GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A team’s offensive output can be a source of stress.
The power play can be a fickle beast. Goals can be feast or famine.
2013 NCAA West Regional
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Then, just as quick, the magic was gone again.
The next weekend at the ECAC Hockey Championship, Yale failed to score a single goal in games against Union and Quinnipiac. The Bulldogs were a good bet to make the NCAA tournament field when the weekend began. But the lack of scoring had them anxiously awaiting the results of the CCHA championship on Selection Sunday just to find out if they’d make the tournament.
Then, with a spot in the tournament field and their fate secured, Yale went from not scoring a goal to putting up seven goals in the NCAA West Regional, including three against a Minnesota team that ranks third in the country in team defense.
They also notched two power-play goals, including Saturday’s winner in a 4-1 victory over North Dakota that propelled them to the school’s first Frozen Four since 1952.
“The power play is a thing of momentum,” North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. “I look at last night, we had 13 shots on goal in our power play. We couldn’t find a way to get one to go in. Tonight, in that power play, good opportunity and it goes off a bar and out instead of a bar and in. We needed a bounce along the way. In order to get our momentum back, you need a bounce, you need a couple things to go right. We couldn’t seem to get that this weekend.”
Fortunately for Yale, the bounces seemed to go their way this weekend. It started with an uncharacteristic turnover by Minnesota in overtime that led to Friday’s winning goal.
Then, Yale got all the puck luck they could handle in the third period of the regional championship game against North Dakota.
“We were pretty happy that two games in a row we scored power-play goals,” Bulldogs forward Andrew Miller said. “Two games in a row with a power-play goal definitely helps us out.”
A rebound landed right on the stick of Josh Balch. Jesse Root’s falling-down shot slipped past North Dakota goaltender Clarke Saunders. Stu Wilson knocked a rebound out of the air. After two-and-a-half periods of frustration, Yale took its luck and made the most of it.
Root notched the game-winning goals in both games.
“They were both pretty sweet, but it’s not the go-ahead goal if Josh [Balch] doesn’t score or if [Jeff Malcolm] isn’t great in net,” Root said.