PITTSBURGH -- Yale University has produced five U.S. Presidents, 19 Supreme Court justices ... and now an NCAA hockey champion.
Jeff Malcolm made 36 saves for his third shutout of the season, Clinton Bourbonais and Andrew Miller each had a goal and an assist and Yale won its first national championship by beating local rival Quinnipiac 4-0 on Saturday night at Consol Energy Center.
"I came back to prove that you could go to the best university in the world and compete in hockey at the highest level," said Bulldogs coach Keith Allain, a former goalie at the school who has 13 years of experience as a National Hockey League assistant coach. "And this group has proven that this year."
Charles Orzetti and Pittsburgh native Jesse Root added third-period goals for the Bulldogs (22-12-3), who capped an improbable run to what was the first NCAA championship in 24 years for the traditionally lightly-regarded Eastern College Athletic Conference. Fellow Ivy League school Harvard was the most recent ECAC winner -- in 1989.
That's the same year Malcolm, a senior, was born. While Quinnipiac goalie Eric Hartzell was the Hobey Baker Award finalist who has the eye of NHL scouts, Malcolm was better on this stage.
"Jeff played great all night," Yale senior defenseman Colin Dueck said. "You could tell right from the start he was feeling it, getting shots and seeing them and moving well."
Arguably Malcolm's best save was on Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick Matthew Peca three minutes into the second period. Peca walked in alone and got off a backhander that was turned aside by Malcolm. Two minutes later, Malcolm denied Bobcats goals leader and Winnipeg Jets draftee Jordan Samuels-Thomas with his pad.
Nine minutes into the game, Connor Jones was unable to beat Malcolm when he tried to tuck the puck past him on a deke. Malcolm also made a nice save on Jeremy Langlois during the final minute of the first. Langlois, an undrafted free agent, is expected to have plenty of NHL teams wooing him with contract offers in the next few days.
"We had some extremely good chances in the first two periods," Bobcats captain Zack Currie said. "If we capitalize on one or two of those, it's an extremely different game, and who knows what happens in the end? [Malcolm] showed up in the big moments and made the saves he needed to."
Yale had lost all three previous games this season against Quinnipiac (30-8-5), a school located just a few miles away in south-central Connecticut. The Bobcats were the top-ranked team in the country as well as the top seed in the 16-team field, and had outscored the Bulldogs 13-3 in those prior meetings.
But Yale, which finished third in the ECAC during the regular season and fourth in the conference tournament, beat a team ranked among the top seven in the nation for the fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament game. The Bulldogs, the final team to qualify for the 16-team field, twice beat teams that were ranked No. 1 at the time and also knocked off No. 2 UMass-Lowell 3-2 in the Frozen Four semifinals on Thursday.
That win came in overtime, as did a 3-2 first-round victory against then-No. 1 Minnesota. With the title game scoreless through more than 39 minutes, OT appeared possible again -- until the Bulldogs broke out for three goals over a span of 9:13 of game time that began when Bourbonais scored with 3.5 seconds left in the second period.
With time winding down in the period, defenseman Gus Young -- a Colorado Avalanche draftee -- took an opportunity to pinch in to play a puck along the left-wing boards and flung a shot toward the net. Bourbonais got his stick on Young's shot, slightly changing the puck's direction and helping it get through Hartzell's five-hole for his fourth of the season.
"In the end, they got a couple of bounces and finished some chances," Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. "And we didn't."
Orzetti, a freshman, made it 2-0 at 3:35 of the third when he scored his second of the season off his own rebound from near at the goal line in the left-wing corner. He leaped into the Plexiglass in celebration -- bumping the partitions apart and causing a short delay while it was repaired.
The break didn't stop Yale's momentum. With Quinnipiac pressing offensively late while down by two goals, Miller took advantage by getting a partial breakaway, skating with speed down the slot and beating Hartzell at 9:06 for his 18th of the season.
It was a tough end to the best season in Quinnipiac's Division I history.
"I think we were the best team in college hockey for the season, and unfortunately we didn't prove it tonight," Pecknold said. "And we've got to give Yale credit for that.
"We're devastated," Pecknold said earlier. "This wasn't the way this season was supposed to end."
Neither finalist was ranked among top 20 in preseason polls. The showdown between Connecticut rivals assured that no matter the outcome, the NCAA champion would be from New England for the fifth time in six years.
But the previous four wins were by Boston College (three) and Boston University, two of college hockey's traditional powerhouses. The Bulldogs earned their title by becoming the first team to beat three No. 1 seeds in an NCAA Tournament.
"For all of us, this has been our dream our whole life," senior forward Josh Balch said. "When it was counting down, it was a surreal feeling. All of us worked so hard. We've been [to the NCAA Tournament] two [other] times but never got to a Frozen Four. It's a surreal feeling and it hasn't really hit me yet. I'm sure it will.
"I'm proud of my teammates, proud of everyone. It's a team game, a team win -- and we really did this together."
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