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Bulldog Tenacity

by Kostya Kennedy

Posted: Wed February 25, 1998

Yale hockey ain't what it used to be. Though home games are still held in a splendid old whale-shaped building near the heart of campus and the audience still includes gray-haired men in tweed jackets who rise to their feet to celebrate Bulldogs goals, now these old-school types must jostle for standing room when the 3,486-seat Ingalls Rink opens an hour before face-off. Now there are argyle-sweater-clad students—Y's painted on their faces, hair dyed Yale blue—who erupt when the Elis so much as clear the puck on a penalty kill. Oh, and now the Bulldogs are winning. "Amazing," says senior Ray Giroux, Yale's top defenseman. "We knew we were good, but we never expected this. The buzz around campus is unbelievable."

James Chyz

At 20-5 (15-3 in the East Coast Athletic Conference) with four games left, these Bulldogs are having the best season in Yale's 103-year hockey history. They're 12-0 at home, where they've sold out an unprecedented six games, and with a four-point lead in the 12-team ECAC, the Bulldogs could win their conference for the first time. An ECAC preseason coaches poll predicted that Yale, which was 10-19-3 last season, would finish 10th in the conference. Through Sunday, Yale was ranked fifth in the nation.

All of this has happened in part because Tom Beckett took over as athletic director in July 1994 and set about improving the testy relationship between Yale's athletics and admissions departments. By opening up the lines of communication and insisting that the two branches make their needs clear, Beckett ensured that, as university president Richard C. Levin says, "coaches didn't waste time recruiting guys who had no chance of getting in here."

By honing in on players they know will make the grade with admissions, the Bulldogs have been more successful in identifying—and recruiting—the players they want. This has enabled Yale to assemble a deep cast that includes Giroux, a likely All-America; sharpshooting sophomore center Jeff Hamilton, who has a team-leading 21 goals; and outstanding junior goaltender Alex Westlund, whose .920 save percentage is fifth in the nation. Coach Tim Taylor has used 30 players this year and says, "our fourth line plays as many strong shifts as any of our other lines."

In the often jubilant Bulldogs' dressing room, there is a sign that reminds players to THINK LAKE PLACID, the annual site of the ECAC title game. Since 1993, when the message was put on the wall, Yale has not even advanced past the conference quarterfinals. Now, however, Giroux says, "Lake Placid would not be enough."

Levin, for one, has cleared his schedule for the weekend of April 2-4, when the NCAA Final Four will be held in Boston. "I want to be there in case we go all the way," he says. "You never know. It's been that kind of year."

Issue date: March 2, 1998

Bulldog Tenacity

He Can Pass the Puck Too

Another Sordid Episode

In the Crease


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