Yale trumped Quinnipiac 4-0 in the Frozen Four final Saturday night in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH - It may not be fair, but a lot of sports fans hate the Ivy League schools and love unexpected heroes. That made emerging (but largely unknown) Quinnipiac an easy favorite for non-partisans in the Frozen Four final, but Yale used smart hockey and timely scoring to beat the Bobcats 4-0, earning the school's first ever national championship. Heck, they couldn't even count on unilateral hometown support, since New Haven would have been split between the two schools separated by less than 10 miles. Simply put, these Bulldogs are great at spoiling storylines.
They had already wrecked their regional, beating both Minnesota and North Dakota and thus depriving the two WCHA schools of one final match-up with each other before the teams depart for the Big Ten and NCHC, respectively. Then it was an upset of UMass-Lowell in the semifinal, before taking out feel-good story Quinnipiac, the surprise No. 1 team in the nation and they of the 21-game unbeaten streak during the season. And of course, the Bobcats had already defeated Yale three times this season, including last month in the ECAC tournament.
“We developed our new forecheck, the 1-3-1, the second time we played them and it was very shaky,” said defenseman Rob O'Gara. “Tonight our focus was to get that hard pressure and take away their walls. I think it tired out their 'D' and confused them a bit, which caused turnovers. We kept them off the board...it worked.”
It's been a big turnaround for the school, which had only a 1952 national semifinal loss on its resume. Keep in mind Yale played in the first NCAA game ever back in 1896, tying Johns Hopkins 2-2. But veteran coach Keith Allain instilled a sense of purpose when he arrived in New Haven seven years ago and the fruits of his labor finally paid off.
“When they interviewed me for the job, I interviewed them,” he said. “I wanted to know they were committed to winning and they proved to me they were.”
A new facility was part of that promise, though you get the sense these Bulldogs would skate outside in the rain for Allain. Captain Andrew Miller, whose serious demeanour is in sympatico with Allain and can make Jonathan Toews look like Jim Carrey, led by example and once again provided a key goal for Yale, just as he did against UMass-Lowell in the semifinal. The rest of Allain's troops followed suit.
“Any guy will go through a wall for him,” said defenseman Gus Young. “Even on your recruiting trip, you realize he's there to win. It's the continuation of getting us ready, getting us pumped.”
O'Gara was just as effusive in his praise of the coach, who has served at the NHL level with Washington and St. Louis.
“He's been through so much and he brings that experience to every practice,” said the blueliner. “Every word out of his mouth is a piece of learning and that's the greatest gift a coach can give you.”
But ultimately, the game came down to senior goaltender Jeff Malcolm, who shut out Quinnipiac snipers such as Matthew Peca and Jordan Samuels-Thomas at key points early on to give the Bulldogs a chance to win.
“That's the best game I've ever seen him play,” said Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold. “Biggest game of the kid's career and he pitches a shutout.”
On top of that, it was Malcolm's birthday. And if Michigan had beaten Notre Dame in the CCHA tournament final, Yale wouldn't have even qualified for the Frozen Four. So maybe the Bulldogs did have some pretty good storylines of their own.
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