Hockey season is finally back. This Saturday, the men’s hockey team returns to the rink to face the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks in an exhibition game. After winning the NCAA championship last season, the Bulldogs have high expectations for another run at the title. The News caught up with defenseman Ryan Obuchowski ’16, a member of the ECAC All-Rookie team last year, to get a sneak peak at how the defending champions are preparing for the new season.

Q: What does it feel like going into the new season as a defending NCAA champion?

A: The way I look at it, we can’t think of ourselves as defending champions. We won the championship, and no one can take that away from us. It’s a new season. We have to go into the new season with the mindset of winning another championship, so none of us on the team should be thinking of last season.

Q: What are your personal goals for this season? 

A: Personally, I have to be a top four guy on defense. That’s my main goal. But overall, I have to help the team in any way possible. Whether it’s blocking shots or scoring goals, I have to do anything to help the team win.

Q: So do you feel more confident with a year of experience under your belt now?

A: Much more confident. With a year of experience, I definitely feel more experienced playing in front of big crowds. Having had thousands of people watching our games last year, I don’t feel as nervous anymore, which helps me make plays on the ice and translate what I do in practice to games.

Q: What do you think about some of the new additions to the team? 

A: Losing some seniors like [Andrew] Miller and [Colin] Dueck left a lot of holes in the team. So far, the freshman on the team have played well and worked really hard, which shows their dedication. They should provide the spark we need to do well this year. As a collective whole, all the freshmen contribute different things to the team, so that should help our team in a variety of ways.

Q: Yale was recently voted as the favorite to win the ECAC regular season championship. Do you think the team will feel any pressure to defend the title? 

A: Not at all. Those are just preseason rankings made by coaches and analysts. That doesn’t matter. It’s all about what you can do on Friday and Saturday nights. In the ECAC, any team can win, and we proved that last year. It’s really a coin flip, so we can’t go into the season thinking we’re the favorites.

Q: In regards to the upcoming weeks, how is the team preparing for the season-opening game against Ontario Tech?

A: We’re doing the same things as last year. Coach keeps practices consistent with six practices a week. All of us are disciplined, and we’re keeping to what we know works. Ontario Tech should be a challenge for us. Its team is unpredictable, so we have to be ready to play. It should be a good game, and it’ll be a good test for our team.

Q: Finally, what are your long-term aspirations as a hockey player? 

A: For me, I definitely want to play in the NHL just like the rest of the players on the team. I’m going to be playing at Yale for the next three years, so I look forward to improving every season in order to make it to the next level.