Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Know Your Enemy: Yale

The year after winning a national championship can sometimes be difficult to traverse. A team that's just won it all practically always has to deal with key components being gone the next season. The Bulldogs lost fewer of those elements than most teams, but they didn't really come close to repeating, anyway. Yale's trip around the sun as reigning national champs was a little bit of everything. It didn't end with more trophies or even a return to the NCAA tournament, but it wasn't terrible, either. It wasn't middling, but it wasn't exactly full of dread. It was simply a decent season without being much to write home about.

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 (9th season)
2013-14 Record: 17-11-5 (10-8-4 ECAC, 5th place)
Series: RPI leads, 55-42-6
First Game: January 22, 1909 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: February 16, 2013 (Troy, NY)
Last YU win: March 1, 2014 (New Haven, CT)

2014-15 games: December 5, 2014 (New Haven, CT); February 14, 2015 (Troy, NY)

Key players: F Anthony Day, sr.; D Tommy Fallen, sr..; D Matt Killian, sr.; F Trent Ruffolo, sr.; F Carson Cooper, jr.; F Cody Learned, jr.; D Ryan Obuchowski, jr.; D Rob O'Gara, jr.; F Stu Wilson, jr.; D Mitch Witek, jr.; F Frankie DiChiara, so.; F Mike Doherty, so.; F John Hayden, so.; G Alex Lyon, so.; F Johnny Baiocco, fr.; F Ryan Hitchcock, fr.; D Nate Repensky, fr.

Key losses: F Jesse Root, F Kenny Agostino, D Gus Young

Previous KYE installments:
Going through an entire season where your longest winless streak is two is something most teams wouldn't mind enduring, but for Yale last year, it didn't result in much of anything when all was said and done. They didn't pick up the first-round bye in part because they just couldn't beat three of the four bye teams - Union, Quinnipiac, and Cornell, accounting for five of their eight league losses (they swept Colgate). 

And, as we mentioned last week, Quinnipiac became quite the bugaboo for the Bulldogs, who won ultimate glory over the local rival, but were swept out of the ECAC playoffs in Hamden after giving up 11 goals in two games, which was more than Yale had given up in their previous six games combined (eight).

Root and Agostino, two definite heroes of the national championship, have now graduated. Yale returns only one player who reached the 20 point mark, and that's Obuchowski, a defenseman, who managed exactly that total. Doherty's 9 goals and 9 assists is tops among returning forwards.

However, the crux of Yale's offense is a balanced attack. 11 returning players notched between 10 and 20 points last season. Only five returning Engineers fall into that range (although two others scored more than 20). It's the number of guys that can manage that level of output that frequently dictates success in distributing the offensive workload. When you've got that kind of team statistic, you're a team that can be dangerous no matter what line is out on the ice.

Yale's defense certainly ran hot and cold last season. Case in point - Union and Princeton scored the same number of goals against the Bulldogs. The aforementioned hot defensive streak at the end of the season destroyed by Quinnipiac. You're going to have that when you're trotting out freshmen goaltenders every night, as the Bulldogs did. Lyon won the starting role fairly quickly, and his numbers weren't awful at .918 and 2.41. As we've said pretty much every year of these Yale capsules, "not awful" is pretty much all Yale generally needs from their netminders.

There's not a lot to dislike about Yale. They've got a couple of go-to guys ready to replace Root and Agostino in Doherty and Hayden - if you want to kvetch about something there, they're both only sophomores. They've got scoring balance. Their power play is pretty solid. Their defense isn't nightmarish even if it could be a little more consistent. The only glaring issues on this team are a penalty kill that needs to be better than it was last year, and a core element that's still a little young.

Keith Allain got this team up to speed within two years of taking control, and other than a lackluster 2012 season where they finished with a .500 record in the very middle of the ECAC, his teams since then have been among the best in the league. While the Bulldogs aren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, they've got the chops to be contenders. Their open style of play is still fun to watch, and based on what we saw last season, they've certainly begun to figure out RPI. The Engineers are going to need to take a page from Yale's book and be more dangerous on multiple lines if they're going to run with them.

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