GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Yale coach Keith Allain did not miss a beat Friday when asked what his team’s upset of the Gophers in the NCAA tournament meant to the program.
“We came here to win the regional, not to beat Minnesota,’’ he said. “We’re thrilled, but we’ve got work to do tomorrow.’’
Consider it done. Yale, the 15th overall seed in the 16-team tournament, defeated North Dakota 4-1 in Saturday’s West Regional final, earning its first berth in the Frozen Four. The 15th-ranked Bulldogs (20-12-3) scored four goals in the final seven minutes, 35 seconds, and goaltender Jeff Malcolm shut out North Dakota (22-13-7) over the final 52:38 at Van Andel Arena.
Jesse Root, who scored nine seconds into overtime Friday to beat the Gophers 3-2 in the regional semifinal, again supplied the winning goal. Root got this one on a power play, sending a shot from the left circle through traffic and past North Dakota goalie Clarke Saunders at 15:04 of the third. Root was named most valuable player of the West Regional.
No. 7 North Dakota scored first as Corban Knight maneuvered past the Yale defense and knocked a shot off Malcolm’s glove at 7:22 of the first period. Josh Balch tied it on a rebound goal at 12:25 of the third for Yale, which is now 2-0 against North Dakota in the NCAA tournament.
“The program has been close for a while [to making the Frozen Four], and to finally break through and get there is really exciting,’’ said Root, a junior. “Now we’ll take it to Pittsburgh and try to do our best.’’
North Dakota goalie Zane Gothberg, who played in Friday’s 2-1 victory over Niagara in the regional semifinal, sat out because of an undisclosed illness.
Yale outshot North Dakota 39-25. North Dakota also hit two shots off the goalposts.
“They made it really hard for us to settle down and make a play,’’ North Dakota defenseman Dillon Simpson said. “It seemed like every time we looked up, there was a Yale jersey in our face. We have a great group of guys; everyone stayed positive and kept believing. It was unfortunate we didn’t get the win.’’