This weekend is the NCAA Frozen Four in Pittsburgh. Leading up to this weekend's events, we're chatting with one player from each of the teams involved. Today, it's Josh Balch of Yale.
As a AAA player in Chicago, Yale senior forward Josh Balch scored at will, compiling more than 1,600 points over nine seasons. After spending two seasons with Des Moines and Chicago of the USHL, Balch entered Yale and quickly had to change his game in order to succeed. On a highly-offensive team, Balch switched to a more defensive role and has exceled.
"It took a little bit of time [to adjust]," said Balch during a phone interview last week. "I had some great role models in Jeff Anderson, Brendan Mason and Charles Brockett. I just liked watching their games. They really helped and taught me little things here and there to help excel and be the player I am know."
In his defensive role, Balch hasn't racked up the points like he did as a youth, instead he's taking advantage of opportunities and bounces that have come his way, like his overtime goal against Colgate in March:
As Yale prepares to play in their first Frozen Four since 1952, a 5-game losing almost derailed the progress they made during the opening months of the season. It wasn't a matter of the Bulldogs playing bad hockey, Balch said, just that the hockey gods weren't on their side
"We were still getting a lot of shots on net" he said. "It was one of those times where the puck wasn’t exactly bouncing the right way. A couple things could have gone this way or that way and that would have completely changed the whole dynamic of those five games.
"In times like that your confidence starts to slip. If you play a great game, you’re like, ‘alright, are we ever going to get out this?’ You know, a couple bounces go our way and we’re back and have a 5-game winning streak."
After the "Aberration in Atlantic City", Yale squeaked into the NCAA tournament on the final day thanks to some help from Notre Dame. Some teams might not have been able to recover from letting destiny slip from their hands, but the Bulldogs were able to take advantage of new life, beat Minnesota and North Dakota, and win their way to Pittsburgh. It was all a matter of clearing their heads.
"One of the best things about having a young team is we’re naïve," said Balch.
"We’re able to forget and get ready for next week really fast."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy