Yale University season preview

By DJ Powers

The Yale Bulldogs will open their 2005-06 regular season on Nov. 4 when they host Ivy League rival Cornell at Ingalls Rink.

The 2004-05 season is a nightmare that Yale and their fans would like to soon forget. It was a season that saw them finish near or at the bottom nationally in virtually every team statistical category. It was also a season where little went right and injuries took a devastating toll.

The Bulldogs are looking forward to a brand new season in 2005-06 to turn things around. The good news is that they lost just three regulars from last season, and add a sensational freshman class to the lineup.

One of the most significant changes for Yale during the offseason was the hiring of former New York Rangers great Mike Richter as a volunteer assistant coach. Richter, who is also currently a student at Yale, will work with a talented group that consists of two returning goaltenders that had their moments last season, but struggled to be consistent, and one excellent incoming freshman.

With Richter working with them, the goaltending should see some vast improvement this season, despite the loss of Peter Cohen, who has graduated. Junior Matt Modelski and senior Josh Gartner return in goal for Yale this season. Both netminders split time in the Bulldogs net last season.

Modelski posted a 4-12-2 record in 21 appearances last season. He also posted Yale’s lone shutout, which came in a 0-0 tie with Colgate back on Feb 11.

Gartner, the son of legendary NHLer Mike Gartner, posted a 1-10-0 record in 15 appearances. His lone win came in the 5-4 overtime thriller versus Dartmouth in the opening round of the ECACHL Conference playoffs back on Mar. 5.

The Elis will also welcome an excellent newcomer to the goaltending ranks in Alec Richards. Richards comes to Yale from the Breck School in Minnesota (USHSW), where he had a stellar record of 15-2-2 with a 1.75 goals against average. He was named the recipient of the Frank Brimsek Award as the top high school goaltender in the state of Minnesota. He is noted for size, great glove and having quick feet. Richards is likely to be among the early goaltending candidates coming out of the NCAA that will garner much interest for the 2006 NHL Draft.

Yale returns all of their defensemen from last season, including sophomore Rob Page (CBJ), and senior Matthew Craig. Page established himself as one of the most exciting up and coming defensemen in the ECACHL, despite the poor performance of his team. What stood out most about him was his excellent skating. Page led all Yale defensemen in scoring with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) playing in all 32 games.

Craig returns as one of the three elder statesmen and leader on the Bulldogs blue line this season. He finished his junior campaign with five points (two goals, three assists) in 32 appearances.

The already big defensive corps that Yale possesses will get a little bigger with the addition of two sizeable freshmen in the 6’3/220 lbs. Brennan Turner (CHI) and the 6’0/211 lbs. David Inman.

Turner, a 2005 draft selection of the Chicago Blackhawks, comes to Yale from the Notre Dame Hounds (SJHL), where he had 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) and a whopping 207 penalty minutes in 41 games last season. Turner will bring size and a punishing physical presence to the Elis defense this season.

Inman comes to Yale from the U. S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP), where he had four points (two goals, two assists) in 41 games. Inman is noted for tremendous skating and his solid play at both ends of the ice.

The Elis strength this season looks to be up front, despite losing Nick Shalek and C. J. Nibbe to graduation. Among the players leading the Yale offense this season are senior Christian Jensen and junior Brad Mills.

Jensen, who will serve as team captain this season, has become one of Yale’s most dependable players. He finished third on the team in scoring last season with 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 29 appearances. His leadership and outstanding offensive ability will be crucial in the Bulldogs success this season.

Mills enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign last season. He led the Elis in scoring with 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 27 games. Mills was especially good on special teams, where he racked up five power play goals and three short-handed tallies.

Two players well worth watching this season are a pair of Phoenix Coyotes prospects in sophomore Will Engasser and stellar incoming freshman Patrick Brosnihan.

Engasser was somewhat of a late bloomer for Yale last season. He only had two goals last season, but what two goals they were. The tallies both came back on Mar. 5 in the second game of a three-game set versus Dartmouth in the opening round of the ECACHL playoffs, including the game-winner that kept Yale’s season alive for another game. This season, the Bulldogs are hoping to see more offensive production from Engasser.

Brosnihan comes to Yale from Worcester Academy (USHSE), where he led all NEPSIHA D-II players in scoring with 64 points (20 goals, 44 assists) in 27 games. Brosnihan will bring size, an excellent pair of hands and strong skating ability to the Bulldogs lineup.

With the return of nearly the entire team from last season, some much needed help for the goaltenders and a superb freshman class, things are beginning to look up for Yale. The big questions are most likely going to be how quickly can the team start correcting the problems from last season and can the team stay healthy. If both can be accomplished, the Elis will could intensify the already heated race in the ECACHL.

(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 4)

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