Bulldogs Play For NATIONAL Title Saturday Night
PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The Bulldogs will play a hockey game Saturday night here in Steel Town to determine the 2012-13 men's national championship. Yale earned that opportunity after captain Andrew Miller scored at 6:59 of overtime for a 3-2 win over No. 2 UMass Lowell in the first semifinal of the 2013 Frozen Four at the Consol Energy Center.
"That's probably the biggest goal in the history of Yale hockey," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach, whose team will play for the school's first NCAA team title since 1953.
The Elis take on Quinnipiac at 7 p.m. (ESPN) on Saturday in an all-Connecticut and all-ECAC Hockey national title contest.
Carson Cooper started the play in his end by chipping it ahead to Miller, who grabbed the puck before a defender could, skated around him and went in alone on River Hawks goalie Connor Hellebuyck. Miller deked to the right before tucking the puck under the fallen netminder for his 17th goal of the year.
"It was a good bouncing puck," said Miller, whose team improved to 21-12-3. "I think we stopped them in transition a bit, and I think it caught a defenseman flat footed. It was a great team goal. It's an honor to move on."
Cooper, who along with Miller led the Blue with two points, won the race to a loose puck and put it in a safe place.
"I was coming back in the zone," said Cooper, a freshman forward from Calgary, who was put on Yale's top line in the overtime when Jesse Root started cramping. "Ryan Obuchowski made a great play, broke up the initial rush there. In overtime, you just want to get it out of your zone. I got a chance to play with Ago (Kenny Agostino) and Miller out there. I knew they were going to be open going up ice, so I just turned around and chipped it. I believe it hit one of their guys and ended up going to Miller. He drove wide and made an unbelievable play to score the goal there.
Cooper summed up the feeling for a newcomer on the Yale squad heading for the biggest game in the program's history.
"The fact that you know you're going to the national championship game, you dream about that as a kid. Now that I get that chance as a freshman, it's unbelievable."
Yale scored three goals on the nation's top-ranked defense and Division I's top goalie statistically. The Bulldogs, which outshot UML 47-18, also ended the nation's longest active win streak at seven games while ending the season of the Hockey East regular season and tournament champions.
The Blue, which jumped all over its first power-play chance, but waited until there was two seconds left on the advantage to find the net. Miller did the initial work to set it up, which ended up as a milestone for the senior captain. The helper gave him 113 career assists and tied him with Yale legend Bob Brooke '83 for the school record. Miller brought it in and got it over to Cooper. Mitch Witek, who picked a big stage for his first collegiate goal, took a drop pass from Cooper and let go from there. The shot from halfway between the top of the left circle and the blueline zipped inside the near post a foot off the ice at 12:55.
The Elis got another advantage late in the first but could not convert. Yale, which had an 11-5 shot lead in the opening frame, still managed to score again before intermission. Matt Killian worked his way around the defense and then split two UML players in the right circle. He sent a crossing pass along the edge of the crease that found a blue shirt in the right place. Antoine Laganiere, who managed to break free from the defense, one-timed it into the open left side of the net with 52 seconds left.
The first Yale penalty-kill was a beauty, with just two shots getting through to Malcolm, but the River Hawks rebounded with two quick ones immediately after.
Riley Wetmore picked a puck out of the air with a backhand swipe from the top of the crease to make it 2-1 at 14:38, and then, 14 seconds after, UML got the equalizer from Joseph Pendenza on a shot from the right circle off a rush.
Those were the only two goals of the middle period, but there could have been others. Witek hit the cross bar midway through, which nearly gave the visiting team a three-goal lead. The other close call was a scary moment for multiple reasons. Wetmore had a breakaway and ended up crashing into Jeff Malcolm with both players banging into the back of the net. Prior to the collision, his shot went off target, but Yale fans could not catch their breath until they saw the senior goalie bounce up on his feet.
Malcolm, Yale's senior goalie who had 16 saves, including some huge stops on grade-A chances, talked about re-focusing after the two River Hawks goals.
"That's happened a lot this year. We've always been able to bounce back and focus on the next save."
The scoreless third period was tense, fast-paced and frantic at times with Yale continuing its puck possession dominance. The River Hawks would get good looks now and then, but the majority of the chances were coming at the other end with many Bulldog offensive flurries. Winning the small battles to the puck and outskating UML resulted in a 16-3 shots advantage.
Nothing changed in the extra session as Yale had all seven shots on target.
"Line after line, D-pair after D-pair, I thought we just came after Lowell. I'm so proud of our guys and the way they played. They faced a little adversity in the middle of the second period but re-grouped and stuck with the plan," said Allain.
The Blue is now 6-0-3 in OT games this year… Two of Yale's three NCAA tourney wins this year have been in OT and they were the only OT games in the 2013 tournament… The 47 shots on net were the second-most for an Eli team this season (Harvard, 49, Nov. 3)… The 18 shots on target allowed were the third-lowest total (13 vs. SLU, March 15)… A crowd just under 1,000 watched from the John J. Lee Amphitheater inside Payne Whitney Gym…. Today's attendance in Pittsburgh was 17,420.
Filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director
John Hassett image of Miller on GWG
Postgame Press Conference: Andrew Miller explains Yale's MVP hat
Postgame Press Conference: Keith Allain
Postgame Interview: Carson Cooper