Thursday, January 29, 2015
Hockey Haven: Yale edition
Yale will be hitting the ice about 20 minutes from now. Here's a few notes and quotes from some pre-practice interviews.
- Yale learned one weekend can be a real momentum killer. Firing on all cylinders as it trekked up to God's country of upstate New York, and minutes away from starting the series with a Friday night win at St. Lawrence, the wheels fell off quickly. "I thought we played perfect protecting a one-goal third period lead," Keith Allain said. "(St. Lawrence) had nothing going, they had no life. We had numerous chances to extend the lead. We didn't, which was our failure. We took an offensive zone penalty with 3 minutes left in the game, we do a great job on the kill, and they score a bad, off-angle goal on their only shot of the power play with a minute left. It kind of stunned us, and they won the game in overtime."
- A night later, Clarkson bottled up Yale for a period before the Bulldogs found some flow. Still, another tough goal, a bad bounce off a Bulldog skate, gave the Golden Knights a lead that served as the game's only score. "Again, I thought we could have easily won that game 1-0 if we just played the same way," Allain said. "It was one of those weekends."
- Consistency in the offensive zone continues to hamper Yale, which appeared to have solved the issue with nine goals in two games with Harvard and Brown the week prior. Allain said there were several instances in which Yale skaters had opposing goaltenders of St. Lawrence and Clarkson clearly beaten, but failed to convert. "That's an area we have to get better at," Allain said.
- Yale's normal routine was interrupted by this week's blizzard. Monday is a typical off day, but since the university issued a mandate nixing all activity for Tuesday, Allain and his staff scrambled the team together for an impromptu Monday practice session.
- The offensive struggles extend to the Bulldog power play, with an 11 percent success rate is ranked 53rd of 59 teams. Yale's seven power play goals ranks ahead of only Brown. Allain continues to work and tweak the unit in practice every day. Mike Doherty says he's encouraged by the emerging chemistry on the power play units. "We're starting to find each other more and more each game," Doherty said. "We're not too down on it. We know how important they are each game, but as long as we keep making progress the goals will come."
- Alex Lyon is opening many eyes around the league as he builds on a successful freshman campaign. Boasting a .937 save percentage in the final weekend of January will do that. Allain says its a product of Lyon's worth ethic, much of which comes in sessions with volunteer goaltending coach Josh Siembida. "He's become more consistent because I think he trusts his positioning a bit more. He lets some pucks hit him that before he felt he needed to make saves on. That part of his game has gotten better. And he'll continue to improve. He's certainly not a finished product yet."
Hockey Haven: Quinnipiac edition
Yale and Quinnipiac meet for the first time this season on Saturday night at Yale. Ingalls Rink is sold out (though a few tickets remain for Friday night's matchup with Princeton) and it should be a typical Hockey Haven atmosphere.
I dropped by Quinnipiac practice this morning, so here are some notes from that end. Yale practice is later this afternoon. We'll update then.
- Quinnipiac is coming off a bye week, which allowed a flu bug to harmlessly pass through the locker room and give time for some injuries to heal. Eight players missed practice last weekend, but the team is almost at full strength.
- Michael Garteig absorbed a hit at Merrimack on Jan. 16 forcing him to leave that game and miss the next night's game. He will be back in action this weekend. Defenseman Devon Toews, also injured in the Merrimack series, needs more time and is out this weekend.
- Quinnipiac is in an interesting position. With a comfortable lead and positioned well in the ECAC standings, the Bobcats are behind league mates Harvard, Yale and Colgate in the Pairwise Rankings and currently on the outside of the NCAA tournament bubble. Yale's two losses in the North Country were a blow to its ECAC position (the Bulldogs are sixth, based on winning percentage) but still in decent shape with the PWR.
- Tim Clifton's game has grown by leaps and bounds since last season. The sophomore's presence is felt at both ends of the ice, where he is third on the team with eight goals and has replaced Bryce Van Brabant as the Bobcats most physical forward. Coach Rand Pecknold said Clifton couldn't grasp Quinnipiac's penalty kill system a year ago, but has emerged as one of the team's most effective weapons on the PK. "Peca is our best forward (on the PK)," Pecknold said. "Timmy's probably second."
- Pecknold also praised the massive jumps taken by second-year defensemen Derek Smith and Toews. Smith has also emerged as a strong penalty killer, spending time earlier this season at forward during the PK. Toews, drafted by the Islanders in June, has hit the weight room hard since arriving at Hamden. He's up close to 20 pounds since his Junior days and, like Smith, become a leader of the back end.
- Quinnipiac, like Yale, struggles at Brown, just 0-3-2 over the last five seasons despite fielding some of its strongest teams ever. Is it any wonder? The atmosphere at Meehan Auditorium is on par with most mortuaries, and a far cry from the palpable electricity that runs through Ingalls Rink.
- We'll rank this still young rivalry as one of the best in college hockey. The results on the ice since the very first meeting in 2006 have favored the Bobcats, who take a 13-6-3 record in 22 games into Saturday. That includes a 7-1-2 mark in the past 10, the last two coming via sweep in last March's ECAC quarterfinals. Of course, the one loss was the one that counted most, a 4-0 setback in the 2013 national title game in Pittsburgh.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
On to Madison Square Garden
Yale visited the nation's oldest active hockey arena on Tuesday, dropping a tough 3-2 decision at Northeastern's Matthews Arena. On Saturday, they'll take on Harvard in "The World's Most Famous Arena." A few notes from today's practice at Ingalls Rink. (Is it just me, or does Jesse Root look a little like Elvis in the above photo?)
- The initial "Rivalry on Ice" contract was two years, but all signs indicate Yale and Harvard will continue to play a third regular season game. Keith Allain said he's blocked off a date on next year's non-conference schedule, and that the Crimson have done the same. Harvard, Yale and the firm promoting the game, the Leverage Agency, plan to meet soon to discuss the financial viability of MSG. As of this afternoon, ticket sales were over 11,000, about 2,000 behind where sales on this date last year. Still, a projected crowd of 13,000 should bode well for continuing the game. "I'd like to see it stay on the docket, even if it's not an annual event," Allain said.
- Yale took a quick 2-0 lead in the first period at Northeastern, but the overall performance was not nearly the same level as an impressive win over Vermont three days prior. "I don't think we played particularly well on Tuesday. But I'm pleased with the way we've progressed after the break," Allain said. "I'm chalking Tuesday's game up to fatigue. We took yesterday off, and the group seems feeling good about themselves."
- Yale will practice at Ingalls Rink Friday and head into the city that evening because the Garden won't have ice until Saturday night. Billy Joel plays there Friday night (Allain is looking for two tickets, if you're looking to unload any) and the Knicks will play (excuse me, lose) to the Hornets Saturday afternoon.
- Allain is holding out hope that injured forwards Anthony Day, Tim Bonner and Nico Weberg will be back by season's end.
- Had a chance to speak with freshman defenseman Nate Repensky for a story running in the paper tomorrow. He overcame a broken fibula and ankle ligament damage last spring, slowly working his way back into hockey shape, and is now being used on special teams.
- Mark Messier, Mike Richter and George Pataki will again drop the ceremonial first puck at MGS on Saturday.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Yale's John Hayden named alternate captain of Team USA
John Hayden, Yale's leading scorer, was named an alternate captain of the U.S. entry into the World Junior Championships. Boston University freshman Jack Eichel is the team captain. Defenseman Will Butcher, a sophomore at Denver, is the other alternate captain.
The U.S. has wins over Boston University and Germany in exhibitions leading into the World tournament, set to begin Dec. 26 in Toronto and Montreal. The U.S. plays Sweden today in the last tune-up leading into the opener against Finland in Montreal, to be televised live (3 p.m.) by the NHL Network.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Quinnipiac's Matt Lemire transfers to UMass Boston
Quinnipiac's Matt Lemire has transferred to UMass-Boston, the Register has learned. Sources indicated Lemire's decision was based on his interest in regular playing time. The junior forward had played in only 21 career games for the Bobcats, four this season, and has no career points.
UMass Boston, a member of the Division III ECAC East, is off to a 10-0 start under the direction of ex-UConn assistant Peter Belisle.
Lemire, a Townsend, Massachusetts resident, was an ECAC All-Academic selection but was unable to crack the lineup with any consistency. He saw no action as a freshman, played in 17 games last winter and four of the Bobcats 16 games this season.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Yale's John Hayden, Keith Allain talk World Junior Championships
Few things get Yale coach Keith Allain to light up with excitement more than the World Junior Championships. John Hayden, a sophomore forward, was named to the U.S. roster earlier this week. There are still seven cuts looming after the team convenes in Boston Dec. 16, but Allain, a three-time head coach of the U.S. entry, thinks Hayden is well positioned to make the final roster.
"I think he’s got a really good chance," Allain said. "They’ve got a role
for him, and they understand what he’s going to be, and they know him as a
player really well."
Hayden didn't make the preliminary roster last December after being invited to the team's summer training camp. He's determined to make the final roster.
"This has been a goal of mine a long time, to make this team," Hayden said. "Summer camp went well, I had good chemistry with those guys, and I'm looking forward to Boston. Hearing my name is on that roster is very special to me. I want to prove I belong on that team."
Allain has coached in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Olympics, the IIHF World Championships, the World Cup of Hockey and the NCAA playoffs. He says none compare to the World Junior Championships, which he calls the "greatest hockey tournament in the world." That the event is essentially a week-long national holiday in Canada only adds to the atmosphere. And Allain is every bit as excited as Hayden at the opportunity to play in front of sold-out crowds in the NHL arenas of Montreal and Toronto, if that's possible.
"I'd like nothing more for him than to have that experience. I
was thrilled Dan Muse was an assistant the last two teams. I talked to him before the
first year, and I said I can’t describe it to you, but I’m telling you…because you're
immersed in it and you’re with this group of 30 people and you become a family
in like two days and you’re doing everything together and everything is about
the tournament and the team and its just really unique."
A few other notes from Yale as it prepares for RPI on Friday and Union on Saturday, a meeting of the past two NCAA champions.
** Scoring goals hasn't been an issue since Allain took over at Yale. So the 2.11 goals-per game through nine games is concerning. Allain feels the Bulldogs are vastly improved since a flat loss to St. Lawrence on Nov. 15. "I think, really, from my perspective, if we field passes a little cleaner that'll give us the split second we need to get a better shot off. I just think our precision passing is getting better but its not as good as it needs to be to score goals."
** Scoring is down across the ECAC. Yale, at 2.11 goals-per game, is scoring less than it did during a 5-25-2 season of 2004-05 (2.19). Still, it ranks sixth in the league in scoring offense, better than Cornell, Clarkson, RPI, Princeton, Brown, all under two goals-per game. "I think our record right now, you can't be upset with how we're doing," Yale forward Carson Cooper said. "You always want to be doing better, you want to score more. But the way our defense is coming around, that's something to be proud of. Hopefully we can get the scoring coming, but we have been scoring and winning games."
** Indeed, team defense and goaltending is as strong as ever. The start to Alex Lyon's sophomore campaign has been brilliant. Patrick Spano, in his first start of the season, shut out RIT. Having multiple, extremely capable goaltenders presents some challenges. "Making sure everyone feels valuable and are contributing to the team," Allain said. "And keeping guys fresh so when you need them they are able to perform. Those are challenges. But the benefits certainly outweigh any challenges it may present."
** The main challenges for Yale have been dealing with injuries. Anthony Day, Nico Weberg and Tim Bonner have missed multiple games. Allain doesn't get into specifics, but acknowledged there are a couple of players who won't be back any time soon. Dealing with adversity is part of the game. "Everyone has to deal with stuff, and that's why we don't talk about it much," Allain said. "Whether it's guys banged up or the ref makes a bad call or our goalie lets in a bad goal. Whatever the situation may be, that's the way it's supposed to be. Figure it out."
Monday, November 24, 2014
Quinnipiac auction on Friday night will benefit Rett Syndrome