Goals don’t come suddenly for Yale, Minnesota — until the end

“It happened so quick. That’s why they call it sudden death.”

That quip by Minnesota coach Don Lucia summarized the overtime in the West Regional opener on Friday — nine seconds, one goal, a 3-2 Yale win — but there was little preceding Jesse Root’s game-winning goal that could be called sudden, not for either team.

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Both the Golden Gophers and the Bulldogs were held scoreless in their last conference game. For Minnesota, it was a 2-0 loss to Colorado College in the WCHA Final Five semifinals on March 22. Before junior defenseman Nate Schmidt scored on the power play at 8:12 in the third period, the Gophers had been held scoreless for 69 minutes and five seconds.

For the Bulldogs, the scoring drought was even longer. Yale didn’t score a single goal in last weekend’s ECAC Hockey Championship, losing 5-0 to Union in a semifinal game and 3-0 to Quinnipiac in the third-place game. Between senior Andrew Miller’s third-period goal in Yale’s 6-1 win over St. Lawrence on March 15 and junior Kenny Agostino goal in the second period of this contest, the Bulldogs had gone 163:47 without a tally.

At tournament time, though, it doesn’t matter if the No. 1 seed has the top offense in the country, averaging 3.48 goals per game, and the No. 4 seed has the 26th-best offense, averaging 2.82 goals per contest.

At least, it didn’t matter Friday.

“We had a lot of attempted shots but they blocked a lot of shots and we missed the net a lot,” Lucia said. “When you’re not getting pucks to the net, you don’t get an opportunity to get second shots. You don’t get an opportunity to create some momentum from that.

“In the game, we attempted 81 shots and only twenty-something were on the net. They blocked 25 and we missed 27, 28 games. When you’re attempting that many shots and only a third of them are getting to the net, you don’t create momentum by getting pucks around the goalie, rebounds, scramble plays.”

While the Bulldogs statistically have the 29th-best defense nationally, coach Keith Allain said that the only number that mattered for the Yale blue line were the numbers five and one: five players, one team.

“I think our guys checked pretty tenaciously tonight,” Allain said. “We kept the play in front of us. We hounded the puck and tried to take away their time and space. We were able to do that as a unit of five rather than individually.”

Yale senior defenseman Colin Dueck said that the Bulldogs didn’t have a game plan specific to the Gophers.

“We didn’t do anything that we wouldn’t normally do,” Dueck said. “They’re a high-scoring team. We tried to be in the shot lanes a lot, so we blocked a lot of shots today and that was big. Try to keep them to the outside. Try to keep them from getting chances.”

And Dueck echoed his coach about Bulldogs’ unity. “I think it’s just a real team effort,” he said.. “A lot of guys were blocking shots. We were keeping them outside a lot. Our PK has been really good. Even last weekend when we weren’t playing well our PK was good, and that’s been huge, especially because they’re a good power-play team.”

Outscored 8-0 in the ECAC tournament, the Bulldogs kept their opponents to no goals with the man advantage.