Everyone and his pet rock has asked Yale coach Keith Allain about his goaltending this year, which is to say that no one has really got his head around the idea that the Bulldogs can actually be so much more competent between the pipes on the heels of last year’s merry-go-round of goalies.
Allain knows that it’s a bit of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t proposition: Unless Yale wins the national title, any goal his goaltender surrenders will be considered an indictment of his viability as an elite player. That’s only to be expected after the debacle he and the rest of the nation witnessed in a 9-7 loss to Boston College in last spring’s East Regional in Worcester, Mass.
But senior Ryan Rondeau looks like a totally different netminder this year, and especially in the wake of a 2-1, overtime victory over Air Force on Friday in the East Regional semifinals.
He worked on his strength and technique over the offseason, of course, but he also said that he worked with a sports psychologist, who encouraged him to enter each game with a mind-set free from team or personal expectations, “because you’re only setting yourself up to fail,” Rondeau explained.
His blank-slate approach is clearly serving him well, especially in crunch time. Air Force’s goal in the game’s 39th minute ended a 240:53 shutout streak that included three consecutive clean sheets in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals, semifinals and championships. Rondeau set program records in wins and shutouts, and leads the nation in win percentage (.833), shutouts (six), and goals-against average (1.80). He is second in save percentage (.932) only to Rochester Institute of Technology’s Shane Madolora (.935).
If he’s not careful, he’s going to be entering his remaining games with far more expectations than he could ever put upon himself.
Rumble in the jungle, on ice
Air Force coach Frank Serratore had a specific plan for his high-scoring, fleet-footed Falcons in their first-round match against equally potent Yale:
Tire ’em out.
“It was like a Mike Tyson fight,” Serratore said after the game. “They needed to knock us out in the first period.”
His self-described “rope-a-dope” plan, to borrow a strategy from Muhammad Ali, was to survive Yale’s initial burst, then rely on the Falcons’ conditioning and high-altitude red blood cell count to outwork the Bulldogs as time wore on.
Air Force’s stingy defense — which gave up an average of 30 shots a game all year — held the Bulldogs to a season-low 28 shots on net, including only five in the third period. The problem was that the Falcons mustered only five shots apiece in the second and third periods, and, of course, that it was Yale winger Chad Ziegler who found the extra ounce of energy to poke home the game-winning goal.
End of an era?
Jacques Lamoureux’s last game for the Falcons didn’t go quite the way he’d hoped, but it’s not his exit that will be remembered and retold for years to come in Colorado Springs.
“We DQ’ed him the first time, and that’s how he ended up at Northern Michigan,” Serratore said. “He’s the best scorer to ever play at the Air Force Academy, and he’s probably the best who ever will play at the Air Force Academy.
“He’s been a terrific player for us in a lot of ways. He’s a great leader, on the ice, in the classroom.”
The outspoken coach seemed at an odd loss for words when it came to describing the impact his top player had on the program. An undeniably talented and dedicated individual, Lamoureux’s numbers don’t do him justice, but they start to paint the picture for which Serratore hasn’t quite found the colors just yet: With 24 goals and 44 points in 38 games, Lamoureux led the team and was one of the league’s most lethal players. In 116 career games at Air Force, he tallied 79 goals and 139 points.
“Last year, we lost [goalie Andrew] Volkening, and a lot of people thought we were done, a one-trick pony,” Serratore said, implicitly praising the strong play of freshman Jason Torf and serving notice that just because a player leaves, Air Force won’t fade away.