Joining a new team is never easy, especially not a team that looks to improve upon its most successful season in team history.

The seven members of the men’s hockey team’s class of 2013 have the task of filling the gaps left by departing seniors as they adapt to the many challenges facing newcomers.

Andrew Miller ’13, from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is one of three freshmen forwards in this season’s roster. He joins the team with undoubted scoring ability, having finished the 2008-’09 season as top scorer of the Unites States Hockey League playing for the Chicago Steel. Miller has already made an impact this season, notching his first goal and assist in an 8-0 victory in an exhibition match against Ontario Institute of Technology.

Joining Miller in attack will be Josh Balch ’13 of Wilmette, Ill. Balch won a gold medal while representing Team USA at the 2008 World Junior A Challenge and led the Midwest Elite Hockey League in scoring in the 2007-’08 season.

Also bolstering Yale’s offensive options is Antoine Laganiere ’13 from Ile Cadieux, Quebec. Standing at 6-4, he is the tallest member of the squad. In two seasons at Deerfield Academy, he had 68 points in 58 games. Laganiere scored one goal and had an assist against OIT. The forward wanted to come to Yale to take the Elis’ offense to the next level, he said.

“[I was attracted by] the success that the team has had in recent years and the direction the program is going in,” Laganiere said.

The smaller Miller and Balch along with the towering Laganiere embody what captain and defenseman Ryan Donald ’10 believes to be a strength of the squad: its diversity.

“We have some bigger guys who can go and grind it out down low, but we also have a lot of smaller, ‘water-beetle’ type players that seem to find open spaces and create offense that way,” Donald said.

The two new defensemen on the team, Colin Dueck ’13 and Jesse Hudkins ’13, both hail from Calgary, Alberta. Dueck spent last season with the Nanaimo Clippers and Hudkins played the last three seasons for the Okotoks Oilers. Both will be looking for some playing time over the coming games and strengthening the Bulldogs’ defensive line.

“I want to play the best I can and contribute to winning a national championship,” Hudkins said.

Yet it is by no means easy to make a contribution from day one.

“It’s definitely intimidating, probably more this year because we had so much success last season,” center Brian O’Neill ’12 said of the difficulties of adjusting to a new team. “There’s a tough first couple of months where you try not to step on too many toes and see what coaches like and what they don’t. The first two months are definitely a learning curve.”

Nick Maricic ’13, a goalie from Alta Loma, Calif., has also impressed at this early stage of the season. He and fellow freshmen goalie Jeff Malcolm ’13 will have to be patient and wait for their turn behind current starter Ryan Rondeau ’11, but early signs are promising.

Malcolm, of Lethbridge, Ala., will hope to maintain his consistent presence in net, which includes a .947 save percentage from his 2006-’07 season with the Lethbridge Hockey Hounds Midget team.

Maricic, also vying for the place in goal, played for over 30 minutes against OIT, making 12 saves and conceding no goals. He describes himself as technically sound and a calm presence in net, and he said he is glad he took the opportunity to play for Yale.

“The fact that I could go to one of the best schools in the world and still play hockey at a high level made it a pretty easy decision,” Maricic said.