December 8, 2013

Rookie Impact

Yale Newcomers Producing

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The scoring connection between Frankie DiChiara and Chris Izmirlian that produced the game-winning tally in overtime against Merrimack on Nov. 30 confirmed something many have been noticing about this year's Bulldogs: the Class of 2017 is an impact group and a key ingredient in the team's great start this season.

DiChiara picked off a Merrimack pass with under a minute left in OT and then made the pass to Izmirlian, who rifled a shot off the goalie's glove, beat the defense to the puck near the crease and then followed it into the net with 43.5 seconds left for the 3-2 win last Saturday at the Whale.

Those two newcomers helped win that battle with the Hockey East team, but other freshmen are contributing in big ways.

Mike Doherty, who played for Middlesex of the EJHL, enters the weekend with a team-high nine points, including three goals, all during conference play.

Doherty, a Reading, Mass., native, notched those goals over a four-game span while playing left wing on a line with a variety of upper classmen.

The rookies have combined for eight goals - equaling the totals of the juniors and seniors - and 20 points after 10 games. That alone is an impressive impact.  

"We were excited to add this group of character young men to our hockey team.  They have the work ethic and talent to make a significant contribution to Yale and the Yale Hockey Program," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach.  

DiChiara, from Ronkonkoma, N.Y., has hit the net twice and has five points. The former Dubuque (USHL) star skated on an all-rookie line with Izmirlian and John Hayden last weekend.  DiChiara said his teammates have made the transition from junior hockey an easy one.

"Everybody is so supportive of each other and is always willing to help with any questions we may have on the ice," said DiChiara. "College hockey is a lot different than any other league I've played in. Every game is a battle and you can't take any shifts off."

Hayden is a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick who played for the United States National Team Development Program before heading to the Elm City. The Greenwich, Conn., forward who has three assists, thinks the style of practices have contributed to his assimilation.

"The high-temo practices that coach [Allain] runs have undoubtedly prepared us for the pace of D-1 college hockey. The veterans on the team push us to compete. Learning from the older guys definitely has helped ease the transition as well," said Hayden. 

The Yale newcomers averaged about 65 games between the regular and post seasons in 2012-13. They are now a third of the way through a 31-game college regular season.

"It's a pretty short season and time flies, so it's important to bare down and maintain focus every single week," said Hayden. 

Izmirlian, a Highland Beach, Fla., native who played with Doherty at Middlesex, is Yale's second-ever Sunshine State player (Trent Ruffolo was the first). He has two goals over the last three games and three overall tallies this season. All goals are big ones, but none was larger than the OT winner in Yale's come-from-behind effort.

 "I tried to shoot short-side high, but he [Merrimack goalie] got his glove on it. Then I tried to whack in in before he saw it," said Izmirlian. "I think he (goalie) turned around and looked at it but I was already behind him."

That game, and the first 10 this year, has taught import lessons to the hustling newcomers.

"I have learned that in college hockey, no matter the skill of your opponent, anyone can win on any given day and it's an extreme accomplishment to win on a consistent basis. Yale hockey proves to be the hardest working team in the country, and I am grateful that I have been given this opportunity to play at a school with such tradition and spirit," said Izmirlian.

A pair of highly competitive newcomers has shared all the goaltending duties to date. Alex Lyon, an ex-Omaha (USHL) Lancer from Baudette, Minn., has 70 percent of the time in net and is 3-2-2 with a 2.23 goals against and a .923 save percentage. Lyon was a bear in net against Quinnipiac last month when he stopped a career-high 48 shots in a 3-3 draw at Hamden. He is competing with classmate Patrick Spano (Montreal, Que.), who played in the BCHL for Cowichan Valley and is currently 3-0 with a .909 SP and a 2.33 GAA for the Blue.

"The upper classmen helped my transition to college the most," said Spano. "They were very supportive if you had any questions about school or hockey and were always there to help. I learned a lot about what it means to be a Yale hockey player and the responsibility that comes with it. All of the players take a lot of pride in being part of the team, and that makes it something special."

Not every rookie has been in the lineup. Forward Tim Bonner (Plymouth, Minn., Tri-City – USHL) and defenseman Dan O'Keefe (North Wall, N.J., Surrey – BCHL) are two class of 2017 skaters whose injuries have prevented them from making their collegiate debuts.

They and the rest of the freshmen have plenty of time to make their mark on the program.

"They [newcomers] have quickly assimilated into the culture of our program, and bring energy and enthusiasm every day to the rink," said Allain. "It will be a treat to watch as they grow into leaders of Yale Hockey over these next four years."

 

filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director

 

Hayden, DiChiara image by Steve Conn

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