Puck Drops at 2 Friday in West Regional
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Having to go West for the national tournament might be a good thing for the Yale men's hockey team. The Bulldogs, who face No. 1/2 ranked Minnesota on Friday afternoon at 2 in the West Regional semifinal, are enjoying the new surroundings of this Midwestern city and the Van Andel Arena.
While the other ECAC teams in the NCAA Tournament took a short bus ride to Providence and a familiar destination, an excited bunch of Elis flew out of New York on Wednesday afternoon and landed in Detroit, where they took the two-hour bus ride to Grand Rapids.
After a great dinner at Leo's Restaurant on Ottawa Avenue, where the city's mayor came to say hello to the team, the bus headed for the arena to drop off the equipment for Thursday's practice.
No lights were shining on the ice, but many of the Bulldogs ventured out to take a look at the fresh sheet of ice, the newly painted stripes and dasher boards with the four participating teams.
A selection of Yale players was brought in for meetings and on-camera interviews by the ESPN production staff broadcasting the game. The TV talent, Joe Davis and Sean Richlin, who played at Michigan and skated on a U.S. National Team coached by Keith Allain, sat down with the group to get some perspective.
Allain, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach, talked to some media in New Haven yesterday and then met with the ESPN guys. They wanted to get an inside look at the squad that finished third in the ECAC and was nationally ranked much of the season. However, there was plenty of focus on facing the Gophers.
"They are a really good hockey team. They have scoring from all their lines. They like to play the puck possession game, and their goaltender has had a hell of a year," said Allain back at Ingalls on Wednesday.
All of the media was asking what Yale should do against the co-WCHA regular season champions.
"We want to pressure them and make them play faster with the puck than they want to," said the Yale coach. "They are used to playing on an Olympic sheet, which gives you a little more time. I'm sure they were practicing on their NHL sheet this week. They are very fast, and they like to beat you one-on-one."
The Blue is fortunate to have six seniors who are competing in their third NCAA Tournament.
"There are so many distractions in this [NCAA] environment that pull you in so many directions," said Allain. "Having dealt with that - and still worrying about the compete piece - which is the most important part, it helps for them [seniors] to share with younger guys."
A few of the Yale media story lines included Tommy Fallen and Andrew Miller. Fallen, who grew up a short ride from the Minnesota campus, is the only Minnesota native on the Yale roster. He played with or against all 23 of Gophers who play in their home state.
'This is something I dreamed about since I knew I was going to play at Yale. It will be interesting. I always wanted to play these guys. It won't change my routine at all though," said the Yale sophomore defenseman.
Miller, returning to his home state for the first time since 2007, was high school Mr. Hockey in Michigan before coming to Yale.
"The last time I played a game in Michigan was in 2007, and I am really excited for everything this weekend," said the Bulldog senior captain.
The other big news surrounding the Bulldogs was the NHL trade involving Yale junior forward Kenny Agostino, whose rights were with the Pittsburgh Penguins until late Wednesday night. Jarome Iginla, the star Calgary player, was moved to Pittsburgh for Yale's leading scorer and another unsigned college player. Agostino said he was surprised but happy to be with another great organization. He stressed the fact that his focus was on playing Minnesota and not what was going on in the NHL.
Yale-Minnesota is the first semifinal on Friday and it airs live on ESPNU. Niagara (Atlantic Hockey) and North Dakota (WCHA) follow at Van Andel Arena.
Filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director