Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Know Your Enemy: Yale

We've mentioned the surprise that was Dartmouth's falling off which dovetailed almost exactly with RPI's own struggles last year, but one of the other major negative surprises of the season was definitely at Yale. The Bulldogs had been the favorites to win the ECAC despite a number of losses up front, but after a promising start the wheels came off in late November, and the team that had been one of the most dominant in the league for several seasons in a row needed a burst of energy in February just to ensure home ice for the first round.

Nickname: Bulldogs
Location: New Haven, CT
Founded: 1701
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2011
Last Frozen Four: 1952
Coach: Keith Allain (7th season)
2011-12 Record: 16-16-3 (10-10-2 ECAC, 6th place)
Series: RPI leads, 53-40-6
First Game: January 22, 1909 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: January 21, 2012 (New Haven, CT)
Last YU win: November 11, 2011 (Troy, NY)

2012-13 games: December 7, 2012 (New Haven, CT); February 16, 2013 (Troy, NY)

Key players: D Colin Dueck, sr.; F Antoine Laganiere, sr.; G Jeff Malcolm, sr.; G Nick Maricic, sr.; F Andrew Miller, sr.; F Kenny Agostino, jr.; F Clinton Bourbonais, jr.; F Jesse Root, jr.; D Gus Young, jr.; D Timothy Fallen, so.; D Matt Killian, so.; F Matt Beattie, fr.; F Carson Cooper, fr.; D Rob O'Gara, fr.; F Charles Orzetti, fr.; F Stu Wilson, fr.

Key losses: F Brian O'Neill, D Kevin Peel, F Chad Ziegler, D Nick Jaskowiak, F Kevin Limbert, F Charles Brockett

Previous KYE installments:
Defensively, Yale appeared unstoppable early in the season, especially when Malcolm managed to rattle off not just three shutouts in a row, but three shutouts in a row in the ECAC, including blankings of high-powered Colgate and Union (and RPI, but come on, the Engineers couldn't score on an empty net in November last year). However, things unraveled quickly, especially after a shocking 7-6 loss to Sacred Heart, and not only did the Bulldogs fail to shut out a single game after that, they were regularly giving up 3, 4, and 5 goals a game for most of the remainder of the season.

The goaltending question with Yale is one that just never quite seems to go away. It was present at the start of the season two years ago (and answered with Ryan Rondeau), it was there last year (Malcolm appeared to be the answer early, then things fell apart and ultimately Yale allowed 12 goals in their last two games against Harvard), and now it's still there this year, although the potential answers are basically the same as they were last year.

In front of whoever ends up in net for Eli is a relatively young defensive contingent. Dueck and Young stand out as the only upperclassmen on the incoming roster, which will add an anticipated talent in O'Gara but will still consist of at least four freshmen and sophomores on any given night (though one of them will be Fallen, who had a very solid freshman year and put up 20 points from the blue line). That combined with the uncertainty in net makes Yale questionable on defense coming into the season, they'll need to be strong early.

O'Neill represents a sizable loss for the Bulldogs, as he netted 21 goals and scored 46 points to pace the team last year, but the cupboard is not bare by a longshot - Miller, the team's assist leader three years running, is back for his senior year, and Laganiere (19 goals) and Agostino (14 goals) dented the twine with regularity as well. Throw in a bevy of solid scoring talents led by late draft pick Beattie and Yale probably won't have too much of a problem putting the puck in the net.

Over the last several seasons, RPI/Yale has been an absolute treat to watch no matter who the players have been, where the games have been played, or what the records were because both teams try to play an uptempo game. There have been defensive battles and offensive track meets but the teams have gone a few seasons now without really turning out a stinker of a contest. Look for that to continue this season, and if you want to watch some fun hockey, be sure to turn out for this year's clashes between the Engineers and the Bulldogs.

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