While the 2004-2005 season may be one that fans of the Yale Bulldogs would just as soon forget, this coming year they will see a team take the ice at Ingalls Rink that is almost exactly the same as last year’s model.
Only one starter — forward Nick Shalek — and two role players — forward C.J. Nibbe and goaltender Peter Cohen, who appeared in a combined total of just 18 games last season — graduated last spring.
Thus coach Tim Taylor, entering his 28th season behind the bench for the Yalies, will welcome back almost his entire roster and supplement that group with a talented freshman class that includes two NHL draft picks in forward Patrick Brosnihan and blueliner Brennan Turner.
The team’s strength is the skill of its forwards; offensively, Yale will look to captain Christian Jensen for leadership up front.
Jensen, who scored 20 points last year, will have leading scorer Brad Smith (12 goals, 14 assists) and senior Jeff Hristovski (24 points) alongside.
Taylor must also hope that forward Joe Zappala’s senior season will look more like his sophomore season (18 goals and 12 assists) than his freshman and junior seasons (15 and 16 points, respectively).
Even with the talent returning on offense, Yale encountered most of its difficulty in its own zone, finishing last in the league in both team defense and penalty-killing.
The squad struggled mightily to hold opponents’ scoring in check, a problem attributable both to poor play by its defensemen and to inconsistency in net.
With two goaltenders — senior Josh Gartner and junior Matt Modelski — returning this season, the Bulldogs hope that consistency will come from their collective experience.
And the corps of defensemen is deep and experienced, with 10 players competing for roster spots, so improvement is expected there as well.
Taylor has again assembled a diverse and challenging schedule for his team; it includes a pair of games in the hostile confines of the DECC against Minnesota-Duluth, two long-distance away games right before New Year’s against Minnesota State and Nebraska-Omaha, and an early January showdown against New Hampshire at the Whale.
Yale will also have three intrastate skirmishes on the schedule, against Connecticut and twice versus Quinnipiac.