With former collegiate goaltender Keith Allain ’80 heading to Pyeongchang, South Korea, to coach the United States men’s hockey team in the 23rd Winter Olympics, another former netminder is set to take over as interim coach for the Bulldogs during Allain’s leave of absence.
Assistant coaches Josh Siembida and former Yale captain and defender Ryan Donald ’10 will step up to guide Yale through its final weeks of regular-season play, beginning with this weekend’s home matchups against Princeton and Quinnipiac. For Siembida, the weekend hopefully will bring the Bulldogs a victory over his alma mater, Quinnipiac, for the first time since the 2013 National Championship game.
“Our assistant coaches are great, they’re going to do a great job of relaying coach’s message and keeping the culture we have here going,” forward Ted Hart ’19 said. “It’ll be a little different, maybe a little less stressful at times [without coach Allain here], but I think we’ll come together. He’s on the other half of the world, but he’s really never far out of our heads.”
Although Siembida is in just his third season as an official assistant coach for the Elis, the Timmins, Ontario native boasts experience both playing and coaching collegiately, as well as coaching at the developmental level. He began his own college career in 2001 as a goaltender for the University of North Dakota, a hockey powerhouse with eight NCAA Division I titles.
After completing just two seasons of eligibility, Siembida transferred to Quinnipiac. In Hamden, Siembida took a backseat to the Bobcats’ record-holding goaltender Jamie Holden, who graduated leading the program in overall wins, saves, goals against average and save percentage. Still, Siembida played 11 games for the Bobcats during his two seasons, and his team faced Yale for the first time in school history during his senior year.
Siembida drew upon his own experiences in the net as a volunteer goalie coach, where he provided mentoring to star Bulldog goaltenders Jeff Malcolm ’13 and Alex Lyon. Just six years later, Siembida has moved up the ladder to assistant coach, where his responsibilities have now extended to leading the team during Allain’s stints with the U.S. men’s national team.
“We had a little taste of [playing without coach Allain] for about a week there in November,” defender Adam Larkin ’18 said. “It definitely is a different feel, not necessarily good or bad, but it is different. It puts a little bit more responsibility on the players to step up and demand a lot of themselves as coach usually does for us. I think it’s all a mindset and a lot of guys are pretty excited about the opportunity to step up and handle some more responsibility.”
Allain, who missed a pair of games in November to coach Team USA in Germany, is sure to be a noticeable absence again on the Bulldog bench, but Siembida will look to sustain Yale’s recent momentum generated from a weekend sweep over Arizona State. With Siembida at the helm earlier in the season, the Elis picked up a win and a loss in a weekend series at Ingalls Rink that featured a 4–1 defeat to No. 7 Clarkson and a five-goal victory over St. Lawrence.
Allain’s departure comes at interesting time for Siembida, who will be tasked with guiding Yale through its final three ECAC weekend series before Allain returns for the conference playoffs in early March. The Bulldogs currently sit ninth in the ECAC standings and will need to garner some crucial victories down the final stretch to finish in eighth or higher, which would guarantee Yale a home series for the first-round of the conference playoffs. The Elis’ six remaining opponents own a combined record of 50–38–9 in ECAC action, but fortunately for Siembida, four of those contests come in the friendly confines of Ingalls Rink.
“It’s all shared during the week so there isn’t a lot that we don’t all have our hands on,” Siembida said. “There’s a lot of communication in regards to what we want to do that week in every area, whether it’s special teams or situational faceoffs, so again we sat down with coach before he left, and we’ve kind of put something together that we need to carry forward for the weekend.”
Yale begins its final month of the ECAC regular season at Ingalls Rink this weekend to take on Quinnipiac on Friday at 7 p.m. and Princeton on Saturday at 7 p.m.
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