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Bulldogs, Bears Battle in ECAC Quarters

Bulldogs, Bears Battle in ECAC Quarters

March 9, 2009

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The Cleary Cup, the trophy handed out to ECAC Hockey's Regular Season Champion, sits in the athletic department and is far from easy viewing for the 2008-09 Yale men's hockey team (20-7-2). The No. 10 Bulldogs held it on Feb. 27 when they beat Cornell to clinch the title, but the cup was quickly set aside for a more significant focus - an ECAC Tournament title, something no Yale team has won. The first step in that quest is this weekend's best-of-three quarterfinal series with Brown (5-21-5), which begins Friday, March 13, at 7 p.m. All (Sunday if needed) games from Ingalls Rink can be seen live at 7 p.m. on B2 Networks and heard on WYBC (AM-1340) and Click here for the pay-per-view showing: Watch Live on B2 Networks


Tickets for the series are available on or by calling Yale's ticket office at (203) 432.1400. Reserved seats are $12, general admission/standing room only seats are $10 ($6 youth) and Yale students with valid IDs are free at the door.


Yale, picked seventh in both ECAC pre-season polls, has won its first ECAC Hockey regular season title since 1997-98. The Elis had their first playoff bye since 2002-03 (3rd place). This is just the third time Yale has earned an automatic quarterfinal spot; the first came in 1997-98.


Yale fell one game shy of the 2008 conference semifinals with a game three quarterfinal loss at Princeton. The Blue, which has played 60 ECAC tournament games since 1967, has gone 14-41-5 overall. The Bulldogs, who have won six of their last 12 playoff games, last won a series when they swept RPI in the first round at home last March. It was Yale's first home playoff wins since 2003 and the first home playoff series victory since 1998.


The Blue has won seven straight against Brown since the Bears won a 3-2 OT game on Dec. 9, 2006, at Providence. Yale is 82-67-8 against Brown since the first game in 1897-98. Yale and Brown have six ECAC playoff meetings, and the Bears have a 3-2-1 edge. The games have been evenly split between New Haven and Providence, and Yale is 1-2 at Ingalls. The last meeting was the 2003 quarterfinals when Brown won two of three behind the current New York Islander goalie Yann Danis.


Yale, with a combined 13-6 edge in goals, took the non-league, season-opener 6-3 at Meehan Auditorium, shutout the Bears 3-0 at Ingalls and then squeezed past Brown 4-3 at Providence. Sean Backman (4 goals) had two-goal outings in the first and third games, while Mark Arcobello (2-3-5) also had strong showings against Brown goalie Dan Rosen (123/136), who had 49 saves in the last meeting and has all the net action vs. Yale this season. Six different Bears have put the puck past Yale's Alec Richards, who stopped 61 of 67 shots and played all three games. Dan Rosen (123/136), who had 49 saves in the last meeting, has all the net action vs. Yale this season.


Brown, which finished 12th in the ECAC, pulled off one of the top feats in conference playoff history last weekend by sweeping Harvard at Boston with a pair of shutouts. Freshman Mike Clemente (2.63, .962) not only led the Bears to consecutive wins for the first time this year, he blanked (1-0, 2-0) a perennial league quarterfinalist that rarely loses home playoff contests by stopping all 86 shots. Sophomore Harry Zolnierczyk (first career goal) scored the winner on Friday early in the third, while senior Eric Slais (5-6-11) and junior Erin Volpatti (6-7-13) netted the clinchers on Saturday.


Here's how the Elis stack up against the rest of the nation/ECAC heading into the weekend:

Scoring: 10th/1st (3.34)... Defense: 11th/3rd (2.31)... PIM: 13th/3rd (18.7)... PP: 20th/4th (17.6)... PK: 5th/1st (88.4).


Yale moved up one place to No. 10 in this week's College Sports Poll. The Elis have been listed in this poll for all but one week of the last two months. Yale is 10th in in new USA Today/US Hockey Magazine Poll.


Yale, currently ninth in the Pairwise Rankings, got as high as seventh during the last week of the regular season.


Yale senior Alec Richards (Robbinsdale, Minn.) made the roster for the 2009 NCAA Frozen Four Skills Competition that will take place on April 10 at Washington, D.C. Richards, one of two goalies on the East squad, will compete (unless Yale is playing) against the West the day between the Frozen Four semifinals and championship game at the Verizon Center. Richards, who ranks second at Yale with 35 career wins, is fifth with 2,219 career saves while owning the single-season mark with 885 in 2005-06. Richards, 12th in Division I with a 2.12 goals against average (GAA), was named National Goalie of the Week as well as ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Week on Feb. 2. The Yale netminder is the second Bulldog men's player to be selected for the skills event. Will Engasser '08, the captain of the 2007-08 Elis, competed at the 2008 Frozen Four in Denver. Richards, a second-team All-Ivy pick this year, owns a 2.73 career GAA with a .908 save percentage and earned wins in four conference playoff games, including the five-overtime game at Union in 2006.


4 consecutive ECAC sweeps (Yale record, ended Feb. 20/21)

5 shorthanded goals by Broc Little (Yale season record, most in Division I this winter)

5 game win streak at home (ended March 1 vs. Colgate)

6 straight sellouts at Ingalls Rink

6 game unbeaten streak at home (ended March 1)

6 game-winning goals for junior Mark Arcobello (2nd in nation)

8 wins over ranked teams (Yale record)

8 game win streak (ended at Quinnipiac, Feb. 20, most since 13-game streak in 1946-47)

9 wins against Ivy squads (Yale record, 9-1 record takes 2008-09 title)

9 game road win streak (ended at Quinnipiac on Feb. 20 with 3-3 tie)

10 game overall unbeaten streak (ended at Princeton on Feb. 21)

15 conference wins (most since 1997-98 Elis had 17)

20 overall wins (most since 1997-98 team had 23)

52 career goals by Sean Backman (No. 10 on Yale career list)


Brian O'Neill had two goals and Mark Arcobello had a goal and three assists as the Bulldogs beat No. 10 Cornell 4-2 before a sellout crowd to clinch the title on Feb. 27. All four goals came from the Arcobello, O'Neill, Sean Backman line. They found the net of Big Red goalie Ben Scrivens (25 saves), who entered the night with the nation's top save percentage. Alec Richards stopped 29 of 31 shots and kept Cornell off the board for eight of 10 man advantages. Peter Bogdanich's shot from the left circle caught the net 1:19 into overtime on March 1 to give Colgate a 3-2 OT win. The Raiders erased a pair of one-goal deficits in the third period to send the game into the extra session. The Bulldogs, who got goals from Backman and Kevin Limbert, outshot Colgate 28-23, while Charles Long made 26 saves. Alec Richards stopped 20 shots.


Junior D Tom Dignard (Reading, Mass.), who suffered a season-ending injury in the Jan. 31 Quinnipiac game, was named honorable mention All-Ivy League on March 5. He is one of the ECAC's top all-around blueliners. Dignard (21 GP, 5-12-17) owns the fourth-best (.81) points-per-game average among conference defensemen and is 11th in Division I.


The Bulldogs have killed off 88.4 percent of opponent man-advantages. No Yale opponent has tallied more than two power-play goals this season, while four have hit the net twice.


The Blue has outshot all but five (Quinnipiac, Minnesota State, Union, Princeton, Cornell) opponents this year and averages 36 shots on target while giving up 27. The Bulldogs outshot Cornell/Colgate 82-36 on Jan. 23-24, while the largest one-game disparity was 35 (50-15 vs. Harvard). Yale has won four of the five games (only loss to Princeton) when being outshot.


Brian O'Neill (Yardley, Pa.), 18th among Division I freshmen (3rd in ECAC) with .79 points per game, earned conference rookie of the week honors for the second time this winter after scoring twice against the Big Red and adding an assist against the Raiders on Feb. 27/March 1. He has a team rookie-high 11 goals and 22 points. O'Neill, Arcobello and junior Sean Backman form a line that was responsible for all four tallies against Cornell.


Sophomore F Broc Little (Rindge, NH) leads the nation with five shorthanded goals, one more than Matt Fairchild of Air Force. That breaks the single-season Yale record held by Andy Weidenbach in 2004-05. It also ties him with Weidenbach for the career mark of five. Little (13-15-28) had six goals over four games this year. Little was named ECAC Offensive Player of the Week after netting three goals and five points on Dec. 5 and 6 against RPI and Union.


The Elis have now scored eight shorthanded goals this year while allowing three. Broc Little (UAH, RPI, UNO, MSU, CLARK) has five while Denny Kearney (Union), who assisted on five SHGs, Tom Dignard (Colgate) and Sean Backman (Cornell) each have one.


Sean Backman (Cos Cob, Conn.), who leads the Blue with 16 goals, ranks 12th in the nation and third in the league with .59 goals per game. He is one of 16 Division I players picked as semi-finalists for the Walter Brown Award, presented annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England. Backman (16-12-28), who has five multiple-goal outings, was 2007 co-ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Year and a third-team all-league pick in 2008 (18-9-27). Backman, named first-team All-Ivy last week, has been team MVP the last two years. His 52 career goals are No. 10 on the Yale career list. The last Bulldog to reach that mark was Jeff Hamilton '01, who finished with a school-record 173 points, while his 80 goals were second.


Two other Bulldogs have plenty of experience in the Yale goal. Sophomore Ryan Rondeau (Carvel, Alb.) was in goal for wins over No. 17 Minnesota State (30 saves), No. 11 Air Force (29) and No. 3 Cornell (17). Rondeau is 4-1 with a 2.27 GAA and a .901 SP while having 30 perecent of Yale's net action. Junior Billy Blase (Santa Monica, Calif.) had a Yale season-high 32 saves in a win at Harvard on Jan. 10 and stopped 26 more in the 2-2 draw with SLU on Jan. 17. He has a 2.71 GAA with a .911 SP.


The Yale juniors lead the team with 37 goals, but the sophomores are close behind at 30. The newcomers have chipped in 21 while the small senior class has nine.


Yale senior captain Matt Nelson (Westwood, Mass.) works as hard as any Bulldog on and off the ice. He is a relentless forechecker with 3-3-6 this winter who can transform a turnover into a shot at the net as quick as anyone on the team. Nelson (in photo), 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 on Feb. 20.


Arcobello, the season's last ECAC Hockey Player of the Week, had the game-winning goal and three assists in Yale's 4-2 win over Cornell at home on Feb. 27. He added an assist two days later in a 3-2 OT loss to Colgate. Arcobello, second in Division I with six game-winners, leads the team with 32 points and is second with 15 goals. He was named first-team All-Ivy last week.


Keith Allain '80, in his third year as the Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey, is 7-1 vs. Brown but has never faced them in the playoffs. Allain, 3-4 overall in the post season, has increased Yale's win total in each of his three seasons, and has helped the Elis enjoy one of their best ever this winter after being picked seventh in both pre-season polls. He is a former Yale goalie who worked as a Bulldog assistant before coaching in Sweden (6 years) and in the NHL (17 years). Roger Grillo is in his 12th year as head coach of Brown.


"Brown will be a formidable opponent coming off an impressive sweep of Harvard on the road. They are physical, fast, have good goaltending and a solid power play (3 vs. Yale this year). We will have to be on top of or game to be successful."


Yale has wins over eight teams that were listed in the Top 20 Poll at the time: Cornell (3, 10), Princeton (9), Air Force (11), Clarkson (15), Dartmouth (15 & 19) and Minnesota State (17). The one loss was to Nebraska-Omaha (16).


The other best-of-three quarterfinal matchups this weekend are Union (8) at Princeton (3), Quinnipiac (7) at St. Lawrence (4) and Rensselaer (11) at Cornell (2).


Yale is 5-0 when Sean Backman scores two goals and 4-0 when Backman and Mark Arcobello score goals in the same game... The Bulldogs are 5-6-1 when they don't score a PPG... Yale has just three PPG over the last seven games... Arcobello's 25 faceoffs won against Brown in the 3-0 win are a season-high.


Here are the 16 former Bulldogs in the pro ranks this winter [Player (Team), Position, League]: Brennan Turner '09 (Gwinnett), D, ECHL; David Meckler '09 (Manchester), F, AHL; Jean-Francois Boucher `08 (Ingolstadt ERC), F, Germany; Robert Page '08 (Trenton), D, ECHL; Blair Yaworski '08 (Syracuse), F, AHL; Bill LeClerc `07 (Mississippi), D, ECHL; Matt Cohen `07 (Trenton), D, ECHL; Brad Mills '07 (Lowell), F, AHL; Chris Brooks `06 (Mississippi), D, ECHL; Joe Zappala `06 (Reading), F, ECHL; Chris Higgins '05 (Montreal), F, NHL; Joe Callahan `05 (Islanders), D, NHL; Stacey Bauman '03 (Oklahoma City), D, CHL; Jeff Hamilton '01 (Toronto), F, NHL; Ray Giroux `98 (St. Petersburg SKA), D, Russia; Alex Westlund '98 (Linz EHC), G, Austria.


There are three former Yale players skating in the National Hockey League. Chris Higgins '05 is in his fifth season with the Montreal Canadiens and has 265 NHL games under his belt. Higgins has 80 goals, 64 assists and 144 points, including 8-8-16 in 40 GP this season. Jeff Hamilton '01, who had 16-37-53 in the AHL this year, played his first game for the Washington Capitals last week, while Joe Callahan '05 (16, 0-2-2) has been up twice with the New York Islanders this winter.


Yale and Fairfield are co-hosting the first-ever NCAA Hockey Regional Tournament in the Nutmeg State on March 27-28 at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. There are four regional events that weekend with the winners headed to Washington, D.C., for the 2009 Frozen Four. Yale hosted the 2004 NCAA Women's Frozen Four at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., but has never hosted a men's NCAA hockey event. More than 4,000 tickets have already been sold. The only appearance for Yale at an NCAA Regional was in 1998 at Ann Arbor, Mich., against Ohio State.

Release filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD & Sports Publicity Director