Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Yale Wins First Ever National Championship

Cinderella story? I don't think so. The Yale Bulldogs shocked a lot of people in their upset victory over Minnesota, but it's hard to say they weren't capable of achieving what they did. The Bulldogs finished 22-12-3, a respectable record especially after a five-game losing streak in February that included a 4-1 loss to Qunnipiac, who they beat in the National Championship game. Although Yale ranked 27th in the nation in team defense leading up to the NCAA tournament, they allowed an average of about 1.5 goals against per game throughout the tournament. How could such a turnaround happen? Well, against Minnesota, Yale played a trap for much of the game, forcing players to go to the outside. With the
2013 NCAA Men's Division I Hockey Champion Yale Bulldogs
amount of pure talent and scorers that the Gophers have, playing along the boards is not their strong suit. They gave themselves a 2-0 lead until Minnesota tied things up with two third period goals. However, Yale scored an NCAA record nine seconds into overtime to upset the overall #2 seed in the tournament (#1 in the region). Many thought their luck would run out against North Dakota, but not quite. UND scored early in the game, in what was the only goal until the last eight minutes of the third period. Yale hung with them and despite being down 1-0 halfway through the final period, scored four goals in the last eight minutes of the game to win 4-1, advancing to their first Frozen Four since 1952...that's right, 61 years. The Bulldogs took this momentum into the Frozen Four in the semifinal game against UMass-Lowell and gained an early 2-0 lead. The Riverhawks fought back though, and scored two goals seventeen seconds apart to tie the game. In overtime, a bouncing puck fooled a Lowell defenseman, and captain Andrew Miller took the puck around him, cut to his backhand and slipped the puck five-hole to catapult his team into their first ever National Championship game. Yale wouldn't stop there, they came out flying against Quinnipiac and won the National Championship by a score of 4-0. This was no Cinderella story; no, this was a team on a mission to win, riding a ton of momentum from each big victory into the next. The ECAC is often regarded as a weak conference, however, the final two teams playing last Saturday both play in the ECAC. Which is why I don't think this is quite a Cinderella run to the championship. I think it reveals the parity of college hockey in that almost any team can win on a given night. It's not a case where a good team can play bad and still win. If you look at teams like Cornell, who lost 9-0 to Quinnipiac in a three game series but won two other games, it shows that any team can pull together in college hockey and win a big game. Congrats to Yale on their first National Championship, and to Tommy Fallen (Armstrong) and Nick Weberg (Shattuck-St. Mary's).

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