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Playoffs Begin Friday Night at Whale

Playoffs Begin Friday Night at Whale

ECAC Playoffs Begin With Local Flavor

The Yale men's hockey team (15-13-1, 10-11-1 ECAC) hosts Quinnipiac (14-16-4, 9-11-2) this weekend in a best-of-three first round ECAC Hockey Playoff Series. The New Haven County rivals square off Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. with a Sunday 5 p.m. contest if necessary. All Games at Ingalls Rink air live on BoxCast TV and are on a delayed broadcast through Eleven Sports TV.

Quinnipiac has a 17-7-5 record overall, 3-0 in the ECAC post season, against the Elis since the first meeting in 2006. The home team won both of this year's regular season meetings.

Yale won 3-2 at the Whale, while the Bobcats took the game at Hamden 3-0.

Yale had 30 shots on goal in both games, while QU had 74 combined. Sam Tucker was in the Bulldog net both games and had 69 total saves. The Elis were scoreless on 7 power plays against the Cats, who went 2-for-13 on their advantages.
Yale has won 6 of its last 8 games, including a home split last weekend with Dartmouth (6-4 L) and Harvard (2-1 W). Joe Snively, who has 7 goals and 13 points over his last 5 games, leads the team with a career-high 19 goals and 36 points. He had five points last weekend, while rookie Kevin O'Neil notched both goals in the win over the Crimson. Captain Ryan Hitchcock is second with 19 points, while sophomore Evan Smith is next with 10 goals. A pair of Bulldog netminders have split games the last seven weekends. Junior Sam Tucker (3.03, .894), who played both games against the Bobcats this year, got the start last Friday against Dartmouth. Sophomore Corbin Kaczperski (1.92, .936), in his first season of game action, has had two of his best outings over his last two starts. He stopped a career-high 36 shots at Cornell and then made 33 saves on 34 shots against Harvard.

Quinnipiac, which has won 2 of its last 3, is coming off a North Country trip last weekend that included a win over St. Lawrence followed by a loss to Clarkson. Freshman Odeen Tufto (8-31-39) and senior Tanner MacMaster (12-18-30) lead the squad in points, while sophomore Alex Whalen has a team-high 14 goals. The guys from Hamden have used a pair of goalies this season. Sophomore Andrew Shortridge (2.36, .906), who has most of the work, was in net for both games last weekend. He made 18 saves in 3-2 win over the Saints before stopping 21 shots in the 4-2 loss to the Knights. Shortridge had the 3-0 win over the Elis in November, while rookie Keith Petruzzelli (2.71, .904) got the start in the February game at the Whale.

Cornell, Union, Clarkson and Harvard have byes this week. While the Dogs entertain the Cats, there are 3 other series going on in the conference. St. Lawrence is at Dartmouth, RPI plays at Colgate and Brown skates against Princeton.

Senior forward Ryan Hitchcock was voted captain by his teammates for the 2017-18 season. The Manhasset, N.Y., native has notched 20 goals and 67 points in his 101-game college career, which has been shortened by injuries the last two seasons. He is currently second on the team with 19 points. In 2016-17, Hitchcock, who was voted by his teammates as the top passer among the Elis, dished out a team-leading 16 helpers before a Jan. 14 injury derailed the remainder of his season. Prior to his time at Yale, Hitchcock was a member of the United States National Team Development Program, where he won a gold medal as a member of the U.S. U18 squad at the 2014 World Championships. Hitchcock followed up that international experience by helping Team USA to a bronze medal at the 2016 IIHF World Juniors in Finland. The U.S. team beat Sweden 8-3 to grab third place. Hitchcock, the third line left wing for the U.S. squad and the eighth Bulldog to play in this tournament, played in every game while becoming the first Eli to earn a medal at the world juniors.

Junior forward Joe Snively (Herndon, Va.) leads the nation with 3 shorthanded goals and is second with 5 game-winners.  The semifinalist for the Walter Brown Award is 5th nationally with .66 goals per game and 10th in Division I with 1.24 points per game. He tops Yale with 19 goals and 36 points after notching 7 goals and 13 points over the last 5 games, including his first collegiate hat trick on Feb. 10 against Princeton. Snively was one of five players selected to the Pre-season Coaches All-ECAC Hockey Team after netting 1.18 points per game in 2016-17, which ranked 21st in the nation. An All-Ivy League honorable mention from a season ago, Snively had three multiple-goal outings in 2016-17, including consecutive games against Holy Cross and RPI. Snively (103 pts, 94 career games) has 7 multi-goal games and 9 multi-point outings this season.
Junior goalie Sam Tucker (Wilton, Conn.) has enjoyed some excellent performances this season, but his best may have been in the 3-2 win over Quinnipiac on Feb. 9. He made 29 saves while surviving six power plays. Tucker, who had 34 saves in a 3-3 OT tie with No. 4 Cornell on Jan. 12, made his collegiate debut on Nov. 12, 2016, in a relief appearance against Cornell, and eventually won his first collegiate game against UConn on Jan. 7, 2017. Tucker seized the starting job as the Elis headed into the 2017 ECAC playoffs, where he stopped 68 of 71 shots in first round playoff action against Dartmouth. His Nov. 18 effort at Quinnipiac was one of the best of Tucker's career with 40 saves.

Sophomore Corbin Kaczperski (China Township, Mich.) has 10 starts and 7 wins in his first year of action. His best came on the last two weekends of the regular season, a career-high 36 saves at Cornell and a 33-save game against Harvard. Kaczperski's first home appearance included 22 saves in the win over UMass on Jan. 5. His .936 save percentage is 5th in Division I, while his 1.92 goals against ranks No. 8 heading into the weekend.

Freshman forward Dante Palecco (7-6-13), who notched two goals in a Dec. 30 win over New Hampshire, had one of the best weekends for a rookie Bulldog forward in recent memory against St. Lawrence and Clarkson on Nov. 10-11. In a 6-1 win over St. Lawrence on Friday, Palecco netted his first collegiate goal and added two more in scoring the first Yale hat trick since 2012. Palecco chipped in Yale's only goal in a 4-1 loss to No. 8 Clarkson. For his efforts, the Whippany, N.J. native was awarded both the ECAC Hockey Offensive Player and Rookie of the Week.

Yale is 4-2-1 against nationally ranked teams this year…  The Blue finished 5-2 in non-conference games… Rob O'Gara '16 (3 GP) was traded to the New York Rangers last week and made his debut for the Blue Shirts at Montreal the next day… Alex Lyon '17 has a 3-2-1 record with the Philadelphia Flyers this winter in goal… Andrew Miller '13 has been among the  AHL leaders in scoring this season. He currently has 51 points for the Charlotte Checkers.

The blue line, which has produced 9 goals, has been one of Yale's major improvements from last season. Adam Larkin, Anthony Walsh, Charlie Curti, Matt Foley, Chandler Lindstrand, Billy Sweezey and Phil Kemp have been regulars on the blueline this winter.

Seven freshmen joined the team this year (4 F, 2 D, 1G). Two are from Canada and played junior hockey in the British Columbia Hockey League, while the other five come from around the U.S. and competed in the United States Hockey League last season. Yale's freshmen have accounted for 17 goals and 38 points this season. Forwards Dante Palecco (7-6-13) and Kevin O'Neil (6-4-10) have earned ECAC Hockey honors this season. First-year defenseman Phil Kemp (20 gp, 2-5-7), an Edmonton Oiler draft pick, was named to the roster of the U.S. National Junior Team's pre-IIHF tournament camp.

The Bulldogs have four seniors (7 goals), including two forwards, and two defensemen. There are seven juniors (33), nine sophomores (28), and seven newcomers (17).

It is very possible that Evan and Mitchell Smith are the first twins to skate for the Yale men's hockey team. The Stouffville, Ontario, brothers, who have combined for 13 goals and 26 points this winter, have been skating on the same team since they began organized hockey and have been linemates for most of the last dozen years. However, they've mostly been on separate lines since coming to New Haven, and that has worked well for them. The identical twins, wearing jerseys No. 13 (Evan) and 14 (Mitchell), attended Salisbury School before playing for Dubuque in the USHL. Even teammates are challenged to tell the difference between the two, but Evan (6-0, 190), who scored the OT winner against ASU on Feb. 3, is listed as an inch taller and five pounds heavier than Mitchell. Evan became the first Eli since Brian O'Neill in 2012 to score four goals when he helped his team beat Princeton on Feb. 10. Smith did that on just five shots on goal.

Yale went four seasons without a hat trick and now has four in 2017-18. Rookie forward Dante Palecco had his first three career goals on Nov. 10 at home against St. Lawrence. Junior forward Ted Hart notched his first three-goal college game on the road against Union on Dec. 2. Both Bulldogs were skating those nights on a line with Ryan Hitchcock and Joe Snively and the Elis won both contests. The latest to have hat tricks are Evan Smith and Snively, who combined for all 7 goals on Feb. 10 against Princeton. Here are the year's Yale 3-goal (or better) nights.

Yale is 2nd in the nation with 6 shorthanded goals this year trailing only Northern Michigan (7). Joe Snively is tied with a bunch of players as the national leader in SHGs with 3. Ryan Hitchcock, Luke Stevens and Robbie DeMontis have the others for Yale.

Yale and Fairfield will co-host the 2018 Division I Men's Ice Hockey Regional at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport on March 23-24. The two schools also brought the regional to the state of Connecticut in 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2014. The other sites for the 2018 tournament include the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa. (Host: Penn State), the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. (Holy Cross), and Premier Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. (North Dakota). The 2018 Frozen Four will take place at the Xcel Center in Saint Paul, Minn. (Minnesota).

Yale has played in Alaska and in Canada, but the Bulldogs have never skated outside of North America for a "regular-season" game. That will change next November in Belfast, Ireland. Yale, Union, Boston University and UConn play in the 2018 Northern Irish Connections Friendship Four Tournament (Nov. 23-24). The squads square off at The SSE Arena, home of the Belfast Giants, a professional team that competes within the Elite Ice Hockey League. The arena has hosted the Friendship Four Tournament since 2015.

Yale defenseman Adam Larkin's family has hockey in its blood. Larkin's cousin Dylan skates for the Detroit Red Wings, while his brother Ryan is the starting goaltender for Miami. Additionally, Larkin's cousin and Dylan's older brother, Colin was a Division III All-American for UMass Boston last season… Will D'Orsi's father, Scott, played forward for the Bulldogs from 1986-90 and registered 70 points… Newcomer Phil Kemp comes from a family of athletes. Both his grandfather and great uncle played football for the Elis, while his brother played Lacrosse at Brown and his sister rows at Harvard. The Yale roster doesn't have much of an international flair, but at least six languages can be spoken among the group.

The superlatives survey among the Bulldogs produced the following leaders.
Strongest pound-for-pound: Anthony Walsh
Fastest on skates: Ted Hart
Hardest Shot: Dante Palecco
Best Fore-checker: Luke Stevens
Best Passer: Ryan Hitchcock
Best Hands: Joe Snively
The Best Singer: Anthony Walsh and Will D'Orsi
Most unique hobby: JM Piotrowski (Skateboarding)
Best Sense of humor: John Baiocco
Biggest appetite: Charlie Curti
Best Dresser: JM Piotrowski
Most soft spoken: Phil Kemp
Most Talkative: Dante Palecco
Most likely to become a head hockey coach: Adam Larkin

Yale has two players (Luke Stevens, Carolina; Phil Kemp, Edmonton) on the current roster who have been drafted by NHL teams. Nineteen former Bulldogs are playing professionally this season.

Jean-Francois Boucher '08 – Kolner Haie , DEL – Germany
Mark Arcobello '10 - Bern SC, NLA – Switzerland (2018 Olympics)
Sean Backman '10 – Eisbaren Berlin, DEL – Germany
Broc Little '11 – HC Davis, NLA – Switzerland (2018 Olympics)
Denny Kearney '11 – Milton Keynes Lighting, EIHL – United Kingdom
Brian O'Neill '12 - Jokerit Helsinki, KHL – Finland (2018 Olympics)
Andrew Miller '13 - Charlotte Checkers, AHL
Antoine Laganiere '13 - San Diego Gulls, AHL
Kenny Agostino '14 – Boston Bruins, NHL/Providence Bruins, AHL
Gus Young '14 – Florida Everblades, ECHL
Ryan Obuchowski '16 – Toledo Walleye, ECHL
Matthew Beattie '16 – Melbourne Mustangs, AIHL – Australia
Rob O'Gara '16 – Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, NHL/Providence, AHL
Alex Lyon '17 - Philadelphia Flyers, NHL/Lehigh Valley, AHL
John Hayden '17 – Chicago Blackhawks, NHL
Mike Doherty '17 – Manchester Monarchs, ECHL
Frank DiChiara '17 – Worcester Railers, ECHL
Chris Izmirlian  '17 – Knoxville Ice Bears, Quad City Mallards, SPHL
Patrick Spano '17 – Knoxville Ice Bears, SPHL


by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD/Sports Publicity Director