From Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director:
The Yale men’s hockey team took one more giant step towards its goal of winning a national championship today when Jesse Root scored nine seconds into overtime in the opening semifinal of the NCAA West Regional. The No. 15 Bulldogs defeated top-ranked Minnesota, 3-2, to move within a game of the 2013 Frozen Four.
The Elis (19-12-3), overcame the momentum shift from losing a two-goal lead in the third period, to end the Gophers’ season in what some experts believe was the fastest NCAA Tournament overtime goal. Yale faces the winner of the North Dakota-Niagara semifinal at 4 p.m. (ESPNU) on Saturday at Van Andel Arena.
“I lost the draw, so I was going to my fore-check spot. Kenny [Agostino] put great pressure on their defense. He had to turn and kept pressuring them,” said Root, who can’t remember ever scoring an OT goal in his career. “He ended up behind the net. Ken forced the turnover and he looked off [Andrew] Miller and put it right to me. I was heading to my position on the left wing. Goalie never saw the pass. I had the puck come to me with an empty side of the net. I just tried to get it off as quick as I could.”
Minnesota (26-9-5) seemed to have things in control after winning the face-off in OT. The puck was skated down by a Gopher defender who lost it quickly to Agostino, who led the Blue with two points today. The other defenseman went to Miller, and that left Root open on the left side for the one-timer that caught Adam Wilcox (23 saves) by surprise.
Some of the stunned Minnesota players mentioned they didn’t even get a chance to get situated on the bench before the goal. UM head coach Don Lucia said in the press conference he never saw the goal scored, and that it didn’t even feel like his team had a chance to play the overtime.
Yale senior goalie Jeff Malcolm blanked the nation’s top offensive squad for a little over 48 minutes and finished with 26 saves and his first NCAA Tournament win.
“It was a hard-fought hockey game,” said Keith Allain ’80, Yale’s Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach. “It was a tremendous team win. To a man, our guys played as well as they could play, and we were fortunate to win it in overtime.”
The first three shots to be on target came from Minnesota, but the Bulldogs answered with the next six, the result of two advantages. One of those shots came on a Miller one-timer blast from the left circle on Yale’s second power play that caught the left post and bounced out.
The Bulldogs finished the first frame with an 11-7 edge in shots and a number of grade-A chances. The Gophers also had three or four quality opportunities, including a shot late in the period that went off Malcolm’s pad and then off the pipe. UM did not get a shot on goal during its one power play.
It went scoreless into the 27th minute. That’s when the Elis used the momentum from an excellent penalty kill to get on the board. Rob O’Gara grabbed the puck in his defensive zone and passed ahead to Miller, who was skating with a 2-on-1 and speed. He drew the defense to him, stopped in the right circle and fed Agostino at the top of the slot. Agostino took a few strides and then ripped one over Wilcox’s right shoulder at 7:08 for his 16th of the year.
Yale made it 2-0 with a power play late in the second. Matt Killian fired a shot from the point that was blocked by the defense, and the puck bounced out to Clinton Bourbonais who quickly moved it over to Gus Young. The junior blueliner, in the high slot with traffic in front of the net, sent a rising wrist shot inside the left post at 15:28.
Minnesota had a 9-8 advantage in shots in the second but went 0-for-3 on the power play and were down two after 40 minutes.
The Gophers broke through with their first power play of the third on a long shot from the point through traffic. Nate Schmidt’s low wrister found an opening at 8:12 to make it 2-1. The video of the goal showed Malcolm getting screened a few big bodies in the low slot.
UM, which had six more shots on goal than Yale in the third, got the equalizer with a re-direction shot off the pipe with 6:20 left by Zach Budish, who was on the edge of the crease when he made contact with the crossing pass.
The Bulldogs could have lost a lot of wind in their sails after the lead evaporated. They kept skating and applying pressure. Yale has played eight overtime games this year and its last NCAA Tourney win came in OT in 2011, so there were guys with plenty of pressure experience.
“You have to get your nose bloody a couple of times to see how you respond. I think we saw a pretty good response,” said Allain, who has his squad in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last five years.
The game-winning goal and call (from WYBC’s Evan Frondorf) will air on NBC Sports Network’s NHL Overtime at 11:30 EDT tonight… Root’s goal was his 10th this year… Yale is 5-0-3 in OT in 2012-13… The Blue is 3-0 (N. Dakota, Air Force) in its last three NCAA Regional Semifinals… This was the second Yale game in the NCAA Tournament to need extra time. The other was a regional semifinal against Air Force in 2011… Gus Young hit the net for the second time this season… UM’s power play goal in the third was the first given up by Yale in six games… The four officials were from Hockey East… The ice sheet at Van Andel was 200×85, like Ingalls, but the bluelines were at 64 feet (from the goal line), making the offensive zones four feet larger than the Whale… The one change in the lineup from last weekend was Matt Killian, a defenseman, in for forward Cody Learned.