All that stands between the Harvard men’s hockey team and a trip to the ECAC semifinals is a tall Canadian with a slight build and a soft, lightly-accented voice. Not too much to be worried about there.
Oh yeah, almost forgot to mention, of the last 204 shots the Crimson has launched at Yann Danis over a five-game span, he’s saved 199 of them, including a 66-save performance during a double-overtime thriller in the first round of the ECAC tournament in 2002.
Since that game—which Harvard incidentally won 2-1, despite Danis’ superhuman effort in net for Brown—the Crimson has spent two years trying to figure out just how to beat the enigmatic goalkeeper with any consistency.
It hasn’t worked.
Since Dom Moore ’03 snuck that puck past Danis to send the Bears packing, the netminding stud has twice blanked Harvard, surrendering two goals or fewer in the series’ other two games.
“It’s not just Harvard that’s had trouble with him,” Brown coach Roger Grillo said. “It’s a lot of teams.”
Then again, maybe that’s because he’s been perfecting his goaltending technique for a whole lot longer than they’ve been trying to make sense of it.
Growing up in Saint Jerome, Quebec, Danis “was a pretty big Montreal Canadiens fan.”
“Watching games on Saturdays,” Danis said, “those were good memories.”
Like so many enraptured Quebecois youngsters, the Bears’ netminder chose goaltending stalwart Patrick Roy to be his idol, devotedly following the all-star and local hero during his glory days.
“I remember watching him play a lot on TV,” Danis said. “He was one of the reasons I wanted to play goal.”
But while some kids might have pretended to be Roy recording the crucial save in the Stanley Cup Finals while playing pickup on a pond or dreamed with little further thought of such fantasies, Danis strove towards that lofty goal in every respect, never outgrowing the childhood aspiration and never losing sight of his target.
So after he learned the basics of the position, he adopted the butterfly style, perfected in the professional ranks by Roy. But how to reach a level of proficiency anywhere near equivalent to that of the National Hockey League’s preeminent goalkeeper?
Well, employ the same coach of course, Francois Allaire.
Allaire—formerly the goaltending coach for the Canadiens who had trained Roy during his formative years and currently an advisor to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks—regularly offered an instructional camp in Quebec during summer off-seasons for young prospects and Danis made a point of attending.