PITTSBURGH – It only took 117 arduous years, but at long last the Yale Bulldogs reign supreme over college hockey.
If the more-than-century-long drought seemed more like 300 years for the Yale faithful, then the first 40 minutes of the 2013 NCAA Championship game in Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy center might have lasted an eternity for the oldest college hockey program in the United States.
Yale battled its Connecticut and ECAC rival Quinnipiac for two intense, scoreless periods until Clint Bourbonais redirected Gus Young’s shot from the left half-boards, slipping past Eric Hartzell with just four seconds left in the second to give the Bulldogs an important 1-0 lead.
The goal gave Yale a mental edge against in-state rival Quinnipiac – two schools separated by a mere 7.7 miles (roughly 12km) – because the Bulldogs lost all three previous meetings during the season, being outscored 13-3 by the Bobcats.
Head Coach Keith Allain, a Yale alumnus, explained the gravity of that first goal: “I think it was a huge swing. It changed our mindset going into the third period because we had the lead. And I think it changed their mindset going into the third because now they had to fight from behind, and that allowed us to get some of the other goals.”
In the final stanza, Yale used that advantage to run away from the Bobcats on a goal by Charlie Orzetti 3:35 into the period, just the freshman’s second tally of the season. Nearly six minutes later, Captain Andrew Miller then made it a three-goal lead, burying a backhander past Hartzell on a breakaway.
And with Quinnipiac’s goalie pulled with seven minutes left to play, Jesse Root (a Pittsburgh native) potted an empty net goal to seal a 4-0 decision for the Bulldogs, and the school’s first national title in its storied history.
“We’re devastated,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold told Rick Houston of NCAA.com following the loss. “It was a great year. This isn’t the way it was supposed to end.”
The 15th seeded Yale Bulldogs entered the 16-team tournament with quite a task ahead, but acquitted themselves nicely by becoming the only team to ever beat three number one seeds en route to the title.
In the first round Yale knocked off Minnesota, consistently one of the nation’s most formidable clubs and five-time National Champions. Not to be outdone in round two, Yale defeated another WCHA powerhouse in North Dakota, which has produced NHL talents such as Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise and lay claim to seven national championships.
In the Frozen Four (the final quartet of teams), Yale needed another Andrew Miller goal in overtime to defeat No. 1 seed UMASS-Lowell in order to set up the eventual victory over Quinnipiac, another top seed in the year’s tournament.
Not only was the Yale win highly unlikely, but also the manner in which they claimed the title. In those previous three meetings, Quinnipiac lead Yale in all but 18 minutes of play, while Eric Hartzell had only allowed one goal in the previous eight periods against the rival Bulldogs.
Junior forward Kenny Agostino summed up the feeling going through every Yale player when the final horn resounded victory for Yale: “This is something every kid dreams of. You watch the Frozen Four, you watch a team hoist the National Championship trophy. Every one of us has played hockey since we were two years old and you dream of being champions and now we stand as the best team in the country.”
Hartzell, a Hobey Baker Finalist for the College Hockey’s Top Player, allowed three goals on 30 shots, while his counterpart Jeff Malcolm stopped all 36 Quinnipiac shots for his third, and most critical shutout of the season.
“We knew they were going to run around a little bit because they were behind, so we took advantage of those opportunities, and I think we shut them down a little bit,” said Miller.
Miller, who scored the third goal (his 18th of the season), was named the Frozen Four MVP following the game.
Yale became just the fourth IVY League school to claim an NCAA Hockey Championship, and the first since its nemesis Harvard did so almost 25 years ago in 1989.
Interestingly, the championship was Yale’s first in any sport since the swimming team was crowned victors in 1953.
During the Frozen Four, St. Cloud State (Minnesota) forward Drew LeBlanc became the 33rd recipient of the Hobey Baker Award, for which Hartzell was named a finalist. He not only beat out the Quinnipiac goalie, but also Johnny Gaudreau of Boston College, who won World Junior Championship gold with Team USA in Ufa, Russia.
Past recipients of the award include current or former NHL stars including: Matt Carle (Tampa Bay Lightning), Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres), Chris Drury (retired) and Paul Kariya (retired).
LeBlanc, whose team lost to Quinnipiac in the semifinal, ended the year leading the nation with 37 assists and seventh in points with 50, just three points off the leader.
The fifth-year senior, and two-year captain was signed to a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks on the same day. LeBlanc is the first player from St. Cloud State to win the Hobey Baker Award.