College Hockey:
The road never traveled: Yale completes unparalled title run

No one had ever beaten three No. 1 seeds in the same NCAA tournament until the Bulldogs' national championship.

— No road to a national championship is easy, but none ranks as difficult as the one Yale just traversed to become the 2013 NCAA champions. The Bulldogs defeated an unprecedented three No. 1 seeds and a No. 2.

At the start of the four-game journey, little reason for optimism existed.

After losing eight of their last 14 games — including an ignominious shutout weekend in which they fell 5-0 to Union in the ECAC Hockey semifinal and then 3-0 to Quinnipiac in the consolation game — the Bulldogs had to wait for the final conference tournament game in the country to find out if they’d make the NCAA tournament or not.

If Michigan defeated Notre Dame, Yale’s season would be over. But if the Irish prevailed, the Bulldogs would have life.

The Irish came through.

“We were definitely big fans [of Notre Dame] that day,” Gus Young said. “But once we knew we were in, we knew we belonged, and if we worked hard we’d be able to do something great.”

Most observers had their doubts, and not just because of the team’s stumbles entering the tournament. In the first round, Yale would face the No. 2 team in the country, Minnesota. The Gophers roster was loaded with NHL prospects.

And if somehow the planets aligned and the stumbling Bulldogs toppled the mighty Gophers, North Dakota loomed. Since the mighty WCHA had put six teams into the tournament, and Minnesota and North Dakota were presumably their finest as the two highest seeds, the odds appeared prohibitive.

“You’ve got to take it one step at a time,” Andrew Miller said. “It’s not four games. It’s game one, then game two, game three, and game four. You’ve got to take it a step at a time and a period at a time.”

It was a mantra preached by Yale coach Keith Allain.

“One of the special things about our team, and one of the qualities of all champions, is the great ability to focus,” Allain said. “If we look down the road and say we’re going to have to beat three No. 1s and a No. 2 seed, the task might have seemed daunting.

“But we went into Grand Rapids focused on Minnesota and took care of that job. We focused on North Dakota.

“When you chip away at it one at a time, [it becomes possible]. It took a great deal of effort, but it wasn’t impossible.”

The Bulldogs toppled Minnesota 3-2 in overtime, then exploded with four goals in the final eight minutes of the third period to defeat North Dakota 4-1.

In the Frozen Four semifinal game, Yale faced another No. 1 seed, Massachusetts-Lowell, a team on a 25-3-1 roll. The Bulldogs needed another overtime but continued their trend of late-game dominance, outshooting the River Hawks 23-3 in the third period and overtime to advance to the title game.

“We prided ourselves on being the hardest working team in college hockey,” Young said. “To win the championship, we knew we’d have to be the hardest working team.”

The championship game beckoned, and with it came not only a third No. 1 seed, but the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, Quinnipiac. And, oh yes, the Bobcats had beaten Yale five straight times over two years, three this season by a cumulative score of 13-3.

The recipe for putting away the final team in Yale’s Murderer’s Row of opponents was the same as the one that had doomed the previous three.

“We just worried about ourselves,” Young said. “We knew if we stuck to our game plan, we knew we could beat anyone in the country no matter who we were up against.

“So we stuck to our game plan and really focused on ourselves and got it done.”

The Bulldogs won the school’s first national championship, defeating their rivals from just eight miles away in satisfying fashion, 4-0.

“Tonight was our turn,” Allain said. “Our kids were ready, committed, and congratulations to them for having a fine hockey season.”

Yale had taken the proverbial road less traveled, at least the road less traveled successfully, and as it turned out, that made all the difference.

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  • DRDR

    Yale hockey inspires all of us who do just enough to get by during the school year but somehow pull it all together in the end

    • Joseph Crowley

      Almost makes you feel good for a bunch of Ivy League kids overcoming long odds….

    • Joe

      They beat three #1′s, and it isn’t possible to beat four. Well done, Elis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mvhuber Mark Huber

    All of the fans of the WCHA and HEA have been bickering about the strongest conference. There is absolutely no doubt that the ECAC was the class of the NCAA this year. In my mind the best 3 teams were Yale, Quinnipiac and Union. No ECAC team lost to a team outside of the ECAC in this year’s NCAAs. That is incredible.

    • Joseph Crowley

      Some Hockey East fans have been saying that the ECAC is an elite conference. Yale just ended a drought of the ECAC not having the best team in the country. Entering the Frozen Four, there were four elite leagues, CCHA, ECAC, HE, WCHA and one developing league, AHA.

      Now, we have four elite leagues, BTHC, ECAC, HE, NCHC, one league closer to elite be rebuilding in nWCHA and one developing league, AHA. The new WCHA is hard to figure out its rightful place, since it has programs very similar to the elite leagues without a “major” name program equal to what it might have been twenty plus years ago.


        Depends on what you define as “Elite.” If winning a Nation championship makes your league elite, then yes. Elite is defined as “a group of persons exercising the major share of authority or influence within a larger group.” With that, I would say the WCHA could be coined as an elite league. I would say the HEA could also be, however, the HE is mainly BC. If you are talking this year, then the ECAC could grab that title and the WCHA could argue for it, since they had 6 teams in the tourney and 1 in the FF. The ECAC did great this year, but I think we throw around the term elite very loosely. When you try and say that 4 out of 5 leagues are elite, you are basically saying that there is 1 bad league.

        • Joseph Crowley

          What I am saying here, in other posts in this thread and other threads in this site is that there are leagues with elite teams with players that are tremendous college athletes, many of which will turn pro. Leagues with great fans, great rinks and great traditions. Leagues with tremendous rivalries.

          You are correct in your assessment of nWCHA, they will remain an elite league. But I think too many people assign elite to too few leagues. College Hockey is a sport with very deep roots.

          Finally, Hockey East is more than BC. BC has been the class of Hockey East for the past decade, but BU has won a title, Lowell and Vermont have been to Frozen Fours in the past five years, with Northeastern nearly getting there. Maine and BU won titles in the late 90s and UNH went to a couple of Frozen Fours in that same period, including losing the Maine. Great run by BC, but Hockey East is a deep league.

  • brizysdaddy

    Can’t speak of any superiority of the ECAC having only seen a few games but I can Speak of the WCHA as still one of the best conferences in the NCAA. After watching the tournament this year however I can understand how one could call the ECAC the best.
    Easy to see why Quinnipiac was ranked over my beloved Gophers. Not easy to see why Yale was ONLY ranked the 15th.
    Simply wonderful Hockey you have in the east. Thank you Q and Y for a great game!

  • hockeyman41

    This Yale run has the makings of a Hollywood movie; “Bulldogs masquerade as Underdogs”……

  • Joseph Crowley

    Yale was such a dominant team once it got into the tournament. What a remarkable feat. I would say that North Dakota was at least as good as Lowell and better than BC or Notre Dame. Also, Quinnipiac was no joke and neither was ECAC league play or tournament play. Remember that Brown nearly got the autobid, Union made BC look really bad and RPI was a bubble team.

    Championships are won by teams, not leagues, and this year, one could argue the best two teams in the nation were Quinnipiac and Yale. What a great thing to have so many great teams in the tournament, representing all leagues. The AHA put great scares in Quinnipiac and North Dakota before falling.

    • Brian Parke

      Parity is a great thing for college hockey. It is one of thing driving factors for the popularity of the NFL. The idea of, “any given Sunday” or in this case Friday and Saturday is huge. For the most part, people don’t enjoy college hockey because they haven’t been exposed to it. Once they are, they love it. I hope this will serve to grow non traditional fans.

  • reardensteel

    Anyone look at the Pickem results?

    The winning entrant correctly picked every single game except Union/BC! And that actually seemed like the easiest upset to call, IMHO.

    Plus about 15 people picked Yale to win it all!

    Were these people just pulling for their favorites?
    Were they just guessing?
    Or (I shudder to think)… are my WCHA welding goggles so dark that I just couldn’t see how good those other teams were?

    Oh, retrospect, how I loathe you!

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