Former Eli Has Breakout Pro Season
It's been two seasons since the kid from Yardley, Pa., was flying around Ingalls Rink creating havoc for opponents at both ends of the rink. Ask anyone who knows Yale, ECAC or even college hockey and they will tell you about former Yale men's hockey star Brian O'Neill '12. The former Bulldog captain, currently a member of the AHL Manchester Monarchs (LA Kings), sat down with Yale Sports Publicity Director Steve Conn to discuss his professional career and reflect on his days in New Haven.
Steve: You clearly had a breakout campaign this past winter. In your first one-plus pro seasons you combined for four goals and 17 points in 61 games. This year, in 60 contests, you hit the net 26 times and notched 47 points. How do you explain the big jump in production?
Brian: I think the biggest differences were opportunity and confidence. Last year, being a lock-out year, really made it difficult to earn playing opportunities, especially for first-year guys. This year, I was given more responsibility, which helped grow my confidence and in return produced better results.
Steve: When during the 2013-14 season did you sense that it was going to be a very different offensive campaign for you? Was there a particular game or stretch of contests?
Brian: I would have to say it was during my first two-goal game in pro hockey early in the season. Obviously, goals aren't the end all, but seeing the puck go in the net early was definitely a big shot in the arm.
Steve: Your 69 career goals rank sixth at Yale, while the 163 points are second. Collegiate offensive productivity doesn't always mean success at the next level. How did your Yale hockey experience prepare you for being a productive pro player?
Brian: The biggest benefit of my time at Yale was the winning culture that was instilled. Whenever you are a part of a winning program, it has a tremendous impact on a player's development. Yale hockey made me a winner and I will carry that with me the rest of my playing career.
Steve: Where were you the night Yale won the 2013 national championship, and what were you thinking after the victory?
Brian: I was actually playing that Saturday night, but I might have taken a peek or two between periods. I made the guys put the game on as soon as we got back to the locker room. I saw the last 10 minutes of the third, which was all I needed to see. The thing that kept going through my head was that we finally did it. It was pretty special what that team accomplished. Just look at who they beat.
Steve: You were a junior on a 2010-11 Yale team many believe was the most overall talented squad Yale has ever had. A team record for wins (28), a No. 1 ranking for most of the year and the top seed in the NCAA Tournament are pretty good reasons why. You certainly helped set the table for a national title. What do you hear about Yale hockey from players, coaches and executives in pro hockey?
Brian: I think if you look at some of the talent Yale has produced over the past 5 years, it's pretty remarkable. The respect for Yale hockey continues to grow and that's a testament to the recruiting and coaching of Keith Allain. I think the hockey world is starting to really pay attention to what's going in New Haven.
Steve: You were an All-American and served as captain as a senior. What was the most memorable moment on ice during your Yale career?
Brian: Winning our first (2009) ECAC Tournament Championship was the most memorable moment. That was the start of something special, and I believe it propelled the program forward for years to come.
Steve: What is your plan for this summer and how will it differ from the last one?
Brian: I will be living with Andrew Miller in Stamford (Conn.) again this summer. We both work out with Ben Prentiss in Darien. It will be pretty much the same routine as last summer: work out and then beat [Sean] Backman and [Mark] Arcobello in golf every week.
Steve: Sean Backman '10 is a teammate at Manchester, and I'm sure both of you are asked about your days at Ingalls Rink. Would what would you say about the Yale Hockey Program if asked by a young student-athlete trying to figure out his next step?
Brian: Deciding to attend Yale was the best decision I have made thus far. Deciding on a college is difficult, but if you look at what the Yale hockey program can provide a prospective student-athlete, it's a no-brainer. The combination of hockey, academics, and resources cannot be matched by any other university.
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