Feb. 27, 2009
To the casual college hockey observer, Yale's class of 2009 appears fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of its success. The four Bulldog seniors, captain Matt Nelson, Patrick Brosnihan, Alec Richards and Dave Inman, have combined for 23 goals and 42 career points, numbers the current sophomores or juniors would surpass in a given season. Of course, that makes sense considering the senior class is comprised of two forwards, a defenseman and a goalie.
Coaches and players are quick to throw around cliché compliments like "great leadership" and "hard workers" for a group like this because it appears there is little else to say.
That couldn't be further from the truth.
Not only do the Bulldog seniors have a goalie with the second most wins in school history, these four players have helped Yale to unprecedented success. The Class of 2009 has been part of more post-season victories (5) and playoff games (11) than any in the long history of Yale hockey.
The seniors, who helped the Blue win the longest game (5 OT at Union, 2006 playoffs) in the history of NCAA men's hockey, have more playoff wins than Elis whose teams have been ranked among the best in school history, like the Classes of '87 (3 wins) and '98 (2).
Nelson, Brosnihan, Richards and Inman also sport a pair of Ivy League Championships under Keith Allain '80, Yale's current Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey.
"This senior class has been a tremendous asset to our hockey program, not just this season but all four years. I have heavily relied on them for both leadership and on-ice performance. Their character and work ethic are great examples of what we want in our hockey program," said Allain.
The seniors have led the Bulldogs to 56 overall wins, the most since the Class of '87 notched 66 before most current Elis was born. In addition, the '09ers have five wins over archrival Harvard, second only to the class of 1943 (7).
"The senior class keeps our team together. They are great guys who make sure our entire team is having fun but also focused on the task at hand. What they bring to the team goes far beyond their on-ice contributions," said sophomore Denny Kearney. Inman, a blueliner from San Diego, feels the team chemistry is enhanced by gathering away from Ingalls.
"The thing I'll remember most about my Yale hockey experience is eating dinner at Commons at least once a week after practice with the majority of the team. One of the things I will miss the most is everyone sitting at a big table in Commons, joking around with one another. I think that is has contributed in a large part toward team chemistry and everyone just getting along in general," said Inman, who has rotated in and out of the defensive pairings for most of his career but is enjoying his best season ever this winter.
"I think this also helps a lot with classes that may not otherwise spend much time with one another away from the rink. The seniors and freshmen do not see much of each other on a typical day because we take different classes. Eating with the entire team has put us in a position to make sure we get to know them just as well as everyone else on the team."
Nelson and Brosnihan, the two forwards in the class, each have hit the net 11 times at Yale. Brosnihan has three game-winners this year and was named ECAC Player of the Week after tallying a pair on the road against Union and RPI in mid February.
Nelson works as hard as any Bulldog on and off the ice. He is a relentless forechecker who can transform a turnover into a shot at the net as quick as anyone on the team. Nelson, who has a 3.25 GPA in economics and has a job lined up with Royal Bank of Scotland next year, banged home the game-winner on Feb. 7 against Dartmouth and had Yale's first goal at Quinnipiac last Friday. He has three goals and six points this season.
Richards, who made a career-high 57 stops in the 3-2 ECAC playoff win at Union in 2006 that started at 7 p.m. and finished more than six hours later, has four of the post-season victories in net. He ranks second at Yale with 34 career wins and is fifth with 2,170 career saves while owning the single-season mark with 885 stops in 2005-06.
Richards, who currently ranks ninth in Division with a 2.08 GAA, was recently named a candidate for the 2009 NCAA Frozen Four Skills Competition that will take place on April 10 at Washington, D.C. He was named insidehockey.com National Player of the Week as well as ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Week on Feb. 2 after stopping 63 of 64 shots in wins over Princeton and Quinnipiac.
Clearly, you can't call the Class of '09 anything but impactful on the upward movement of Yale men's hockey. The fact that the Bulldogs have increased their win total in each of the last three seasons has not been lost on Yale fans as we head into the seniors' final home regular season weekend.
Offensive production and numerous bodies are not a true measure of a class.
Story filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD & Sports Publicity Director