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.