Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Know Your Enemy: Yale

Well, what is there to say about these guys? Oh, nothing important. They only won the ECAC's first national championship in almost a quarter-century. Beat four higher-ranked teams to do it. Nothing major. And the scary part is - aside from the goaltender who registered only the third national championship game shutout since the early 1970s and a couple of top scorers... this team returns a surprising amount of firepower from the one that sat on top of the college hockey universe in 2013.

Yale
Nickname: Bulldogs
Location: New Haven, CT
Founded: 1701
Conference: ECAC (Ivy League)
National Championships: 1 (2013)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2013
Last Frozen Four: 2013
Coach: Keith Allain (8th season)
2012-13 Record: 22-12-3 (12-9-1 ECAC, 3rd place)
Series: RPI leads, 55-40-6
First Game: January 22, 1909 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: February 16, 2013 (Troy, NY)
Last YU win: November 11, 2011 (Troy, NY)

2013-14 games: February 7, 2014 (Troy, NY); March 1, 2014 (New Haven, CT)

Key players: F Kenny Agostino, sr.; F Clinton Bourbonais, sr.; F Jesse Root, sr.; D Gus Young, sr.; D Tommy Fallen, jr..; D Matt Killian, jr.; F Trent Ruffolo, jr.; F Carson Cooper, so.; D Ryan Obuchowski, so.; D Rob O'Gara, so.; F Stu Wilson, so.; D Mitch Witek, so.; F Frank DiChiara, fr.; F Michael Doherty, fr.; F John Hayden, fr.; G Alex Lyon, fr.

Key losses: G Jeff Malcolm, F Andrew Miller, F Antoine Laganiere, F Josh Balch, D Colin Dueck

Previous KYE installments:
Even five months removed from seeing the Elis hoist the NCAA championship trophy, it still seems a touch surreal. The national champions are from the ECAC. And it's Yale - a team that we weren't sure had what it took to even run for an ECAC championship (and ultimately, they didn't), and a team that the Engineers not only finished ahead of in the ECAC standings, but also defeated twice by a combined score of 10-2.

No one gave the Bulldogs (who backed into the NCAA tournament at the last moment after failing to score a single goal in two games in Atlantic City against Union and Quinnipiac and needed Michigan to lose to Notre Dame in the CCHA championship to make the tournament) any chance whatsoever to beat Minnesota. They did in overtime. Conventional wisdom had them falling to North Dakota the next day. They scored four goals in the last eight minutes of the game to reach the Frozen Four.

Then came UMass-Lowell, winners of 14 of their last 15 games with just three goals given up in their last five - Yale wasn't going to beat them, surely. It took overtime, again, but Yale made it three wins in games they were supposed to lose. Although all bets were off at that point, they were taking on a Quinnipiac team that had dominated them three times earlier in the year. By the time Jeff Malcolm was holding the national championship trophy on his birthday, the naysayers didn't have much more to say.

Malcolm was key for Yale. Part of the reason that the Engineers (and for that matter, the Bobcats) were able to dominate the Bulldogs was an injury that kept Malcolm sidelined for both Quinnipiac games and the game in Troy, all three part of a five-game losing streak that saw the Elis slip from the top reaches of the league in dismal fashion. Once Malcolm returned, the Bulldogs won every game they played for the rest of the year, with the exception of the aforementioned Atlantic City debacle.

In many ways, Malcolm's emergence as a solid option in net for Yale was the continuation of what has been a common thread over the last several seasons. Frequently, they're a team that comes into the season and the outlook is... "boy, this team has a whole lot of offense. If they can figure out the situation in net, they can be really dangerous." And as a matter of fact, we've said pretty much the same thing in each of the last three editions of Know Your Enemy for the Bulldogs.

And... yes, we are going to make it four. Yale returns an embarrassment of riches on offense, especially between Agostino and Root, but a total of five returning players had seven or more goals last year, and eight had 10 or more points. That's the kind of diverse scoring ability you need to be successful. They add to that diversity with Hayden, a 3rd round selection in the NHL Entry Draft, and DiChiara, one of the top scorers in the USHL last year.

The question comes between the pipes, and this year it's a major issue that needs a definitive answer. Connor Wilson has seen very limited playing time in his first two years in New Haven, and was not strong at all in the games he played last year. That means it's almost certainly going to fall to Lyon or Patrick Spano, the other freshman goaltender coming to campus, to establish themselves quickly.

RPI's success against Yale last year was not terribly unique - the Engineers have picked up at least one win over the Bulldogs in each of the last four years, and those were by and large some pretty decent seasons for Yale. As we've mentioned in previous years, RPI-Yale has turned into a must-see event in the ECAC, with both teams playing an up-tempo, speed-based style, games turn into barnburners with plenty of nifty goals from both sides. It is to RPI's disadvantage that this year's games both come late into the season, giving Yale plenty of time to answer its yearly goaltending question before facing RPI's solid offense, but regardless, it's going to be a challenge for Jason Kasdorf and the RPI defense to keep the Yale offense in check.

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