The Yale Bulldogs are one year removed from snatching a series win in the ECAC Hockey playoffs, but the tides have turned this season for the country's oldest collegiate hockey program.
The team is in ninth place in the ECAC Hockey standings, with a 5-10 record heading into their matchup against Union on Friday night. However, Yale can never be counted out due to the culture installed by head coach Keith Allain.
In 13 full seasons, Allain has coached Yale to a 235-159-42 record, six NCAA Tournament berths, and a national title in 2013 defeating Quinnipiac -- a team whose home ice is eight miles up the road from Yale's.
Nine out of Yale's top 10 scorers from last season returned, yet Yale has the 47th scoring offense in the country. In ECAC Hockey, Yale isn't top five in any offensive category.
There were high expectations for Yale after last year's solid campaign. The ECAC Hockey Coaches Poll projected the Bulldogs to finish fifth in the conference.
"The sky's the limit for this team," Junior forward Dante Palecco said. "We have potential from our first line to our fourth line, our top defensive pairing to our bottom defensive pairing and our goaltending. I am so confident in this entire team. Our end goal should definitely be a national championship -- that's something that's very attainable for this group of guys."
Yale's biggest bright spot offensively is sophomore defenseman Curtis Hall. The Boston Bruins' 2018 fourth-round draft pick has six goals in nine games. ECAC Hockey's goals leader, Quinnipiac's Wyatt Bongiovanni, has 11 goals in 21 games. Hall played for Team USA in the World Junior Classic where he scored one goal in five games.
Hall joins three other Bulldogs who have NHL aspirations. Senior forward Luke Stevens, sophomore defenseman Jack St. Ivany, and junior defenseman Phil Kemp were all drafted by NHL franchises -- Stevens by the Carolina Hurricanes, St. Ivany by the Philadelphia Flyers, and Kemp by the Edmonton Oilers.
"The players who have gone on from Yale to have successful professional hockey careers all have several things in common," Allain said. "[They have] a great passion for the game of hockey, a high capacity for hard, strenuous work, the determination and mental toughness to overcome adversity and a strong desire to improve each and every day."
Yale is last in ECAC Hockey goals-against average with senior goalkeeper Corbin Kaczperski. Kaczperski was named December's ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Month, stopping 91 of 93 shots. Kaczperski has also twice been named ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Week this season.
Yale is the only men's hockey program from Connecticut to win a Division I national championship. In the inaugural Connecticut Ice Festival, expect Allain to orchestrate a game-plan that will show the state who started this whole college hockey thing back in 1896.