Yale, Quinnipiac punch tickets to Frozen Four final
Yale edges UMass Lowell in OT, Quinnipiac cruises past St. Cloud State
Andrew Miller scored 6:59 into overtime to lift Yale to a 3-2 victory over UMass Lowell in the NCAA men's hockey semifinals Thursday night in Pittsburgh, Penn.
The senior captain raced around a pair of River Hawks defenders then slipped a backhand shot between the legs of UMass Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. The Bulldogs (21-12-3) will play Quinnipiac or St. Cloud State in the final Saturday.
Mitch Witek and Antoine Laganiere of Ile Cadieux, Que., gave Yale an early two-goal lead and the Bulldogs controlled play for long stretches but couldn't finish off the top-seeded River Hawks in regulation.
Riley Wetmore and Joseph Pendenza scored 14 seconds apart in the second period for Lowell (28-11-2) and Hellebuyck nearly made it stand up. He stopped 44 shots but had no answer when Miller zipped to the net.
Jeff Malcolm of Lethbridge, Alta., made 16 saves but didn't even see a shot in overtime as Yale buzzed Hellebuyck before Miller broke through.
The Bulldogs took out perennial NCAA powers Minnesota and North Dakota on the program's way to its first Frozen Four appearance in 61 years. Yale is the only of the four participants to ever play in a national semifinal before this year, and is now one win away from a title.
The River Hawks had stormed to the Frozen Four behind a suffocating defence and the stellar goaltending of Hellebuyck. UMass Lowell allowed all of six goals during a seven-game winning streak, and won the Hockey East regular season and tournament titles.
In 20 minutes, though, all that momentum disappeared.
The Bulldogs took the lead 12:45 into the first period when Witek scored his first goal of the season in the waning seconds of an otherwise ragged Yale power play. The Bulldogs were unable to sustain anything until a late rush ended up with Carson Cooper feeding Witek at the top of the right circle. The bouncing, skitter shot didn't have much on it but slid by Hellebuyck to put the River Hawks behind for the first time in the NCAA tournament.
Laganiere made it 2-0 with less than a minute to go in the first, jamming home a rebound off a Matt Killian shot for his 15th of the season.
The period ended with the River Hawks and Hellebuyck — named Most Outstanding Player of the Northeast Regional after surrendering just one goal — reeling while Yale continued its impressive run.
The road to the final appeared smooth deep into the second period, as well. Yale controlled play at both ends, outskating the bigger and slower River Hawks for long stretches. Pittsburgh native Jesse Root nearly pushed Yale's lead to 3-0 when a wrist shot found its way through traffic and clanged off the goalpost.
It was all the reprieve UMass Lowell would need.
Wetmore gave the River Hawks life 14:38 into the second period, stopping Derek Arnold's shot from the point then flipping the puck to his backhand and into a wide open net.
Before the Bulldogs could catch their breath, it was tied. UMass Lowell won the ensuing faceoff and A.J. White raced down the right side and slid a backhand pass to Pendenza at the top of the right circle. Malcolm fanned his glove at it but the puck was already by him, evening a seemingly one-sided game in the blink of an eye.
Hellebuyck sent the game to overtime almost by himself. Yale dominated the third period, outshooting the River Hawks 16-3. Each time, Hellebuyck was equal to the task. Perfectly positioned, he allowed the Bulldogs to continue firing pucks right at his chest.
Quinnipiac 4, St. Cloud State 1
Quinnipiac jumped to an early lead and cruised past St. Cloud State 4-1 on Thursday in the NCAA hockey semifinals.
Jordan Samuels-Thomas had a goal and an assist for the top-seeded Bobcats while Ben Arnt, Kellen Jones and Jeremy Langlois also scored for Quinnipiac (30-7-5), who will play in-state rival Yale in the final Saturday.
Hobey Baker Award finalist Eric Hartzell stopped 32 shots for the Bobcats, easily outshining fellow finalist Drew LeBlanc of St. Cloud State. LeBlanc was held scoreless as the Huskies (25-16-1) struggled to keep up with Quinnipiac. Joey Benik scored his tournament-leading fifth goal for St. Cloud State but it wasn't nearly enough.
Ryan Faragher made 24 saves for the Huskies but was overwhelmed in the first period as Quinnipiac scored three times in the first 12 minutes to grab control.
The buzz from Yale's 3-2 overtime victory against UMass Lowell had barely died down when the Bobcats jumped on the Huskies. Samuels-Thomas gave Quinnipiac the lead 1:49 into the game, working behind the net then beating Faragher on a wraparound.
The Bobcats needed just over three minutes to double its lead. Samuels-Thomas again did most of the work, controlling the puck in the corner then darting behind the St. Cloud State goal. This time, when he tried to stuff it by Faragher the puck skittered loose. No biggie, the puck rolled right to Arnt's stick and the senior had little trouble flipping it over Faragher's right shoulder for his eighth goal of the season.
Langlois pushed the lead to 3-0 barely halfway through the period, giving Hartzell all the cushion he would need.
St. Cloud managed to regain its footing after falling into such an early hole and pulled to within 3-1 6:25 into the second period. Hartzell made an uncharacteristic mistake, committing early to a shot from Kevin Gravel and found himself woefully out of position as the puck found its way to Benik's stick at the doorstep. Benik had so much time to score he was able to collect himself before depositing it into the net for his eighth goal of the season.
Quinnipiac's lapse was only momentary. The Bobcats came in 25-0-1 when scoring at least three goals, and though St. Cloud State recovered a bit after the early collapse, it wasn't nearly enough to derail Quinnipiac's run.
Jones restored the three-goal lead on a stellar effort by Jones, who took a pass off the boards and raced into the zone. He turned left and headed for the net, fighting off St. Cloud State's Andrew Prochno and flipping the puck by Faragher's stick.
The loss marked an end to a remarkable season for the Huskies, who started the year as an afterthought before capturing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title for the first time since joining the league in 1990.
Victories over Notre Dame and Miami propelled St. Cloud State into its first Frozen Four appearance, but Quinnipiac — and it's talented roster of experienced players — was simply too much.
The Bobcats, sensing a trip to the final in their grasp, clamped down the rest of the way to set up a showdown with the Bulldogs.
Quinnipiac dominated all three meetings with Yale this season, outscoring the Bulldogs 13-3 on its way to the ECAC regular-season title.
The matchup between the Bobcats and the Bulldogs assures the ECAC — which for years has struggled in the shadow of the formidable Hockey East — its first national title since Harvard won it in 1989.