Greenwich’s Oberbeck leads Yale’s resurgence

Yale's Conrad Oberback, a Greenwich native, has played a key role in the Bulldogs' NCAA tournament run.

Yale’s Conrad Oberback, a Greenwich native, has played a key role in the Bulldogs’ NCAA tournament run. (Patrick Shanahan/Yale Athletics)

Why not the lacrosse team too? No one really gave the Yale men’s ice hockey team a snowball’s chance in Miami when the Bulldogs entered the NCAA tournament. Yet all the Bulldogs did was keep winning, all the way to the Frozen Four, all the way to the National Title.

When the Yale men’s lacrosse team earned a spot in the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament, it was good for a chuckle on campus. “Wouldn’t it be cool if the lacrosse team won a national championship too?”

“Yeah, that would be awesome, wouldn’t it?” And that was that.

Now? It’s time for everyone to start taking Yale a little bit more seriously. The Bulldogs upended No. 8 Penn State on the road in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last Saturday, and one of the catalysts in the 9-6 come-from-behind win was sophomore attack Conrad Oberbeck.

Oberbeck, a Brunswick School graduate and Greenwich native, registered three goals and an assist in the historic win.

“We’re really excited,” said Oberbeck, who was the ESPNU Player of the Game in the win over Penn State. “It’s the first NCAA win for Yale since 1992, so I’m definitely happy to have been a part of the program’s resurgence. Our alumni are fired up and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Yale’s reward for upsetting Penn State is a date in the quarterfinals on Saturday against No. 1 Syracuse at Capital One Field in College Park, Md at 3 p.m. (ESPN2). Another seemingly insurmountable task. But, hey why not Yale? It wouldn’t be the first time.

“We’re friends with a lot of the guys on the hockey team and we joke about it (the lacrosse team winning in NCAAs),” Oberbeck said. “I think we’re always inspired by other teams at the University. Especially the way they (the hockey team) did it, battling back as the last seed to get in.”

Yale’s chances of winning will certainly be enhanced if it gets another big game from Oberbeck. The talented Oberbeck scored six goals — one short of the school’s sophomore record set in 1958 — against Albany earlier this season. He is second on the team with 34 goals.

An opportunity to play as a true freshman last season (20 goals, 26 points), is clearly paying dividends in 2013 for Oberbeck and coach Andy Shay.

“I’ve improved from last year,” Oberbeck said. “Last year I played with Matt Gibson, whose is now in the NLL (with the Minnesota Swarm), and he’s a dodger. I learned a lot of crafty things from Matt. Very crafty moves you can’t read on paper, you have to learn by watching. I’m handling the ball more and I use those things I learned last year. I was so happy to have had that advice from such an experienced and good player.”

As for the Orange, Oberbeck sees Yale’s defense as the difference maker.

“The key is our defense. We really rally around our defense,” Oberbeck said. “Against Penn State, even though we were down 5-1 and our offense was stalling, they really held us in the game. That’s the great thing about our team.”

Oberbeck isn’t the only Connecticut  player on the Yale roster. John Ambrose (Staples), David Better (Brunswick/Greenwich), Jimmy Craft (Brusnwick/Darien), Michael Lipin (St. Andrew’s/New Haven), Jackson Logie (Deerfield/New Canaan) and Ryan McCarthy (Glastonbury) all suit up for the Bulldogs.

Chris McNamee