In his four-year tenure as Yale head coach, Keith Allain ’80 has led the men’s hockey team to new heights. But if the upward trend is to continue this year, that means the No. 8 Bulldogs will have to defeat No. 4 North Dakota in the semifinals of the NCAA Northeast Regional on Saturday — in Allain’s hometown of Worcester, Mass.

Earning the victory will be no small task. The Elis recently lost star forward Sean Backman ’10 and are coming off of a disappointing loss to Brown in the quarterfinals of the ECAC Tournament. North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux, meanwhile, are on a 12–1 tear after having defeated highly touted teams including No. 2 Denver and No. 7 St. Cloud State in the WCHA Tournament.

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The News caught up with Allain as the Elis prepare for their showdown with the Fighting Sioux on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Q. There was some talk about the team having to go to Fort Wayne, Ind., [for the NCAA regionals]. What was your reaction when you found out you would get to go to your hometown of Worcester instead?

A. We knew the field wouldn’t be announced until Sunday, and any speculation is just that. It will be great for our fans to be able to make the trip and experience the excitement of NCAA Championship hockey.

Q. What do you guys know about North Dakota?

A. We are in the process of using our contacts in the hockey world to gather as much info as we can on the Fighting Sioux. They are on a hot streak right now tearing through their league championships.

Q. What will be the keys to the game if you’re going to get a victory?

A. The keys for us will be to play our game, dictate the tempo, get to their net and be effective on special teams.

Q. How does the fact that the team was part of the NCAA Tournament last year influence how the guys are feeling going into the weekend?

A. I think we have used that experience to guide us throughout this season in terms of driving to accomplish more. Specifically in this tournament there are many things that can become distractions if you allow them; having been through the circus once will be beneficial.

Q. Next year the team is graduating five key seniors. What holes do you think next year’s players will have to fill, and who do you expect to fill the leadership positions?

A. We will address next season after this one is completed.

Q. The list of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award were recently announced. Were you surprised that neither Backman nor Broc Little’11 was on it?

A. There is no question in my mind that our guys stack up favorably with the 10 finalists for the Hobey.