I was very nearly at Saturday night’s Yale-Dartmouth game at Ingalls Rink in New Haven. As a Dartmouth alum, I’m glad I wasn’t, but as a follower of the Hobey Baker race, I’m sorry that I missed it.
Yes, after starting the season on the sidelines because of Ivy League regulations, the Bulldogs joined the college hockey party this weekend by scoring a grand total of 14 goals in a pair of 7-3 wins over Brown and Dartmouth. In case you’re wondering, that’s more than Colgate has scored in four games, as many as Quinnipiac has scored in six, and more than either Northeastern or St. Lawrence has scored in seven games this season. All told, Yale has at least as many goals in two games this season as 11 other teams have in twice as many contests or more.
Is it any surprise that I expect Yale to figure prominently in the Hobey race for the first time since Christopher Higgins was a finalist in 2002?
When Keith Allain took the job in New Haven, he promised to open up the offense, and that’s exactly what he’s done, with magnificent results for a once-moribund program. For all that some observers and fans might want to bash the Bulldogs because they play in ECAC Hockey, the fact remains that last year’s Yale team beat a North Dakota team that is regularly among the nation’s elite, then went on to score more goals in their loss to Boston College than Miami and Wisconsin did combined in their two Frozen Four games against the Eagles. It’s a new season, but so far, Yale has shown much of the same goal-scoring prowess.
So far, seniors Denny Kearney and Broc Little are first and second in the nation in points per game, after racking up eight and six points in two games this past weekend, respectively, both split evenly between goals and assists. Brian O’Neill is fourth with two goals and three assists in the two wins. It’s hard to read too much from one weekend, but given that O’Neill, Little and Kearney finished last season with 45, 41 and 37 points, respectively, in 34 games, it seems safe to say that these numbers are more a hot start than a momentary outburst.
Of course, Yale has a similar challenge in producing a Hobey candidate to the one that Miami faces: there are multiple choices, and it’s uncertain whether that might weaken one or all of their potential finalists. Of course, that never seemed to hurt 2005 winner Marty Sertich or last year’s winner, Blake Geoffrion – both players had teammates who were Hobey finalists – but last season, Miami’s offensive balance left Cody Reichard – himself a platoon goaltender with Connor Knapp – as the RedHawks’ lone representative among the Top Ten.
Of course, it’s highly unlikely that a Yale goaltender will steal the forwards’ Hobey thunder – there are probably times when Keith Allain wishes he could get back between the pipes himself – but there’s still the question of whether one of Yale’s offensive stars can outshine the others, and that’s a question that will only be answered in the weeks and months to come. For now, the challenge is keeping annoying one-hit wonders out of your head, because the dogs have been let out.