Thursday, January 30, 2014

Big weekend for Yale

A few notes and quotes from Wednesday's visit to Yale practice.

  • Yale's defensive core lost only Colin Dueck from last season's national championship unit. The experience and growth can be seen at both ends of the ice, most notably in the offensive zone. Four goals from defensemen last weekend give the group 15 goals this winter, one more than the entirety of last year. "We encourage our D to be involved in the play," Allain said. "It's the way teams defend, if you don't get that fourth and fifth attacker up the ice it's going to be hard to score even strength."
  • Allain has been especially impressed with the pairing of senior Gus Young and sophomore Rob O'Gara. "They've proven to be our top two defensemen in all situations," he said.
  • It's crunch time in ECAC Hockey. Only five weekends remain in the regular season, and this is the time for the contenders to make their move. Yale is no different, though the remaining schedule is particularly rough.  Five of its 10 games are against ranked opponents, starting with red-hot Cornell and Colgate this weekend. Then, it's a trip to RPI and Union, Quinnipiac at home on Feb. 14, a third meeting with Harvard on Feb. 21 before the final regular season weekend with Union and RPI. Of course, Yale is still ranked and has the benefit of playing six of the final 10 games at home.
  • Allain doesn't bother checking the PairWise Rankings, he says. "It doesn't matter," he said. "We have to win hockey games, whether we're No. 1 or No. 57. We have to win games. I don't see how that would change what we do. Are we going to try harder?"
  • Yale, at No. 18 in the PWR entering the weekend, finds itself just outside the NCAA tournament zone. The Bulldogs are playing host to a regional in Bridgeport, and would love to begin defense of their national championship a few miles from campus. Given the strength of schedule over the final 10 games, Yale has the potential to make a real climb with a solid finish.
  • Allain expects injured players Alex Ward, Mike Doherty and Carson Cooper to be out for this weekend.
  • Goaltender Alex Lyon is about as poised as they come, especially impressive given that he's a freshman. "Alex is a very good goaltender," Allain said. "He stops the pucks he should stops, and he has the ability to stop some others. He does a good job handling the puck, which helps us to negate the other team's forecheck. He's kind of like a sixth skater back there the way he handles the puck and relieves pressure from that standpoint. He's calm under pressure.. For any team, it's nice when your goalie is calm under pressure."
  • Last Saturday's game with Brown was decided in the first five minutes thanks to a parade of penalties that allowed Yale to score three times. Zack Pryzbek was ejected at 1:26 for hitting from behind, and Massimo LaMacchia joined him in the locker room for slew-footing later in the period. Allain was asked if the Brown's early aggressive play surprised him. "I don't know if I'd use the word aggressive or dirty," Allain said. "I can't speak for the other team, but I don't think you game plan to have one of your players knocked out of the game on the second shift of the game, his first shift, and a 5-minute power play right off the bat."
  • O'Gara spent his off-season the same way he has the past few years: working hockey camps and training with former Russian pro and coaching guru Alexsey Nikiforov. His style encourages creativity and skills, and his pupils include a growing list of NHL players. "He's a very skill-oriented guy and there's a lot of pros down there," O'Gara said. "Playing against that type of competition, basically all year round, it really helps."


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