March 24, 2009

Bulldogs Face Catamounts at East Regional Friday

March 24, 2009

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The 2008-09 Yale hockey team has accomplished many firsts and set numerous records while checking off all but one of its four major goals for this season. The Bulldogs (24-7-2) put check marks next to an Ivy League title, an ECAC regular season championship and a conference tournament title. The one remaining is an NCAA Championship. The first step in reaching that goal is a 6:30 p.m. game against Vermont (20-11-5) this Friday at Bridgeport's Arena at Harbor Yard on day one of the NCAA East Regional. The Elis, No. 5 in both national polls, are the tournament's No. 5 seed overall and No. 2 at the regional. The No. 10/11 Catamounts finished third in Hockey East this winter and are the No. 3 seed at Harbor Yard. All East Regional games can be seen live on ESPNU (DirecTV 614), while Yale games can be heard on AM-1340 and wybc.com.

NCAA HISTORY

Yale has two NCAA post-season hockey appearances and three games (1-2-0) overall. The first came in 1952 at Colorado Springs, Colo., when Yale fell to Colorado College, 4-3, in the semifinals. The Elis and St. Lawrence were selected that year to represent the East at the final four. The Bulldogs beat the Saints 4-1 in the consolation game. Yale's last NCAA playoff contest was a 4-0 loss to Ohio State at Ann Arbor, Mich., in the 1998 West Regional when the Elis were the No. 5 seed in the West and there were only 12 teams picked overall.

BLUE POST-SEASON HISTORY

The Bulldogs won their first ECAC tournament title ever on March 21 with a 5-0 decision over Cornell. They have played in just four conference semifinals in 48 years of ECAC afiliation. Yale is 17-41-5 in conference playoff games, 1-2-0 in the NCAAs and 18-43-5 overall.

CATS, DOGS

Yale is 27-24-4 against UVM since the first meeting on Jan. 9, 1976. The last meeting was a 5-0 Cats win on Feb. 18, 2005, Vermont's third straight victory in the series. This is the third neutral-site meeting, the teams have split the previous two. Yale's largest margin of victory was 8-0 on Dec. 1, 1984, at Ingalls Rink, while UVM's biggest day against the Blue was a 9-3 decision on Nov. 19, 1988, at New Haven. Yale and Vermont meet again next November at Burlington.

YALE VS. OTHER EAST REGIONAL SQUADS

Michigan (1) and Air Force (4) skate in the 3 p.m. regional semifinal on March 27. The Wolverines are 8-4 vs. Yale in a series that began in 1929 and was last played in 1999. The Elis, who first skated against USAF in 1989, have won nine of the 12 meetings, including a 3-2 decision on Jan. 4, 2009, at Ingalls.

THE POLLS

Yale moved up two places in both major polls this week. The Elis are No. 5 in this week's USCHO.com/CBS College Sports Poll as well as the USA Today/US Hockey Magazine poll. The Elis have been listed in the USCHO poll for all but one of the last 10 weeks.

POWER SCALE

Yale moved up two spots to No. 5 in the USCHO.com Pairwise Rankings. That is the best power ranking ever for the Blue.

AFTER 48 YEARS

It's not exactly like the Red Sox Nation's 86-year wait for a world championship, but college hockey fans in New England might see the similarity to Yale's 48-year run without an ECAC tournament title. That changed on March 21 when Sean Backman scored three goals and Alec Richards stopped 27 shots in Yale's 5-0 conference tournament championship victory over No. 10 Cornell . The Big Red had the edge in shots (27-24) and controlled play in the first 10 minutes, but Backman's first-period goal opened the flood gates on Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens (19 saves).

CONFERENCE SEMI STUNNER

The Elis, trailing by a goal with less than two minutes to play in the first ECAC Hockey semifinal at the Times Union Center in Albany, tallied twice in 22 seconds to beat No. 14 St. Lawrence 4-3. Matt Nelson's goal with 66 seconds left capped the comeback and gave the Blue a chance to hold on for victory. With their goalie pulled and trailing 3-2, the Bulldogs called timeout with 1:34 left. Mark Arcobello won the draw and got the puck to Broc Little, who flipped a shot toward the net. Arcobello, standing on the edge of the left circle closest to the goal, backhanded a rebound inside the far post with 1:28 remaining to tie the game. No. 1 seed Yale, uncharacteristically outshot (38-31), stayed in the game because of Alec Richards' play in net. The senior, who stopped all 17 shots in the third period, finished with 35 saves, including a number of wild flurries in the Yale crease over the last five minutes.

ECAC TOURNEY NOTES

F Sean Backman, F Broc Little, G Alec Richards and D Ryan Donald made the 2009 ECAC Hockey All-Tournament Team. Backman was named the MVP... Yale joins Colgate and Northeastern as the only teams to win the championship game in the first attempt... Yale's shutout was the fourth in ECAC Championship Game history and the first since 2000... The 5-0 win was the second largest margin of victory in the championship game... Yale was outshot in both games but outscored opponents 9-3.

LOOKING BACK TO THE ECAC QUARTERS

Yale erased a 2-0 deficit by scoring four straight goals on the way to a 4-2 win over Brown in game one of the conference quarterfinals. Four different Elis scored goals, including a shorthander by Denny Kearney with three seconds left in the second period to tie the score. Alec Richards made 26 saves and stopped all four Brown man-advantages. Yale had three special teams goals. The following night, Mark Arcobello and Sean Backman scored on the power play and Richards stopped 19 shots and five man-advantages in a 2-0 victory.

GREEN MOUNTAIN NOTES

Vermont, No. 9 in the Pairwise Rankings, is led offensively by F Viktor Stålberg, who has 23 goals and 43 points. Freshman goalie Rob Madore (2.36, .911), who has been a select or juniors teammate of at least two Yale players, has the majority of work in the Catamount net. Vermont (20-11-5), an ECAC member (1974-2005) before joining Hockey East, finished third this season and lost in the conference quarterfinals to UMass-Lowell. The guys from Burlington, who are 5-5-1 vs. the current NCAA playoff teams this season, do not give up leads very often; they are 10-1 when leading after one period and 12-1-1 when leading after two. F Justin Milo, fourth on the team with 23 (11-12) points, transfered from Cornell and skated against Yale in 2006-07. He also was a first-team All-Ivy baseball player for the Big Red.

YALE BY NUMBER

4 consecutive ECAC weekend sweeps (Yale record, ended Feb. 20/21)

5 shorthanded goals by Broc Little (Yale season record, most in Division I this winter)

5 game win streak at home (ended March 1 vs. Colgate)

6 game unbeaten streak at home (ended March 1 vs. Colgate)

7 game-winning goals for junior Mark Arcobello (2nd in nation)

8 game win streak (ended with 3-3 tie at Quinnipiac, Feb. 20; most since 13- game streak in 1946-47)

9 shorthanded goals by the Bulldogs (ties team record)

9 wins against Ivy squads (Yale record, 9-1 mark takes 2008-09 Ivy League title)

9 game road win streak (ended with a 3-3 tie at Quinnipiac on Feb. 20)

10 wins over ranked teams (Yale record)

10 game overall unbeaten streak (ended at Princeton on Feb. 21)

15 conference wins (most since 1997-98 Elis had 17)

24 overall wins (broke school record set by 1997-98 squad)

56 career goals by Sean Backman (No. 9 on Yale career list)

RICHARDS BREAKS SCHOOL SHO RECORD

Yale senior Alec Richards (Robbinsdale, Minn.) owns the school record for career shutouts with six after blanking Cornell on March 21. He owns two of Yale's three post-season SHO, including a 2-0 win over Brown in the ECAC quarterfinals. Richards made the roster for the 2009 NCAA Frozen Four Skills Competition that will take place on April 10 at Washington, D.C. Richards, one of two goalies on the East squad, will compete (unless Yale is playing) against the West the day between the Frozen Four semifinals and championship game at the Verizon Center. Richards, who ranks second at Yale with 39 career wins, is fifth with 2,326 career saves while owning the single-season mark with 885 in 2005-06. He is seventh in Division I with a 1.97 GAA and ninth with a .926 SP. He was named insidehockey.com National Goalie of the Week as well as ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Week on Feb. 2. Richards, a third-team All-ECAC pick this year, owns a 2.66 career GAA with a .910 save percentage and earned wins in six conference playoff games, including the five-overtime game at Union in 2006.

CAPTAIN WINNER

Yale senior captain Matt Nelson (Westwood, Mass.), whose 100th collegiate game was his last at Ingalls Rink on March 14, works as hard as any Bulldog on and off the ice. Not known for his goal scoring, two of Nelson's four goals this winter have been game-winners. And none were more significant than the third-period score to beat SLU on March 20 in the ECAC semifinals. The relentless forechecker can turn a turnover into a shot at the net as quick as anyone. Nelson (4-3-7), with a 3.25 GPA in economics, has a job lined up with Royal Bank of Scotland next year.

ARCO FUELS YALE

Mark Arcobello (Milford, Conn.), ECAC Hockey Player of the Week on March 2, had the game-winning goal and three assists in Yale's 4-2 win over Cornell at home that clinched the regular-season title on Feb. 27. Arcobello, second in Division I with seven game-winners, leads the team with 35 points and is second with 17 goals. He has a point in 14 of the last 16 games and was named first-team All-ECAC.

ROOKIE RIDING

Brian O'Neill (Yardley, Pa.), has been ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week twice this season and ranks 14th among Division I freshmen (4th in ECAC) with .81 points per game. O'Neill, a member of the 2008-09 ECAC All-Rookie Team, has a team rookie-high 12 goals and 26 points playing primarily with juniors Sean Backman and Mark Arcobello. Kevin Limbert (Fruitvale, BC), who is 10th among conference rookies with .45 points per game, has 7-8-15 including the OT game-winner at Colgate. O'Neill and Limbert lead a rookie class that has accounted for 23 goals and 40 assists.

BACK ON THE BOARD

He leads the nation with five shorthanded goals and is coming off a four-point championship weekend. Sophomore F Broc Little (Rindge, NH) had gone four straight games without a point heading into the playoffs, but has notched 2-5-7 over the four post-season games. He now has 15-20-35, including one more SHG than four other players in the country. The five SHG break the single-season Yale record held by Andy Weidenbach (4) in 2004-05. It also ties him with Weidenbach for the career mark of five. Little, who had six goals over four games and was named ECAC Offensive Player of the Week in that span, was named third-team All-ECAC.

12 SHORTHANDERS

The Elis have now scored nine shorthanded goals (ties school mark) this year while allowing three. Broc Little (UAH, RPI, UNO, MSU, CLARK) has five while Denny Kearney (Union, Brown), who assisted on five SHGs, Tom Dignard (Colgate) and Sean Backman (Cornell) also have shortys.

CLASS PRODUCTION

The Yale juniors lead the team with 43 goals, but the sophomores are close behind at 35. The newcomers have chipped in 23 while the small senior class has 11.

BACKMAN NAMED TOURNEY MVP

Sean Backman (Cos Cob, Conn.), a 2008-09 second-team All-ECAC pick who leads the Blue with 20 goals, ranks fifth in the nation with .65 goals per game. He is one of 16 Division I players picked as semi-finalists for the Walter Brown Award, presented annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England. Backman (20-13-33), who has six multiple-goal outings, was named 2009 ECAC Tournament MVP after netting his only hat trick this year in the title game. He was 2007 co-ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Year and a third-team all-league pick in 2008. Backman, named first-team All-Ivy this winter, has been team MVP the last two years. His 56 career goals are No. 9 on the Yale career list. The last Bulldog to reach that mark was Jeff Hamilton '01, who finished with a school-record 173 points, while his 80 goals were second.

EXPERIENCED NET

Two other Bulldogs have plenty of experience in the Yale goal. Sophomore Ryan Rondeau (Carvel, Alb.) was in goal for wins over No. 17 Minnesota State (30 saves), No. 11 Air Force (29) and No. 3 Cornell (17). Rondeau is 4-1 with a 2.27 GAA and a .901 SP while having 30 percent of Yale's net action. Junior Billy Blase (Santa Monica, Calif.) had a Yale season-high 32 saves in a win at Harvard on Jan. 10 and stopped 26 more in the 2-2 draw with SLU on Jan. 17. He has a 2.71 GAA with a .911 SP.

ALLAIN NAMED ECAC COACH OF THE YEAR

Keith Allain '80, in his third year as the Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey, was named ECAC Hockey Coach of the Year (Tim Taylor Award) on March 17 and is the favorite to win the American Hockey Coaches Association Coach of the Year (Penrose) Award. He has not (head) coached against Vermont. Allain has increased Yale's win total in each of his three seasons and helped the Elis enjoy one of their best ever this winter after being picked seventh in both pre-season polls. He is a former Yale goalie who worked as a Bulldog assistant before coaching in Sweden (6 years) and in the NHL (17 years). "Keith Allain has done a fantastic job. You have to think he's the national coach of the year," said ESPN analyst Barry Melrose on ESPN2's March 22 NCAA selection show.

ALLAIN ON THE UPCOMING WEEKEND

"The whole thing is just incredible. You dream about moments like this and now we have a chance to do something special. UVM is very fast, plays an up-tempo game and has some big wins this year. They are clearly a quality opponent."

DISTINGUISHED DIGNARD

Junior D Tom Dignard (Reading, Mass.), who suffered a season-ending injury in the Jan. 31 Quinnipiac game, was still named second-team All-ECAC. He is one of the ECAC's top all-around blueliners. Dignard (21 GP, 5-12-17) owns the 10th best (.81) points-per-game average among conference defensemen. Dignard, who has a 3.69 GPA and majors in economics and math, was named a finalist for the ECAC's Student-Athlete of the Year.

NOT KILLING THEM SOFTLY

The Bulldogs have killed off 89.6 percent of opponent man-advantages. No Yale opponent has tallied more than two power-play goals this season, while four have hit the net twice. The Elis have not allowed a PPG in five straight games.

SHOOT, ASK QUESTIONS LATER

The Blue has outshot all but seven (Quinnipiac, Minnesota State, Union, Princeton, St. Lawrence, Cornell twice) opponents this year and averages 36 shots on target while giving up 27. The Bulldogs outshot Cornell/Colgate by a combined 82-36 on Jan. 23-24, while the largest one-game disparity was 35 (50-15 vs. Harvard). Yale has won five of the seven games (only loss to Princeton) when being outshot.

RANKED OPPONENTS

Yale, a school-record 10-2 vs. ranked teams, faces its 12th ranked opponent in Vermont. The 10 wins came against teams listed in the USCHO.com Top 20 Poll at the time: Cornell (3, 10, 10), Princeton (9), Air Force (11), St. Lawrence (14), Clarkson (15), Dartmouth (15 & 19) and Minnesota State (17). The losses were to Nebraska-Omaha (16) and Princeton (10).

BULLDOG BITES

Yale is 5-1 against teams in the current NCAA tournament with one game (3-2 over Air Force) out of the ECAC... The Bulldogs are 280-291-21 (.491) all-time against teams in the current field of 16... This is Yale's first game at Harbor Yard and the first in the city of Bridgeport. Other than Ingalls Rink, the Elis have played in Hartford, Norwalk and at two non-campus venues in New Haven... Yale's last game against a Hockey East school was Nov. 25, 2006, at Boston University (2-1 OT loss)... The last win against a team from that league was Oct. 28, 2006, at New Hampshire (4-3 OT win)... Denny Kearney has points in six straight games and has 2-6-8 over that span...The Backman-Arcobello-O'Neill line has 49 goals... Yale is 6-0 when Sean Backman scores two goals and 5-0 when Backman and Mark Arcobello score goals in the same game... The Elis have four double-digit goal scorers this year, the most since 2003-04... Yale's 112 goals (19 more than last year) are the most for an Eli squad since the 2002-03 team had 121... The Bulldogs are 5-6-1 when they don't score a PPG.

CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER

Sophomore UVM F Josh Franklin was a teammate of Yale's Matt Nelson at Noble & Greenough School... Cats rookie goalie Rob Madore was a teammate with Bulldog Charles Brockett on a midwest team at a select tournament and played with Brian O'Neill on the USHL Chicago Steel last year... Vermont's Kyle Medvec played on the same high school elite league team in Minnesota as Yale's Nick Jaskowiak... Catamount skater Chris Atkinson played with Eli goalie Billy Blase in the U.S. National Program... UVM's Brian Roloff skated with Yale's Sean Backman at Green Bay of the USHL, while Peter Lenes and Backman played on the same squad in a select tournament.

ON RADIO

Alex Jenson '09 calls the action on WYBC AM-1340, the flagship station for Yale hockey. WYBC hosts a retrospective on the 2008-09 season at 5:45 p.m. Friday that includes highlights of Yale's entire season. It will be followed by the normal pregame show leading up to faceoff.

ON ESPNU

The talent for ESPNU's broadcast at Harbor Yard includes Justin Kutcher, Ken Hodge and Damian DiGiulian. NCAA Hockey regional action at all four sites can be seen on one of the ESPN channels.

BULLDOGS ON THE POND

The Elis did something unusual prior to their 10-game unbeaten streak this winter. On Jan. 20, Yale took a break from normal practice and ventured outside to skate on the pond next to the clubhouse on the golf course at Yale. It was likely the first time a Bulldog varsity team had done anything official on natural outdoor ice since the 1920s. Two areas were cleared of nearly a foot of snow. One section, where the Elis rotated players for 3-on-3 games, had a pair of nets brought over from Ingalls Rink. The image was classic hockey, a fully-geared college team with goalies on a pond surrounded by snow and wilderness. A roaring fire burning inside a 50-gallon metal can warmed everyone just off the larger skating section. Hot chocolate and Powerade sat on a table with a Rich Kaplan (athletic medicine)-designed sign that read "Operation Pond Hockey 2009" sitting in the snow below. "It was great for the guys to get out there and play outside," said Yale Associate Head Coach C.J. Marottolo. "It brings you back to the days of playing all day on the pond. It also makes you realize why you love the game and how you fell in love with the game."

BULLDOGS OF THE PAST

There are 16 Elis in the pro ranks this winter: Brennan Turner '09 (Gwinnett), D, ECHL; David Meckler '09 (Manchester), F, AHL; Jean-Francois Boucher `08 (Ingolstadt ERC), F, Germany; Robert Page '08 (Trenton), D, ECHL; Blair Yaworski '08 (Johnstown), F, ECHL; Bill LeClerc `07 (Mississippi), D, ECHL; Matt Cohen `07 (Trenton), D, ECHL; Brad Mills '07 (Lowell), F, AHL; Chris Brooks `06 (Utah), D, ECHL; Joe Zappala `06 (Reading), F, ECHL; Chris Higgins '05 (Montreal), F, NHL; Joe Callahan `05 (Islanders), D, NHL; Stacey Bauman '03 (Oklahoma City), D, CHL; Jeff Hamilton '01 (Toronto), F, NHL; Ray Giroux `98 (St. Petersburg SKA), D, Russia; Alex Westlund '98 (Linz EHC), G, Austria.

THREE IN NHL

There are three former Yale players skating in the National Hockey League. Chris Higgins '05 is in his fifth season with the Montreal Canadiens and has 269 NHL games under his belt. Higgins has 81 goals, 64 assists and 145 points, including 9-9-18 in 47 GP this season. Jeff Hamilton '01, who had 16-37-53 in the AHL this year, is currently with Toronto and has 2-2-4 in nine games. Hamilton has 31 goals in 152 NHL games. Joe Callahan '05 (16, 0-2-2) has been up twice with the New York Islanders this winter.

CONNECTICUT'S NCAA REGIONAL

Yale and Fairfield are co-hosting the first-ever NCAA Hockey Regional Tournament in the Nutmeg State on March 27-28 at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. There are four regional events that weekend with the winners headed to Washington, D.C., for the 2009 Frozen Four. Yale hosted the 2004 NCAA Women's Frozen Four at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., but has never hosted a men's NCAA hockey event.

WHALE WATCHING

The renovation of historic David S. Ingalls Rink is in the second of three phases. The project includes the addition of approximately 13,000 square feet of varsity operational space as well as a complete renovation of the current facility. The expanded and enhanced home of Yale Hockey will include new men's and women's varsity locker rooms, training and strength and conditioning rooms, two new press boxes, a lower level hockey heritage area, offices for coaches of both programs, a student-athlete study area, new lights, as well as a sound system and de-humidification unit. The upper level interior will also be decorated with photos displaying the rich history of Yale Hockey.

Release filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD & Sports Publcity Director