On their way to CONSOL Energy Center for their 11 a.m. practice Wednesday, the Yale Bulldogs passed the parking lot where the Civic Arena once stood. That arena symbolized Pittsburgh hockey for decades and was the home to one of the Bulldogs’ childhood dreams.
Jesse Root, Yale’s junior forward from Mt. Lebanon, was born and raised a Penguins fan. This weekend, he and the Bulldogs will compete in the Frozen Four on the ice his childhood team now calls home.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” Root said. “I was a little sad (on) the trip in seeing the old Mellon Arena just a parking lot. I spent a lot of great years there with my dad and my brother going to games. My dad had season tickets growing up, so I was a huge Mario (Lemieux) fan, a huge (Jaromir) Jagr fan, so the Penguins definitely played a huge role in developing my passion for the game.”
As for a comparison between the Igloo and CONSOL, Root virtually pleaded the fifth.
“I have a lot of memories at the Mellon Arena, but this is a beautiful rink,” he said.
Root has been one of the main reasons the Bulldogs have reached their first Frozen Four since 1952. He is fifth on the team with 22 points (11G-11A) while playing alongside Andrew Miller and former Penguins prospect Kenny Agostino on the top line.
In Yale’s 4-1 victory in the second round of the Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship, Root broke a 1-1 tie with just under five minutes left by netting the deciding goal on a power play, assisted by Miller and Tommy Fallen.
After being ousted by Harvard in the ECAC quarterfinals last season, Root said Yale was determined to clinch a birth in the championship this time around.
“As soon as we lost, we set the goal that we wanted to get to the Frozen Four,” Root said,” and we said the season really did start now (at the end of last season), so we spent five, six days a week in the gym getting ready for it and a lot of guys stayed in the summer and I think that really helps out.”
Now that the team has achieved one of its goals, Root and the Bulldogs are not satisfied, as they want to ultimately be crowned NCAA champions. But he said that he is taking the time to enjoy playing on a bright stage in his hometown.
“Pittsburgh’s done a great job so far,” Root said. “We’re just really excited to be here, so we’re excited for a great couple days.”