Yale Takes on SLU in Friday Semi

March 18, 2009

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- For the fourth time in 42 years of league post-season play, the Bulldogs have made the conference semifinals. The No. 7 ranked Yale men's hockey team (22-7-2), ECAC Hockey's regular season champion, is focused on winning its first conference tournament title and grabbing an automatic bid to the 2009 NCAA field. The Elis, who advanced after sweeping Brown at home last week, take on No. 14 St. Lawrence (21-11-4) in Friday's 4 p.m. semifinal at Albany's Times Union Center. The game airs live on the NHL Network (DirecTV 215, Dish Network 403) and can also be seen on B2 Networks, while the WYBC radio broadcast can be heard locally on AM-1340 and online at wybc.com.

BLUE HISTORY

The Bulldogs have played three conference semifinal games and are looking for their first victory. They lost 3-2 to Cornell at the Boston Garden in 1986, dropped a 7-0 game to St. Lawrence at the same arena the following year and fell 2-1 to Princeton at Lake Placid in 1998. Yale, picked seventh in both 2008-09 ECAC pre-season polls, 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, its last NCAA appearance.

BULLDOGS IN BONUS

The Blue has played 61 ECAC tournament games since 1967 and has a 15-41-5 overall mark. The Bulldogs, who have won seven of the last 13 games, have won two of their last three playoff series.

YALE-SLU SERIES

St. Lawrence owns a 52-24-8 lead in a series that began in 1951-52. The Saints, 5-2-1 against Yale over the last four years, won the first meeting this year in OT at Canton before the two squads tied at New Haven. SLU owns a 6-3-2 playoff mark against the Bulldogs heading into the 12th meeting. Four of the meetings have gone to overtime and the Saints are 2-0-2 in those contests. The only Yale-SLU seminfinal meeting went to the North Country guys, 7-0, in 1987.

BULLDOGS, SAINTS 2008-09

The Saints, the only ECAC Hockey squad Yale has not beat this winter, have an OT win and a tie despite being outshot overall, 76-58. SLU goalie Alex Petizian stopped 36 shots in both games while Billy Blase (both starts for Yale) made 27 saves in the first and 26 in the second. In game one at Canton, Yale's Matt Nelson's sent it to OT with a late tally before Brandon Bollig won it for the Saints. At New Haven, Mike McKenzie scored early in the third to tie the game and cap a two-goal comeback. Bulldogs Broc Little (1-1) and Jimmy Martin (0-2) have two points against the Saints this year.

CANTON COMMENTS

St. Lawrence, which has an eight-game unbeaten streak, is coming off a home sweep of Quinnipiac and has not lost since Clarkson beat the Saints 3-1 on Feb. 7. SLU, ranked 16th in the Pairwise, is led offensively by junior F Mike McKenzie (16-18-34) and in the net by classmate Alex Petizian (2.13, .928), who has played nearly 80 percent of SLU's games. The Saints, averaging 31 shots and giving up 29, do not allow comebacks. They are 15-0-1 when leading after a frame and 17-1-2 when ahead after two.

YALE VS. DIVISION I AND CONFERENCE

Here's how the Elis stack up against the rest of the nation/ECAC: Scoring: 11th/1st (3.32)... Defense: 9th/3rd (2.23)... PIM: 12th/3rd (18.4)... PP: 19th/4th (18.2)... PK: 3rd/1st (89.0).

THE POLLS

Yale moved up three places in both major polls this week. The Elis are No. 7 in this week's USCHO.com/CBS College Sports Poll as well as the USA Today/US Hockey Magazine poll. The Elis have been listed in the USCHO poll for all but one of the last nine weeks.

POWER SCALE

Yale moved up two spots this week to No. 7 in the USCHO.com Pairwise Rankings. Yale was also seventh (best ranking) during the last week of the regular season.

BLUE OVER BROWN

Yale erased a 2-0 deficit by scoring four straight goals on the way to a 4-2 win in game one. Four different Elis scored goals, including a shorthander by Denny Kearney with three seconds left in the second period to tie the score. Alec Richards made 26 saves and stopped all four Brown man-advantages. Yale had three special teams goals. The following night, Mark Arcobello and Sean Backman scored on the power play and Richards stopped 19 shots and five man-advantages in a 2-0 victory.

BULLDOG-BEAR NOTES

Despite being outshot 15-4 in the first period of game one, Yale managed to outshoot Brown 71-47 in the series... Yale won all five meetings with Brown this year... The Bears scored the first two goals and Yale notched the last six... Brown was 0-for-9 on the power play while Yale went 4-for-16.

ALBANY VIEWING ON TV/INTERNET

Both semifinal games Friday air live via Time Warner Syracuse and the NHL Network (in the U.S. and Canada). The championship game Saturday airs live but only in Canada and the Syracuse (Ithaca and Canton included) area. The NHL Network can't air the game live in the U.S. because of a contractual commitment to the Toronto-Montreal (Jeff Hamilton '01 vs. Chris Higgins '05) game. NHLN will re-air the championship game at noon (EST) Sunday in both the U.S. and Canada. All four games air live as a pay-per-view on B2 Networks. Click here for access: Watch Live on B2 Networks

YALE BY NUMBER

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)

7 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 shorthanded goals by the Bulldogs (ties team record)

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

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

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

RICHARDS NOTCHES RARE POST-SEASON SHUTOUT

Yale senior Alec Richards (Robbinsdale, Minn.), who has a 1.50 GAA over the last dozen games, recorded the school's second post-season shutout ever and the first in 12 years when he beat Brown on March 14. Richards 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 37 career wins, is fifth with 2,264 career saves while owning the single-season mark with 885 in 2005-06. He is seventh in Division I with a 2.02 GAA and was named insidehockey.com National Goalie of the Week as well as ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Week on Feb. 2. Richards, a third-team All-ECAC pick this year, owns a 2.69 career GAA with a .909 save percentage and earned wins in five conference playoff games, including the five-overtime game at Union in 2006.

CAPTAIN NELSON

Yale senior captain Matt Nelson (Westwood, Mass.), whose 100th collegiate game was his last at Ingalls Rink on March 14, 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, who has a 3.25 GPA in economics and has a job lined up with Royal Bank of Scotland next year, tallied the game-winner on Feb. 7 against Dartmouth.

ARCO FUELS ELIS

Mark Arcobello (Milford, Conn.), ECAC Hockey Player of the Week on March 2, had the game-winning goal and three assists in Yale's 4-2 win over Cornell at home that clinched the regular-season title on Feb. 27. Arcobello, second in Division I with seven game-winners, leads the team with 33 points and is second with 16 goals. He has a point in 12 of the last 14 games and was named first-team All-ECAC.

NAMING NEWCOMERS

Brian O'Neill (Yardley, Pa.), has been ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week twice this season and ranks 21st among Division I freshmen (4th in ECAC) with .73 points per game. O'Neill, a member of the 2008-09 ECAC All-Rookie Team, has a team rookie-high 11 goals and 22 points playing primarily with juniors Sean Backman and Mark Arcobello. Kevin Limbert (Fruitvale, BC), who is 10th among conference rookies with .45 points per game, has 7-7-14 including the OT game-winner at Colgate. O'Neill and Limbert lead a rookie class that has accounted for 22 goals and 36 assists.

BACK ON THE BOARD

He may lead the nation with five shorthanded goals, but sophomore F Broc Little (Rindge, NH) had gone four straight games without a point heading into the playoffs. Little came through with a goal and two assists against the Bears and now has 14-17-31. He has one more SHG than four other players around the country. The five SHG break the single-season Yale record held by Andy Weidenbach (4) in 2004-05. It also ties him with Weidenbach for the career mark of five. Little, who had six goals over four games and was named ECAC Offensive Player of the Week in that span, was named third-team All-ECAC.

12 SHORTHANDERS

The Elis have now scored nine shorthanded goals (ties school mark) this year while allowing three. Broc Little (UAH, RPI, UNO, MSU, CLARK) has five while Denny Kearney (Union, Brown), who assisted on five SHGs, Tom Dignard (Colgate) and Sean Backman (Cornell) also have shortys.

EACH CLASS PRODUCING

The Yale juniors lead the team with 39 goals, but the sophomores are close behind at 32. The newcomers have chipped in 22 while the small senior class has 10.

CONSISTENT PRODUCTION

Sean Backman (Cos Cob, Conn.), a 2008-09 second-team All-ECAC pick who leads the Blue with 17 goals, ranks ninth 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 (17-12-29), 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 this winter, has been team MVP the last two years. His 53 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.

EXPERIENCED NET

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.

ALLAIN NAMED COACH OF THE YEAR

Keith Allain '80, in his third year as the Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey, was named ECAC Hockey Coach of the Year (Tim Taylor Award) on March 17. He is 2-3-1 against SLU and 5-4 overall in the post season. Allain has increased Yale's win total in each of his three seasons and 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). SLU mentor Joe Marsh, in his 24th season at Canton, is 32-34-7 against the Blue.

ALLAIN ON THE BULLDOGS

"We are excited about the opportunity to play at Albany. It has been one of our goals since we started off-ice training last March. I am thrilled for our kids. They put so much time and effort into this. They are a great group, they work so well together and there is a nice cohesion. Those things go a long way. The Saints are scary. We have yet to win a game against them, so there is motivation there."

DISTINGUISHED DIGNARD

Junior D Tom Dignard (Reading, Mass.), who suffered a season-ending injury in the Jan. 31 Quinnipiac game, was still named second-team All-ECAC. He is one of the ECAC's top all-around blueliners. Dignard (21 GP, 5-12-17) owns the 10th best (.81) points-per-game average among conference defensemen. Dignard, who has a 3.69 GPA and majors in economics and math, was named a finalist for the ECAC's Student-Athlete of the Year.

NOT KILLING THEM SOFTLY

The Bulldogs have killed off 89.0 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 Elis have not allowed a PPG in three straight games.

SHOOT, ASK QUESTIONS LATER

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 26. 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.

RANKED OPPONENTS

Yale, 8-1 vs. ranked teams,faces its 10th ranked opponent this winter. It has wins over eight teams that were listed in the USCHO.com 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)... Princeton (3) and Cornell (2), which split their two meetings this season, faceoff in the other semifinal at Albany on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

BULLDOG BITES

The Backman-Arcobello-O'Neill line has 44 goals... Yale is 5-0 when Sean Backman scores two goals and 5-0 when Backman and Mark Arcobello score goals in the same game... The Elis have four double-digit goal scorers this year, the most since 2003-04... Yale's 103 goals (10 more than last year) are the most for an Eli squad since the 2002-03 team had 121... The Bulldogs are 5-6-1 when they don't score a PPG.

BULLDOGS OF THE PAST

There are 16 Elis in the pro ranks this winter: 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 (Johnstown), F, ECHL; Bill LeClerc `07 (Mississippi), D, ECHL; Matt Cohen `07 (Trenton), D, ECHL; Brad Mills '07 (Lowell), F, AHL; Chris Brooks `06 (Utah), 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.

THREE IN NHL

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 269 NHL games under his belt. Higgins has 81 goals, 64 assists and 145 points, including 9-8-17 in 44 GP this season. Jeff Hamilton '01, who had 16-37-53 in the AHL this year, is currently with Toronto and has 1-2-3 in six games. Hamilton has 30 goals in 148 NHL games. Joe Callahan '05 (16, 0-2-2) has been up twice with the New York Islanders this winter.

CONNECTICUT'S NCAA REGIONAL

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. 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