GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Nine seconds into sudden-death overtime is all it took.
Jesse Root scored his 10th goal of the season shortly after the puck dropped for overtime, and Yale sent home West Regional top seed Minnesota with a 3-2 victory on Friday in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
2013 NCAA West Regional
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Kenny Agostino aggressively went to Minnesota’s defense on the forecheck after the Gophers won the opening faceoff in the extra session.
The Minnesota bench barely was settled in before their season was declared over.
“I actually have a pretty good picture of it,” Yale coach Keith Allain said. “I thought to myself, ‘Kenny’s going to force a turnover here,’ and he put such great pressure on. He had him at an angle and I knew the guy was in trouble.”
Agostino indeed forced the turnover behind the Minnesota net and fed Root for the quick putaway.
Yale (19-12-3) advanced to Saturday’s regional championship and will play the North Dakota-Niagara winner for a spot in the Frozen Four.
Minnesota rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period but saw its season end at 26-9-5.
It was scoreless going into the second period but Yale scored twice in that period.
The first Bulldogs goal came from Agostino, who scored an even-strength tally for the Bulldogs 7:08 into the second period. Andrew Miller and Rob O’Gara picked up the helpers on that goal.
Although neither team had much momentum during the second period, Yale was able to capitalize again.
With 4:32 left in the second period, Gus Young scored a power-play goal with a long shot that eluded Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox.
Going into the third period, Yale had done what most teams were not been able to this season: shut down the Gophers’ offense. Coming into the regionals, Minnesota was the top-scoring offense in the country, averaging 3.48 goals per game. Yale has the 29th-best defense.
Minnesota was not ready to toss in the towel just yet. At the 8:12 mark of the third period, Nate Schmidt scored his ninth goal of the season on the power play.
Five minutes and 28 seconds later, Zach Budish scored the game-tying goal and the tides were turning.
The momentum was in favor of the Gophers throughout the third period; they outshot Yale 12-6.
“Going down 2-0 after two, it kind of puts your back against the wall,” Minnesota forward Zach Budish said. “We were able to get two goals. I thought we had a good chance to win in overtime.”
The way things turned out, they didn’t get a chance.
“I thought we got better as the game went on. I thought when we tied it we were in great shape,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “Like every season, no matter where you are or what happens, it’s always disappointing when the season ends and looking at the guys in the locker room.”
Minnesota outshot Yale 28-25. Yale was 1-for-3 on the power play; Minnesota was 1-for-5.
“I think it was a hard-fought hockey game,” Allain said. “From our perspective, it was a tremendous team win. I thought man to man, our guys played as well as they could play. We were fortunate enough to eke it out in overtime.”
His one negative takeaway from Friday’s game?
“We’ll have to do a much better job with faceoffs tomorrow night,” he said. “It was pretty lopsided.”