Thursday, March 1, 2012

No bye, no problem for Yale

A couple of notes from Yale's practice this afternoon...
  • A strong finish has been the result of several factors, Yale coach Keith Allain said, but special teams and goaltending has been at the top of the list. The Bulldogs have seven power-play goals over the past four games, three each against Dartmouth and Harvard, while junior Nick Maricic has found the groove in net.

  • Maricic will start Game 1 of the best-of-3 series with Princeton on Friday.

  • Allain seems to have found the right combination of lines, which has resulted in more quality chances and more goals. "That's had a lot to do with the turnaround the last couple of weeks," senior Brian O'Neill said. "I think we were getting stale with the lines. To get some new life in the lines really gives everyone an extra spark for the second half of the season. I think that was a great move by Coach and he's seeing the benefits of that."

  • Allain said finishing shots has been a big difference, though the chemistry between the top three lines has been effective. "I like Andrew (Miller) with Kenny (Agostino)," Allain said. "I think they see things the same way, and I think Anthony Day has gotten better on the right side with those two. Having Lags (Antoine Laganiere) with Brian gives him some size, a guy whose dogging the puck. (Jesse) Root is just a smart player all over the ice, so I like that combination. And the Limbo (Kevin Limbert) line has been more or less consistent all year long, so those three lines we feel pretty good about right now."

  • Root has seen his production rise centering a line with O'Neill and Antoine Laganiere, but Allain has been impressed with his play all season. "He's a heck of a hockey player," Allain said. "If you were trying to think who's the most underrated guy on our team is, he'd be someone to come to my mind pretty quickly."

  • Yale still can't be classified as healthy, but Allain said the situation is better than last Saturday when injuries to Colin Dueck and Bennett Carroccio forced the Bulldogs to use freshman forward Alex Ward -- who hadn't seen the ice all season -- as a defenseman. No one has been ruled out for Friday as of yet, though Allain said he's still not 100 percent sure.

  • The last three seasons, not only have the Bulldogs enjoyed a first-round bye but also had the luxury of knowing an NCAA berth was in the bag regardless of what happened in the ECAC playoffs. This season, things are different. Yale can't make the NCAAs unless it wins a championship. O'Neill said the team mentality remains the same. "There's always pressure to win this tournament because that's the expectation," O'Neill said. "I don't know if there's added pressure. We're playing for our lives here, so that gives a little extra excitement for us. I think everyone will use that as motivation to keep playing."
  • O'Neill has been named the Ivy League player of the year.


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