Yale tops UMass Lowell in Frozen Four opener
It could be considered an upset, if only because Massachusetts Lowell was a No. 1 seed entering the Frozen Four at Consol Energy Center.
No. 4 seed Yale dominated large stretches of Thursday's first national semifinal, more than doubling UMass Lowell's shot total and finally securing a 3-2 victory on senior Andrew Miller's goal with 13:01 remaining in overtime.
“That's probably the biggest goal in the history of Yale hockey,” coach Keith Allain said of the Bulldogs' first win in the Frozen Four. The school's only other appearance in the Frozen Four in 1952 resulted in a loss.
Yale (21-12-3) faces Quinnipiac in Saturday's national championship game. The Bulldogs are the third No. 4 seed to advance to the championship game and the first ECAC team to play in the title game since Colgate in 1990.
“People can say what they say, but we beat some really good hockey teams,” Miller said.
Ninety minutes prior to the opening faceoff, Yale's players relaxed by kicking and heading a soccer ball in a hallway outside their locker room. The Bulldogs were so good, the ball rarely touched the ground.
When the game opened, Yale was the more relaxed team and played like it.
The Bulldogs were faster and more aggressive. They created tempo and kept the puck in UMass Lowell's end while peppering freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who was brilliant in defeat with 44 saves.
UMass Lowell coach Norn Bazin said it was apparent early that his team was struggling.
“The magic wasn't there in terms of skating and being able to adjust on the fly,” Bazin said of the River Hawks, who entered the Frozen Four having won 14 of their last 15 games. “Some days you're on and some days you're not. Today we were not.”
Yale's Mitch Witek picked the perfect time for his first goal of the season. Witek scored on the power play with 7:05 remaining in the first period. The goal was set up when UMass Lowell forward Shayne Thompson went off for high sticking.
Antoine Laganiere made it 2-0 when he tapped in a rebound of a Matt Killian shot with only 55 seconds left in the period. Yale outshot UMass Lowell, 11-5, in the opening period.
However, UMass Lowell flipped the momentum in the second period. The River Hawks exploded for two goals in less than 20 seconds to tie the score at 2-2.
Junior Riley Wentmore wrapped a backhander around goaltender Jeff Malcolm at the 5:22 mark. Dereck Arnold and Penguins 2011 draft pick Scott Wilson were credited with assists.
Fourteen seconds later, Joseph Pendenza received a clever backhand pass from A.J. White on the right wing. Pendenza's goal made it 2-2 at the 5:08 mark.
UMass Lowell attempted only three more shots the remainder of the game.
After regulation, Yale had attempted 40 shots to 18 for UMass Lowell. Hellebuyck's acrobatics in goal kept the score close early — and late. At game's end, Yale outshot UMass Lowell 47-18.
“It was a good bouncing puck, and I think it caught a defenseman flat footed,” Miller said of his game winner. “They have a really good goaltender, and he played a really good game. We were able to put one past them, and it's an honor to move on.”
“It was as good an effort that we've had,” Allain said. “As much as we created offensively, I thought we were rock-solid defensively.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.