PITTSBURGH — Of the nine games Yale played against Quinnipiac since Jeff Malcolm has been with the Bulldogs, he played in just three going into Saturday.
But in the biggest game of his life with a national title on the line, Malcolm made the most of an opportunity to shut down the rival Bobcats.
2013 NCAA Frozen Four
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“It’s tough to not get up for a national championship game,” said Malcolm, who turned 24 on Saturday. “My day was the same as any other. I just felt comfortable in there today, and we got some bounces.”
Yale played Quinnipiac twice during the regular season in February when Malcolm was out with an injury after a Princeton player crashed into him on Feb. 1.
When Malcolm returned on Feb. 23, Yale began to roll. The Bulldogs lost all five games he missed but went 9-2 upon his return while Malcolm posted a .923 save percentage with a 1.87 goals against average.
Malcolm allowed one goal or fewer in five games since his return, with two shutouts.
“When Jeff got hurt, it was a sad feeling for our team,” Yale captain Andrew Miller said. “We were more personally worried about him. We didn’t want him to go out like that his senior year.”
Malcolm beat Quinnipiac once in his career as a freshman in 2009 but lost the two since then, including a 3-0 loss in this year’s ECAC Hockey Championship consolation game.
His career numbers against the Bobcats going into Saturday were nine goals allowed on 74 shots (.878 save percentage), but in the championship game, Malcolm shook the monkey off his back.
Quinnipiac players said they not only saw a different Yale team Saturday than the Bulldogs they’d beaten three times prior, but also a better Malcolm between the pipes.
“Yeah, that’s the best I’ve ever seen him play,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “He’s been kind of streaky in his career there. He gets on runs.
“But, yeah, Malcolm was great tonight. You’ve got to give the kid credit. It’s the biggest game of his career, and he pitches a shutout. We had 30-something shots. I don’t know what we had. But we definitely had a lot of chances in the first two periods.”
Added Quinnipiac defenseman Mike Dalhuisen: “I saw a really good goalie. Malcolm stood on his head and he won the game for them.”
Malcolm withstood a second period in which Quinnipiac put 15 shots on goal, including seven on one two-minute power play, and stopped the Bobcats’ four high-quality opportunities around the crease.
Malcolm’s 36 saves tied his season high.
“Jeff played great all night. You could tell right from the start, he was feeling it,” Yale senior Colin Dueck said. “In the second period, he made a pretty good short breakaway stop and I knew at that point, he’s just closing the door.”