PITTSBURGH — In many ways over the past few months, Yale was the forgotten team and Jeff Malcolm the forgotten goalie.
The Bulldogs’ season played out in a shadow cast from a Hamden, Conn., hilltop by top-ranked Quinnipiac, which pieced together a remarkable story highlighted by the spectacular saves of Eric Hartzell.
But Yale found itself just in time to produce a magical run that will serve as the lasting memory for college hockey fans in Connecticut. The Bulldogs won their first NCAA championship Saturday night, defeating the rival Bobcats 4-0 before 18,184 at the CONSOL Energy Center.
Quinnipiac’s record-setting season ends at 30-8-5. Yale finishes 22-12-3, having won its final four games. The Bulldogs defeated the NCAA Tournament’s top three overall seeds — No. 2 Minnesota at the West Regional, No. 3 UMass Lowell in a Frozen Four semifinal and No. 1 Quinnipiac on Saturday, when the raucous Yale fan base taunted that of Quinnipiac’s across the rink.
Malcolm made 36 saves for his third shutout of the season. Hartzell made 27 saves for Quinnipiac.
Clinton Bourbonais gave Yale the only goal it needed, redirecting a shot between Hartzell’s legs with 3.5 seconds left in the second period. Yale poured it on in the third, with goals by Charles Orzetti, Andrew Miller and Jesse Root (empty net).
As a second period of high drama wound down, Hartzell controlled the puck and tried to clear by sending it up the boards on the left. Yale defenseman Gus Young kept it from leaving the zone and released a relatively soft shot that was deflected by Bourbonais, who gave the puck just enough redirection to beat Hartzell.
It was the first time that either team had seized momentum, and there were numerous opportunities in the first 40 minutes. For the most part, play was even. Hartzell and Malcolm were both tested in the first, and both unbeatable, although not required to make any spectacular saves.
Malcolm made one stellar stop less than five minutes into the second. Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Quinnipiac’s leading goal scorer and the only player from Connecticut on either team, controlled the puck while completely alone in front. He faked right and went left, but Malcolm got his right pad and blocker out for the save, preserving the scoreless tie.
Later, both teams were tested by their own mistakes.
Yale was called for too many players on the ice 10:28 into the period. Bourbonais was called for charging 57 seconds later. In 1:03 of a 5-on-3 power play, Quinnipiac had two quality shots, both stopped by Malcolm, who did not allow a rebound on either. The Bulldogs killed the penalty, then went on the power play.
Quinnipiac was called for a too-man-men penalty of its own with 7:22 left in the period. Zach Davies was sent off for interference with 6:35 left, giving Yale a 5-on-3 for 1:13. The Bulldogs called timeout, set up a power play, but the Quinnipiac defense held — led by Zack Currie’s two blocked shots.
The last time these teams met, there was virtually nothing on the line for Quinnipiac, but a lot on the line for Yale. The Bobcats had already clinched the top overall seed for the NCAA Tournament and rested key players in a 3-0 victory over the Bulldogs in the ECAC consolation game. Despite the loss, Yale secured the last NCAA at-large bid the following day.
In the East Regional, Quinnipiac erased a two-goal, third-period deficit and defeated Canisius, 4-3. A day later, the Bobcats defeated Union 5-1 behind a hat trick by Matthew Peca — in a tournament-record span of 3:12 — to advance to the Frozen Four for the first time in school history.
Yale, seeded fourth in the West Regional, opened with a 3-2 victory over top-seeded Minnesota. Jesse Root scored just nine seconds into overtime, one of the tournament’s stunning moments. Riding the momentum, the Bulldogs defeated North Dakota 4-1 to reach its first Frozen Four and first national semifinal since 1952.
Two schools separated by 8 miles, two rivals, were off to Pittsburgh, set up on the opposite side of the bracket. Yale defeated UMass Lowell, Quinnipiac defeated St. Cloud State and the matchup was set, the first championship game between teams from the same state since Boston University and Boston College in 1978.
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