The extraordinary had happened: Losers of three consecutive games against East Coast Athletic Conference rival Quinnipiac this season, Yale finally had beaten the Bobcats, and in no small arena.
Before an announced attendance of 18,184, capping an improbable Frozen Four run with the 2013 national championship, the 15th seed in the 16-team NCAA tournament mastered the nation’s top-ranked team.
“I think it’s difficult to beat anyone in college hockey,” Yale captain Andrew Miller said. “Night in and night out, there is so much parity. In the NCAA tournament, anybody can beat anybody, and whoever has the hottest goalie and plays the best team game wins. I think we did that for the last four games.”
Miller, a senior, toted home Most Outstanding Player honors along with the national championship trophy he squired on the postgame interview dais. Another senior, goaltender Jeff Malcolm, toted home his teammates’ MVP, winning the goalie war against Quinnipiac’s Eric Hartzell, a Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist.
Malcolm made 36 saves; Hartzell made 27, yielding three goals (the final Yale score came at 13:02 of the third period, an empty-netter by Pittsburgh native Eric Root).
Unlike their past three games, which Quinnipiac had won by a collective score of 13-3, the teams played as heavyweights on the national stage, delivering hard hits and trading scoring chances, with Malcolm and Hartzell sharp, early, behind them.
The game-changer occurred with four seconds remaining in the second period — a Clinton Bourbonais shot from Hartzell’s right that zipped between his knees into the net.
Yale delivered three more scores in the third period — Charles Ozetti’s at 3:25 (a near replay of Bourbonais’), Miller’s at 9:06 and Root’s — all stakes in Quinnipiac’s heart.
“One of the things that I felt coming into the game [Saturday] that gave us an edge is they hadn’t seen our A-game in the previous three games,” Yale head coach Keith Allain said. “They saw the result of it, but I don’t think they knew what we had become as a hockey team, and I thought we could surprise them a little bit with that.”
A crucial 5-on-3 penalty kill halfway through the second period was another sign the Bulldogs were re-introducing themselves to the Bobcats. Another sign occurred in the third, according to Allain.
“He’s a quiet, hard-working individual, and he’s a great team guy,” Allain said of Malcolm. “[Saturday] they had a couple of chances early, and it made me yell on the bench that Jeff was sharp. But to me what it epitomized was we get the goal late in the second period. They come out, and they’re really pushing in the first three or four minutes of the third period, they were getting chance after chance, and he held the fort for us.”
“The national tournament, if you can’t get up for that, you don’t really have a heartbeat,” Malcolm said. “But there are a lot of good goaltenders in college hockey. That doesn’t change the fact that I still have to play a game. I mean, it doesn’t really affect me.”
Yale defenseman Colin Dueck said Malcolm’s performance allowed his teammates to concentrate on the game plan.
“Playing in front of him, I mean, that’s huge for us,” Dueck said, “because we’re confident. We’re just trying to get in the shot lanes. We’re playing the guy and not worrying about if shots do get by because he’s going to be there. I think it was solid defense and, obviously, he was really solid in that.”
To Allain, Malcolm more than escaped Hartzell’s shadow.
“He did what great goaltenders do.” Allain said. “He gave us a chance to win.”