On a Yale hockey team known for its speed and scoring prowess, forward Chad Ziegler ’12 is known for using his body. The proud native of Alberta, Canada, has become a fan favorite at Ingalls Rink for his hits, and sat down with the News to discuss his brand of play, his spot on the team and celebrating Canadian hockey triumphs in the middle of New England.
Q After playing with Brendan Mason ’11 and Charles Brockett ’12 on the checking line for a few weeks, you skated alongside youngsters Jesse Root ’14 and Kenny Agostino ’14 last weekend. How was that?
A I played with them earlier in the year too and it’s great to play with those guys. They’re really talented freshmen. Kenny’s been hot after the break especially, and Jesse’s just a strong player. The three of us have clicked very well.
Q Do you have to play a different kind of hockey with Agostino and Root?
A No. When I played with Brockett and Mason, we had more of a shutdown mentality out there. But I think the play itself, aside from the mentality, is no different from what I usually do. With Jesse and Kenny you have to bring your energy, be solid defensively and put up some points offensively too. You just have to be an impact on the ice every shift. We have our top two lines and then we have the checking line, so our line is more of a secondary scoring threat, and sometimes we need that threat to win games. At Harvard for example, Root won that draw and Martin put it home and that was the winning goal.
Q Was the team happy about that Harvard win and the weekend in general?
A Coming off the two losses on the road and the two wins at home, and playing a very solid games both times I think the team is very happy that we we’re winning. We can forget about those losses we had and look to the future again.
Q Will you take any lessons from those games on the road with you?
A In those two losses, we had gone away from our usual style of hockey. Coach put us back into our place afterwards to remind us why we’re successful. We got back to that with those two wins and I think we’re just going to improve on that performance.
Q Can you describe Yale’s usual style of hockey?
A We’re a hardworking, speed team. When we do the little things right, it just ends up in success. We like to think that we’re the hardest-working team in college hockey and we work hard. That’s where we get our success, because when we work hard, our talent will come out too. It’s when we try to just work with our talent — and I’m not saying here that we don’t have talent — that we struggle. If we don’t do the little things, we’re not going to be successful.
Q You’re one of the team’s bigger guys. How does that change your role on the ice?
A I just try to keep up with the rest of the guys. Because I’m one of the bigger guys on the team, my coaches and my teammates expect a more physical aspect in my game. And the physical aspect is one of my strengths, I think. I focus on trying to do it well consistently.
Q Have you always been a physical player?
A Ever since pee wee hockey when we could first start hitting. I learned then how to use my body physically, and I’ve been hitting since. I like hitting people. It’s exhilarating when the guy ends up on the ice and the crowd goes nuts. It’s just like the rush you get when you score a goal.
Q What’s the most important thing you have to learn to play good physical hockey?
A The most important thing is to do it clean. You don’t want to be taking penalties that will hurt your team. When you see the guy, you just want to get some speed and hit him as hard as you can. But there’s more to the physical game. It’s not just hitting the guy and knocking him over. It’s separating the guy from the puck, or it’s not giving the defenseman enough time or space to play his role. If you’re getting physical out there, you’re giving your linemates and teammates more room on the ice.
Q You and your teammates made a bet a couple weeks ago that you couldn’t go a week without mentioning anything about Alberta. How long did you last?
A (Laughs) I wouldn’t even give it 12 hours.
Q You’re proud of where you come from?
A I’m proud of where I come from. And it was a tough bet. [Assistant head coach] Kyle Wallack got me. He talked about a kid from home he might be recruiting, and I started talking to him. Then yup, it didn’t last really long. It’s fine though. I’m sure most of the guys couldn’t go long without talking about America.
Q Is it tough to be at school far from home?
A It’s a long flight home, but it gets easier every year. Freshman year was pretty tough. You get homesick and you miss your friends and family. But with the friendships you get here, it gets easier and you get excited to come back and see the guys you’ve shared the last years with. Obviously I’m always excited to go home, but it gets easier to be here because the people you’re with become a big part of your life.
Q How was the American-Canadian dynamic during the World Junior Hockey Championships?
A The tournament means a lot in Canada, and people go nuts over it. It was tough this year because obviously Allain was the coach for the U.S. and I wanted him to do good. I was hoping for a Canada-U.S. final, but I wanted Canada to win it. The Olympics last year were pretty good too. The guys were giving it to me hard when Canada lost to Switzerland because I’m so passionate about Canada.
Q What happened after Canada beat the U.S. for the gold medal with Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal?
A We were in a room and there were about 16 of us, half Canadians and half Americans. When he scored, the Canadians all of a sudden jumped up and went nuts. The Americans immediately got up and left the room because they knew I was going to give it to them as much as they had been giving it to me over everything. It’s good to have those little rivalries away from the rink. But when it comes down to the ice it doesn’t matter whether you’re American or Canadian or whatever. We all play for Yale. We have great camaraderie. It’s one of the reasons we’re so successful.