Good things come to those who wait. The Tigers found that out when defenseman Bryan Yoon showed up for practice.
The freshman, the subject of National Collegiate Hockey Conference all-rookie team chatter, has drawn praise for his steadiness on the ice since the start of the season, and it’s more pronounced when the pressure is on.
Colorado College has only sent one player to the all-rookie team — Jaccob Slavin in 2014. Yoon has made a case to be the second.
“I think he’s surprised a lot of us with how calm he is and poised with the puck,” defensive partner Kristian Blumenschein said. “He just slows the game down.”
Yoon said he’s calm and unaffected in the day-to-day. But on the ice, losing an individual battle will lead to the occasional outburst. Then it’s on to the next shift.
“You know when he’s mad. He’ll make a mistake and come off and kind of let the bench hear it a bit. It’s surprising,” Blumenschein said. “He definitely has that grit and competitive edge.”
Yoon, a Parker native, followed his older brother into the sport, and wanted to be a forward like him. But a youth coach stuck him on the blue line.
“He told me it was because I was smart,” Yoon said, though he has his doubts due to his age. It may have had more to do with results. But he grew to appreciate it.
He still finds plenty of opportunities to contribute up front. He leads CC in assists with 15, and is fifth in team scoring. And then there’s the many smart decisions in his own end.
“I think playing defense is a tougher position than a forward. That’s my opinion,” coach Mike Haviland, a forward in his playing days, said.
Often, they take a little longer to develop. Yoon said when he committed to CC, he had an agreement with the coaching staff that if either side felt he wasn’t ready, he would wait. If he joined the Tigers in 2017, he likely would have been in and out of the lineup.
He decided to stay with the USHL’s Tri-City Storm, where he was an assistant captain and became the first defenseman in team history to lead the squad in scoring (three goals, 32 assists). He said waiting an extra year was “one of the better decisions I’ve made.”
“As much as we wanted him last year, after talking to him, it was probably the best thing for him and his career and even for us, because he hit the ground running his freshman year,” Haviland said.
The coach said his only freshman blue liner doesn’t need much correction. Often, it’s just a word, and it only needs to be said once.
“He never gets rattled,” Haviland said. “I tell the NHL guys — watch him. He’s just so calm and under control back there.”
The Colorado Thunderbirds alum has seven more games to help put sixth-place Colorado College in a better position, and to a lesser extent, state his case for personal accolades. The Tigers (11-14-4, 5-9-3 NCHC) are coming off a bye week and will take on No. 9 Western Michigan at home.
No matter how much praise Yoon gets, he doesn’t take his ice time for granted.
“I’ve got to go out there and prove myself every time (Haviland) puts me out there,” Yoon said. “If he’s going to trust me, I’ve got to show him that I can be responsible.”
Air Force at Mercyhurst
It’s crunch time for Air Force (14-12-4, 12-9-3 Atlantic Hockey Conference), tied for third place in the league. The Falcons traveled for a two-game series against Mercyhurst (13-15-4, 11-10-3).
Last week: Air Force split a series against last-place Canisius by way of two shutouts. Billy Christopoulos made 22 saves Friday night as the Falcons blanked the Golden Griffins 3-0, then Canisius returned the favor as Matt Ladd stopped 39 shots in another 3-0 decision.
FYI: Sophomore defenseman Zach Mirageas will sit out the first game of the series due to an Atlantic Hockey suspension for a hit to the head.
Leaders: Air Force, Matt Koch (2 goals, 20 assists), Billy Christopoulos (.920 save percentage, 2.12 goals against); Mercyhurst, Joseph Duszak (15 goals, 26 assists), Stefano Cantali (.900 save percentage, 3.15 GAA).