PITTSBURGH – Gophers fans still smarting about the loss to lightly regarded Yale in the NCAA tournament opener can take solace in the fact that their team’s promising season was ended by the eventual national champion.
Yale’s unexpected run in the tournament had a storybook ending on Saturday, as the Bulldogs’ knocked off top-ranked Quinnipiac 4-0 to claim the school’s first NCAA hockey crown. Yale goalie Jeff Malcolm, celebrating his 24th birthday on Saturday, was the unlikely hero, stopping all 36 shots he faced.
Leading 1-0 after two periods, the Bulldogs got goals from Charles Orzetti and Andrew Miller in the third to open up a commanding lead. Then Jesse Root, playing in his hometown, scored an empty-net goal after the Bobcats pulled goalie Eric Hartzell with seven minutes left.
“We wanted to pressure their defense, get pucks deep and get a lot of shots on Hartzell. He’s a good goalie and is going to make the first save,” said Miller, named the tournament’s most outstanding player. “We knew they were going to run around a little bit because they were behind. So we took advantage of their opportunites. They had a flurry at the start of the third and [Malcolm] stood tall.”
There were no goals scored in the first 39 minutes of the game, but it was not for lack of effort, or lack of offense. The teams combined for nearly 50 shots on goal in the opening two periods, and the sellout crowd was treated to a goalie battle between Hartzell and Malcolm. Each team had more than a minute of a 5-on-3 power play, with lots of traffic near the creases, but could not score.
A puck finally found the the net with 3.5 seconds left in the middle period when Yale defenseman Gus Young sent a harmless-looking shot from the blue line toward the Quinnipiac net. The puck bounced off a Bobcats defenseman and was tipped by Clinton Bourbonais in front of the net. Hartzell saw the puck at the last second, but not before it slid between his knees. It was just the fourth goal of the season for Bourbonias.
Yale was the 15th seed in the 16-team NCAA tourney and beat three of the nation’s top four teams — the Gophers, UMass Lowell and Quinnipiac, as well as North Dakota — to win the title. Hartzell finished with 27 saves for the Bobcats.
“I don’t think we were perfect tonight, but I thought we were good enough to win,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. His team had beaten Yale three times in the regular season and conference playoffs. “Sometimes the puck just won’t go in for you. And Malcolm was great. He was the best player on the ice.”
It was the 26th NCAA title for Yale, but the first since 1953, and the first in something other than men’s swimming or men’s golf.