PITTSBURGH — Notice to the college hockey world: You can stop referring to Yale as Cinderella.
After an absolute domination of Massachusetts-Lowell in the NCAA semifinals, the Yale Bulldogs — the 15th overall team in the tournament and last at-large team to earn a bid — will play in their first national title game.
2013 NCAA Frozen Four
Follow all of our coverage at Frozen Four Central
Yale will play the winner of Thursday’s second semifinal between Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State.
The goal came on a nifty individual effort from Miller, forcing a turnover at the Yale offensive blue line, walking around a flat-footed Greg Amlong and then making a nice move to stuff the puck between Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyck’s pads.
“That’s probably the biggest goal in the history of Yale hockey,” Yale coach Keith Allain said. “Andrew has been a great player for us all four years. But he’s made a remarkable transformation into a leadership role this year.”
The goal completed a near-perfect effort by the Bulldogs, its third in this tournament having already ousted two of the nation’s powers in Minnesota and North Dakota. Yale did an effective job bottling up Lowell, making its transition game nearly non-existent.
“I think one of the things that we did best to keep them from getting in transition was we were very patient and disciplined offensively with the puck,” Allain said. “I think where they get teams into trouble is to get them to try to do something they shouldn’t do, and they pick it off and they’re off to the races because they have such great quickness.”
Yale opened the scoring at the tail end of the game’s first power play. Taking advantage of an odd-man rush, Yale worked the puck deep. On a centering pass, the puck hit a Lowell player and bounced directly to the right point, where Mitch Witek fired a shot through a screen set by Kenny Agostino, beating Hellebuyck (44 saves).
A second Bulldogs power play late in the frame didn’t produce a goal but the ensuing pressure did. After Lowell’s Zack Kamrass failed to clear the puck, Yale’s Matt Killian skated the puck off the half wall and fired a low shot. Though Hellebuyck made the save, the rebound bounced right to the stick of Antoine Laganiere, who promptly buried the shot to give Yale a 2-0 lead through one.
Yale outshot the River Hawks 11-5 in the first period.
What perhaps was the harbinger of Lowell’s fate came while killing a penalty early in the second period. Captain Riley Wetmore picked off a pass and had a breakaway from his defensive blue line. About to make a move on Yale goaltender Jeff Malcolm (16 saves), he lost an edge and went sprawling into the net, the puck drifting well wide.
But at 8:59, Lowell’s luck began to change. Yale’s Jesse Root, an offensive hero in the regional tournament, fired a shot Hellebuyck never saw. The puck clanged off the crossbar to keep the Yale lead at two.
Less than three minutes later, the River Hawks went on the power play for the first time in the game. As the penalty expired, Wetmore made a nifty play to intercept a shot from the point by Derek Arnold. After the puck bounced off a Yale defender, Wetmore pulled off a 180-degree spin, burying the puck on his backhand.
Just 14 seconds later, Joseph Pendenza tied things. Taking a pretty drop pass from linemate A.J. White, Pendenza got off a quick snap shot that appeared to redirect off Yale defenseman Tommy Fallen’s stick and over Malcolm’s shoulder.
They were the sixth-fastest two goals in Frozen Four history.
Despite tying the game, the goals did little to swing the momentum. Yale responded with puck control almost immediately and carried that into the third.
“It should have [changed momentum],” Pendenza said. “Their D played really well and held the blue line.
“They did what we usually do to other teams, so a little taste of our own medicine, kind of.”
In the third, Yale again dominated the River Hawks, outshooting them 16-3. The Bulldogs pinned Lowell in their defensive zone nearly the entire period, forcing the River Hawks to ice the puck upwards of 10 times.
The best threat for Yale was a three-on-one break with 3:40 remaining. Coming across the line, Ryan Obuchowski found Clinton Bourbonais across the seam. With nothing between Bourbonais and Hellebuyck, the puck hopped off his stick.
That sent the game to overtime, where it was Miller’s night to be the hero.
For Lowell, there will be time to reflect on the best season in program history, but on Thursday the struggle to have any sort of answer to Yale’s stiffing defense had the River Hawks shaking their heads.
“They post a lot of guys in the neutral zone, and usually they can adjust to that; we have in the last couple of weeks against teams that are very similar,” Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “However, we had no response. It was just one of those games that the magic certainly wasn’t there tonight in terms of skating and being able to adjust on the fly.”