Before Yale’s game at Clarkson on November 19, Bulldogs junior Henry Hart hadn’t played defense since mites.
But, Hart wasn’t dressing and was willing to do whatever it took to get in the lineup, so he perked up when the coaching staff came to him with an idea.
“The coaching staff came up to me and thought my skill set would translate on the blue line,” said the Stillwater, Minn. native.
Hart, who played in just 22 games during his first two years at Yale, picked up a third period assist as the team rallied from a 3-1 deficit to pick up a point on the road in Potsdam.
“It’s been awesome. Obviously, I would have liked to be used more my first two years, but we had a lot of good players. It’s awesome to get an opportunity and run with it,” said Hart.
While Hart has had his ups and down playing defense, he’s notched six assists in eight games played. Yale is 2-0-2 when he registers a point.
“It’s been a pretty good transition. The guys have helped me out a lot. I’ve had to put in extra work in practice. I’ve done video with the coaching staff. We know each other systems and can plug and play.”
Hart picked up two more assists in Yale’s 5-4 win over Hockey East foe Northeastern on Tuesday night at Ingalls Rink. On display was his ability to hit the open man in transition and start the breakout effectively.
“I’m obviously not the biggest guy or the fastest guy, but I like to use my vision and passing. I try to make simple and smart plays,” said Hart, who was destined to play Division III hockey in the NESCAC before a strong PG year at Phillips Exeter brought him interest from Ivy League schools.
“To me, defensemen have to be your smartest players. One of Henry’s greatest assets is his intelligence,” explained Yale coach Keith Allain.
“He’s savvy with the puck. Obviously, he’s not the biggest defenseman in college hockey, but he has a really good head for the game. Moving back there to defense, it gives him more time to process things, particularly offensively. He’s done a good job for us,” Allain continued.
Hart’s willingness to improve and get better in practice has not been lost on his teammates.
“[The defense] has been getting a lot better each day and each week. With Henry, he was a forward before, but he’s doing a good job. We just have to keep getting better and keep growing,” said goaltender Patrick Spano, who made 24 saves Tuesday night.
Yale’s win over Northeastern snapped a two-game losing streak and gives the Eli momentum heading into two more games out of conference. Allain’s team will continue to get familiar with Hockey East clubs as a road game at UConn awaits Saturday before hosting Providence next week.
“We’re a pretty young team. Over Christmas break we looked ourselves in the mirror and went to work. We had a good exhibition game and tried to use it as momentum. We kept it rolling here and are starting to get more offense,” Hart explained.