With two of the men’s hockey team’s three goalies set to graduate in May, Connor Wilson ’15 will be the only Bulldog returning to man the crease for the 2013–’14 season. But the sophomore netminder is currently gaining some unexpected and important experience as the ECAC playoffs approach.
Three minutes into the Feb. 1 home game against Princeton, goalie Jeff Malcolm ’13 — who has been the team’s principal goalie all season, playing in 19 out of 25 games — was knocked down hard by an aggressive Tiger forward on a breakaway. Injuring his knee, he struggled to get up and was helped off the ice by teammates. Malcolm has not suited up for a game since, leaving Nick Maricic ’13 and Wilson to fend off opposing shots.
“It’s a good feeling whenever you get the chance to get in and help the team out,” Wilson said. “All three of us put a lot of work in every day, and it pays off when you get time in the net.”
Wilson had only played a couple of 20-minute periods last season and this season before Malcolm’s injury, but he has doubled his ice time this month. Wilson played the third period against No. 1 Quinnipiac on Feb. 2 and has played Yale’s past five periods against Union and RPI last weekend.
Saturday’s game against RPI was the first full game Wilson has played for Yale (13–9–3, 9–8–1 ECAC). Previously, he had stepped in “cold,” midway through a game. He said he tries to focus on taking one shot at a time and not getting distracted by the environment.
“Going in cold is never a good thing because it usually means that something has gone wrong and you have to be ready to do damage control,” Wilson said. “There’s no good way to prepare for going in cold — you just have to do your best to compete right away.”
“Our goalie coach has us do extra skates and workouts throughout each week,” Wilson added. “The routine helps you stay focused and in game-shape regardless of whether or not you’re the guy playing.”
Similarly, Maricic has played in only eight of the Bulldogs’ 25 games this season, and half of those have been since Malcolm suffered his injury. It is still unclear as to when or if Malcolm will return to the ice this season, and with ECAC playoffs starting in two weeks, it is increasingly crucial that Yale puts together a win. The Bulldogs last won on Feb. 1 against Princeton 4–2, but have since fallen to Quinnipiac, Brown, Union and RPI, falling from second to fifth in the ECAC and from ninth to 13th in the NCAA.
Forward Antoine Laganiere ’13 said the team has not been fazed by the change in goaltending and that it is focusing on generating more effective offensive opportunities.
“It’s tough to come in late in the season, especially since Malcolm has been taking most of the minutes,” team captain Andrew Miller ’13 said. “Connor has come in and been strong for us. He has the potential to be a very good goalie. He competes and makes some saves that no other goalie can make.”
This weekend, the Bulldogs will travel to Quinnipiac and Princeton. The coaches have not disclosed whether Malcolm, Maricic or Wilson will be starting in net.