over the country.

Alex Righi ’09 represented Yale at the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis on March 15-17, where he competed in three events — the 50- and 100-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke. Despite being the only Eli swimmer at the meet, his final point total put Yale 30th out of more than 70 schools.

Righi started off the three-day meet with a 14th-place finish in the 50 free, continued his performance by placing 13th in the 100 back and ended the meet on an especially strong note with his 10th-place finish in the 100 free. He posted personal best times and broke his own previous Yale records in all three events.

The 2007 Championship proved a much more competitive field than last year. If Righi had posted the same times in the 2006 meet as he did this year, he would have finished in the top eight in each event. Righi said the NCAAs are on a level far above what he normally faces during regular season competition.

“This meet pulled kids from all over the country and also included many foreign swimmers who go to schools in the U.S., which added another level of speed and made the meet even more competitive,” he said.

Righi’s 42.75 finish in the 100 free sets him up well for the 2007 Pan American Games, where he will compete for Team USA in July. The time matched what he had set out as his goal time for this summer’s games, and he will use it as a starting point as he prepares over the next four months.

“Hopefully, this summer’s Pan Am go will set me up well to make the Olympic team,” Righi said. “It’s a little odd to be thinking that far in advance, but ultimately all my swims are for a progression that will hopefully lead me to Olympic trials in 2008.”

This summer’s Pan American games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and will feature 5,500 athletes from 42 countries competing in 28 sports.

­—Della Fok