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Junior Jared Yakimoff has helped the Hornets claim their fair share of hardware with his stellar play in goal during the past few seasons. (Photo courtesy of Jared Yakimoff )
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Jared Yakimoff has played a pivotal role in the Branford boys’ ice hockey squad’s recent run of success with his excellent performance in net. A junior, Jared plays goalie for a Hornets’ club that’s hoisted the SCC/SWC Division II banner in each of the past two seasons. Last year, Branford also claimed the Division II State Tournament crown, and Jared stopped nearly everything that came his way throughout the tournament.
Jared feels proud about the Hornets’ accomplishments, and the fact that he’s had such heavy hand in their success makes those victories even more special. Jared posted a combined record of 33-5-3 with a .942 save percentage for his sophomore and junior seasons. He’s recorded shutouts in three of his last four playoff games, including a 2-0 victory versus Glastonbury in the 2019 state final. Jared earned All-Conference Second Team honors this year was named the Most Outstanding Player of the SCC/SWC Division II Tournament following both of Branford’s runs to the title.
“My sophomore year, we won SCCs and states. I’m also very proud of my team for winning SCCs this year, as well. I went Second Team All-SCC, too,” says Jared. “It feels good. In the state championship, I had a shutout. It was a big accomplishment. Every time I get a shutout, I thank the team in front of me. Everything starts in front of them.”
Jared features a nice mix of skills that allow him to be a successful goalkeeper. At 6 feet, 1 inch, Jared has a longer stride than most goalies and covers both ends of the net pretty quickly. Jared can also snag pucks out of the air with the best of them.
“I’m pretty tall at 6-1, and I’m pretty quick side to side in the net,” Jared says. “When I have to, I’m able to dish the puck out of the zone and pass to a defenseman. I’m definitely good with the glove because of my hand-eye coordination.”
Jared credits his progression in net to a variety of factors. When Jared was six, his father Jim took him and his older brother Jimmy skating. It wasn’t long after that Jared donned the pads. Jared’s first foray behind the mask didn’t go that well, but he stayed positive. Since then, Jared has worked relentlessly on his craft.
“My house league team didn’t have a goalie, and my dad suggested I try it out. My first game, I let 14 goals in, but I came out and said, ‘Did you see that glove save?’” says Jared. “I play for Donahue Hockey Skills in Hamden with Coach Sean Donahue every year right before the high school season. I’ve also been working with Craig Height with CT Crease. He’s helped with my stance, how I react to the play, and following the puck. Craig has helped me figure out how to work better with my longer arms.”
Jared got out to a strong start with Branford as a freshman, winning his first game in goal. That performance solidified Jared’s place as a key contributor for the Hornets. By his sophomore season, Jared was a mainstay between the pipes.
“My freshman year, I played the very first game of the season and had a shutout. It gave me a leg up, and I still kept starting,” Jared says. “We had a junior goalkeeper [Greg Lucente] who transferred from Notre Dame, and he couldn’t play the first 10 games. We pretty much split it evenly after that. Sophomore year, I was the starter.”
There’s a lot of responsibility on Jared’s shoulders as the last line of Branford’s defense. Jared is always communicating with his skaters to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
“I try to be as loud as I can to my defense. I try to let them know if there is a man on or how many men are coming on a dump,” says Jared. “I try to tell them what side to push a guy to if there’s a screen. If everything is good, I give them the clear signal.”
Jared has been a solid presence in the Hornets’ net from the outset of his high school career. However, Head Coach Jim DiNapoli says that Jared seems to take his game to another level when the biggest prizes are on the line.
“Jared loves to compete, and I think his record in the playoffs over the past two seasons is a reflection of that. He’s got a 0.33 goals-against average in the playoffs. He likes the pressure. He likes to be in the spotlight and in the moment of the big game,” says DiNapoli. “Jared is the best big-game goalie in the state right now. We have great confidence in him going forward, and he’ll give us a chance to win any game we play next year.”
Jared is looking forward to stepping into an even more prominent role as a leader in his senior season. Jared has aspirations of being a team captain, but regardless of whether that happens, he’s planning on leading anyone who needs guidance as Branford strives for another great campaign.
“I definitely would love to be a captain my senior year. I’ve had a lot of great captains to look up to in my time at Branford—shout out to Robbie Lionetti,” Jared says. “It’s a Branford tradition that we’ve always had great captains. Now, it’s my turn to step up to the plate. Someone has to lead the younger kids and set that example. Captain or no captain, I will still serve that leadership role.”
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