“I don’t understand why more people aren’t interviewing Andrew Miller,” Yale sports information director Steve Conn said in the news conference aftermath of Friday’s 4-0 semifinal win over Colgate. “He factored in on three of the goals tonight.”
The sophomore was credited with first assists on the game’s first and second goals and buried the third himself, but he wasn’t the one buried in questions and microphones. Not that he was unworthy of the attention One of six underclassmen among the Elis’ 18 rostered skaters Friday afternoon, fleet-footed Miller has scored a dozen goals, good for fourth on the nation’s most prolific offense.
The only problem with Miller’s value as a news item is that there was something — someone — more intriguing as Big Blue heats up for another run of a national scale.
Senior goaltender Ryan Rondeau’s 22-save shutout was his fifth of the season and his career. He set a program record for wins in a season, shutouts in a season, and also became the first Yale goaltender to pitch consecutive clean sheets in postseason play. While those achievements garnered attention, they weren’t the true seed of the media’s inquisition.
Who is this guy, is what they really wondered. Who are these Yale Bulldogs?
A team defiant of a role or tag, Yale has been many things to many observers. They were the host favorites when they lost to Vermont in Round 1 of the NCAA tournament in Bridgeport two years ago. They were the goal machine that stunned the country by grinding past North Dakota in Worcester last year, but within 24 hours they were a sieve-factory that even seven goals couldn’t buoy in a 9-7 quarterfinal loss to Boston College.
And that is what many remember, and the image that many still hold of the New Haven icers: One of Carl Sneep’s unassisted, short-handed, 160-foot clearing lob bounding over a stunned Rondeau and into the cage for an early 3-0 Eagles advantage.
“I don’t think people understand our team,” coach Keith Allain said of the general public. “I don’t think they know who our best player is from week to week and, you know, coming into the season there was this consensus out there that goaltending was our weakness.”
That is why the hacks and heralds all stare at Rondeau now, wondering what effect that game had on him, and wondering if he can possibly be as good — and as consistent — as he has appeared to be this year.
“The numbers don’t lie,” said the coach. “His numbers are right there.
“I guess the two [things] that come to mind are steadiness and a sense of calm,” Allain said when asked to describe his year-long starter. “We have confidence in Ryan back there, and I think it allows us to create offensively the way we do. That was pretty much what we’ve seen all season long from him.”
What they saw Friday was a goalie who was on his game, stopping the tricky low-angle bids and Grade-A, point-blank tip tries with equal aplomb.
“He’s physically stronger, he’s mentally stronger, and he’s fundamentally more sound as a goaltender,” assessed Allain, a former goalie himself. “He works really, really hard, and he does everything he can so that he can deserve to be successful,” Allain said. “I think we’re seeing the results of that.”
The inquiries won’t dissipate as this team gets deeper into the playoffs — if anything, they will only grow stronger until they are either validated or silenced in the only way they can truly be denied: With a trophy and big, big smiles on the Yale’s doubtless faces.