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College Hockey:
Yale blocks out one bad minute, keeps dictating the game

The Bulldogs allowed two goals in 14 seconds and nothing else in their semifinal win.

For 59 minutes of play in regulation against Massachusetts-Lowell, Yale did what Yale has done best in NCAA postseason play: box out the opponent, clog up the neutral zone, limit chances in front of the Bulldogs’ net.

That one minute, though — between 14:00 and 15:00 in the second period — nearly undermined a dominance that Yale had worked so hard to establish in the tournament, from the Bulldogs’ two games in the West Regional to the first 30 minutes of their 3-2 semifinal win on Thursday at Consol Energy Center.

Leading the River Hawks 2-0, Yale looked flatfooted for a single minute and Lowell scored two goals 14 seconds apart to tie the game.

This wasn’t in Yale’s script. Fortunately, the Bulldogs have selective short-term memory.

“I blocked it out,” senior forward Josh Balch said. “As soon as they scored two goals … it’s now a 0-0 game. We walked into the third period and said that whoever wins the next 20 minutes wins the game. If you keep thinking about those two goals, it’s a downward spiral.”

“We have short memories and forget about the bad things that happen,” sophomore defenseman Tommy Fallen said. “We all know what we need to do as a team.”

As a team, the Bulldogs have dictated the terms of how their NCAA tournament games have been played. In the semifinal win, Yale outshot Massachusetts-Lowell 47-18. In their 3-2 overtime win against Minnesota in the West Regional two weeks ago, the Bulldogs trailed the Golden Gophers in shots on goal but were the stronger team for the first 40 minutes of the contest.

In their 4-1 win over North Dakota the following day, the Bulldogs outshot UND 39-25.

“We have a game of keeping it going to the outside, making it very difficult for them,” Fallen said. “What worked for us was just moving our feet and our speed. We preach defense leads to offense and if we play good defensively, we’re going to get more opportunity on offense to score goals.”

Defense first is the team’s mantra.

“For this season, we think our defense leads to offense a lot of times,” freshman forward Stu Wilson said. “If we can shut them down and limit their grinds down low in our zone then we’ll come up with the puck and hopefully turn it on pretty quick. If we don’t score off the rush, we’re going to grind them down ourselves. It’s definitely been something we focus on.”

Except for that minute late in the second period, the game against Lowell was no different for the Bulldogs.

“The way we describe ourselves and the way we want to be is a disciplined, aggressive, relentless hockey team that can stick to a structure,” Fallen said. “That’s what we did tonight. We were playing a very good team — a really good offensive and defensive team — so we knew coming in that we needed to stick to our structure.”

“We’ve had the mentality that defense leads to offense all year,” senior goaltender Jeff Malcolm said. “The guys tonight obviously did a good job in front of me kind of eliminating a lot of things, making my life pretty easy, which is nice.”

The reward for such a unified mission is obvious.

“It was as good an effort as we’ve had,” coach Keith Allain said. “And our last three games have been all great efforts. I thought that we were — as much as we created offensively, I thought we were rock solid defensively.

“A lot of our offense was because of the fact that we defended so well that we had the puck and they didn’t.”

Except for that one minute in the second period.

Said Fallen, “We just got caught and we bounced back.”


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  • Frederick Knauf

    I guess with Yale winning and Quinnipiac looking like they will win, will SOMEBODY at USCHO explain why the SOS (Strength of Schedule) is always so BIASED in favor of WCHA and CCHA teams…..that lowered teams like RPI from making the 16 team tourney? Even Clarkson gave Quinnipiac a better game down in Conn. losing 2 – 1 in Feb. Geez.

    • jmsptrk

      you think one good year for the ecac makes up for years of being doormats for the wcha, ccha and he? nah.

      can’t you just be happy for them? geez.

      • Joseph Crowley

        ECAC not doormats. Leagues are made up of teams. The dominant teams of the past 20 years have been from HE, WCHA and CCHA, but from year to year, the dominant team is rarely the same.

        Now that the best and third best (in my opinion) ECAC teams are playing each other in the championship team, and the second (again, my opinion) Union lost to Quinnipiac, we see that such things are cyclical. Union was nearly back-to-back Frozen Four.

        Are their teams in any league that might be called doormats? But no fan “hopes” to play a certain league, since wins are not handed out based on paper. I am sure that those teams that played Cornell or Colgate in the last 15 years did not like grinding out those tournament games.

    • jsfny

      You do know that SOS is just a formula, right? It’s just the winning percentage of your opponents and the winning percentage of your opponents’ opponents. There’s no judgment in it, and it’s the same for every team, so it can’t be biased.

    • Steve_Gruhn

      As jsfny indicates, the SOS is merely a mathematical formula. However, I do think the formula might need a bit of tweaking if the RPI SOS for Quinnipiac is the sixth highest, yet is only the 27th highest in the nation on the KRACH SOS listing. One or the other (or both) are in need of some serious tweaking.

  • Joseph Crowley

    Congratulations to Yale. It took quite a lot to get that last one by Hellebuyck!

    Good luck in the National Championship. It looks like you will be playing your friendly neighbors just south of you.

    • jsfny

      They’re actually slightly to the Northeast, but thanks!

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