PITTSBURGH — The giant slayers have done it again, and this time they slaughtered the biggest of them all.
No. 4 seed Yale scored with 3.5 seconds remaining in the second period to break a scoreless tie and then rattled off three third-period goals to knock off top-seeded Quinnipiac 4-0 Saturday in front of 18,184 at the Consol Energy Center to capture the school’s first national championship.
2013 NCAA Frozen Four
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The most overlooked team to win a national championship since the 1981 Wisconsin squad, Yale rode the back of goaltender Jeff Malcolm, who posted a 36-save shutout.
“Tonight, [Quinnipiac] had a couple of chances early and I could tell on the bench that Jeff was sharp,” Yale coach Keith Allain said. “What really epitomized it was we get the goal late in the second. They come out and they’re really pushing in the first three minutes of the third period. They were getting chance after chance and he held the fort for us. It was after an extended [Quinnipiac] chance that Charles [Orzetti] broke it out for us and came down and scored on the transition.”
That goal, Yale’s second, was not just a backbreaker for Quinnipiac but possibly summed up the night.
After the Bobcats were buzzing, Orzetti broke down the ice and put what looked like a harmless shot on Quinnipiac goaltender Eric Hartzell. Orzetti put the rebound back on net and Hartzell simply missed the puck, letting it slide between his legs, off his pad and into the net.
“I think obviously he’d love to have that second one back,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said of Hartzell. “It’s part of the game.”
Hartzell, in whom Pecknold reaffirmed his belief to be the best player in college hockey this season, picked the wrong night to have a bad game. In addition to Orzetti’s goal, Hartzell turned over the puck late in the second to defenseman Gus Young, who floated a shot that Clinton Bourbonais redirected through Hartzell’s legs.
With Quinnipiac down 2-0 and pressing, Hartzell was again beat through the pads by Yale captain Andrew Miller on a breakaway with 10:54 remaining to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.
Pecknold then pulled his goaltender for an extra skater with 7:34 remaining during a four-on-four and Jesse Root added an empty-netter with 6:58 remaining.
Pecknold said he liked his offense’s chances during the game but, for one reason or another, his club simply couldn’t convert
“I’ll go through the video but there’s probably 10 moments, I mean, bad five-on-three, a couple power plays, good looks, we take a little too long, Jordan [Samuels-Thomas] has the breakaway and Malcolm makes the big save,” Pecknold said. “We scored goals, not in abundance all year, but we’ve been scoring in this tournament. It just wouldn’t go in the net tonight.”
Yale captain Andrew Miller, who with an assist on the empty-net goal became the school’s all-time assist leader with 114, was named the tournament most outstanding player. In addition to scoring the overtime goal on Thursday against Massachusetts-Lowell, he added a goal and assist on Saturday.
“He’s one of the best playmakers that I’ve ever seen at any level,” Allain said. “His vision is incredible. His ability to put the puck in a timely manner to a teammate is great as well.
“We spoke earlier this week that Andrew came in as a great player, but this year he took a huge step forward in terms of his maturity and his leadership.”
Yale won the first national championship for ECAC Hockey since Harvard in 1989, and the Bulldogs beat Quinnipiac for the first time this season after three losses.
The national championship is the first in Yale’s storied program history. The school began playing hockey in 1895 and that season posted a perfect record — two wins and zero losses.
This year’s Yale team finished with a .635 winning percentage, the second-lowest by a national champion (Michigan State was at .552 in 1966).
But four wins in a row, knocking off the second, seventh, third and first overall seeds, have the Bulldogs finally holding the national championship trophy.
When asked what he would do to celebrate, Allain kept it simple.
“I’m just going to go back, sit down and soak it all it,” he said.
Just like any giant slayer would.