Yale's Second Liners Top Notch
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
PITTSBURGH With sufficient time to fully digest Thursday’s 3-2 win over Massachusetts-Lowell in the national semifinal, Yale coach Keith Allain sat before the press on Friday morning ready to answer questions about the usual suspects.
Kenny Agostino leads the Bulldogs in scoring. Antoine Laganiere seemed to finally break out of a scoring slump with his goal on Thursday and Andrew Miller potted the team’s game-winning goal in overtime.
All that was water under one of Pittsburgh’s many bridges, though. Allain’s biggest praise wasn’t pointed at his top three scorers. It wasn’t even heaped on his goaltender, Jeff Malcolm, who has only allowed more than two goals twice in his last eight games.
Instead his focused turned to a freshman defenseman and a second line that, combined, has 13 goals on the season, nine of which come from one player, Stu Wilson.
Allain was impressed with what he saw on video, which makes sense, because a look at Ryan Obuchowski’s box score wouldn’t tell an impressive story: no points, just one shot and an even plus-minus rating.
That didn’t tell the story of Obuchowski’s play away from the puck or his dominating effort in his own end. When the puck did make its way down that end of the ice, Obuchowski’s stick work on clears and forced turnovers was second to none.
“Ryan had an outstanding game,” Allain said. “He had a great stick defensively in front of our net. He really competed hard for some pucks in our zone. Also, for a freshman guy, as the game went on, he grew with the game. He had some golden opportunities there in the third period to get the game-winning goal. He's been like that for us all year long.”
Allain’s focus then quickly shifted to his second line, centered by Stu Wilson. The trio of Wilson (17 points), senior Josh Balch (eight points) and sophomore Anthony Day (five points) didn’t record a single point on Thursday, but in the final minute of regulation, in what was a 2-2 game, Allain elected to have that group, not his high-octane first line, on the ice out of a break in the action.
“I've got a tremendous amount of confidence in that group,” he said. “Defensively as well as offensively, that is one of the reasons they were out there. Stu and Josh are our two primary penalty killers. They're the first guy off the bench. So, obviously, if I trust them 4-on-5, I feel pretty good when they're out there 5-on-5. They have good speed. They have tenacity; they have a very high hockey IQ as a line, and they've really meshed well for us down the stretch.”
Truthfully, this entire Yale team has meshed well. A group of well-rounded players who are proving they're more than just a sum of their statistics.