A mixed performance in the ECAC tournament left Yale’s NCAA tournament fate hanging in the balance on Sunday, but after Notre Dame knocked off Michigan, the Elis held onto the No. 15 seed and a postseason berth.
After two important wins over Cornell and Colgate at the end of the regular season, the No. 11 Bulldogs earned a bye in the first round of the conference playoffs, sending them directly to the quarterfinals. The Elis swept St. Lawrence (18–16–4, 9–9–4 ECAC), 6–1 and 3–0 on March 15 and 16 to advance to the ECAC semifinals in Atlantic City. The Bulldogs were blown out, 5–0, by the No. 18 Union Dutchmen (21–12–5, 10–8–4) on Friday and ran into No. 1 Quinnipiac in the third-place game the following day. The Elis were shut out for the second straight game as they fell to the Bobcats for the third time this season.
Being shut out is unusual for the Bulldogs, having gone scoreless just two times earlier this season, but in the Quinnipiac (27–7–5, 17–2–3) and Union games, the Elis faced formidable opposing netminders. Union goaltender Troy Grosenick was a 2012 Hobey Baker finalist and Quinnipiac goaltender Eric Hartzell is currently a Hobey Baker contender as well as a first-team all-ECAC player.
The Elis have a first-team all-ECAC player of their own, however. Captain Andrew Miller ’13, who has 110 career assists, just three away from Yale’s all-time record, also received first-team all-ECAC honors before the tournament. He joins Mike O’Neill ’89, Mark Kaufmann ’93, Jeff Hamilton ’01 and Brian O’Neill ’12 as the fifth Bulldog to earn such an honor.
“I think the award speaks to the support that I have had playing with my linemates Jesse Root ’14 and Kenny Agostino ’14,” Miller said. “They are two skilled and hard-working players that are extremely easy to play with.”
Along with Miller, leading scorer Agostino was named to the second-team all-ECAC and Ryan Obuchowksi ’16 earned all-rookie honors.
In spite of Miller’s two goals and two assists against St. Lawrence in the opening quarterfinal game and Agostino’s four points across the St. Lawrence series, the Bulldogs were unable to create many scoring opportunities against Union and Quinnipiac and could not convert on the chances they had.
“Our lack of offense this weekend put us in a tough position,” Miller said. “We didn’t get the bounces we needed, but we also didn’t execute when we had scoring opportunities.”
While scoring was difficult for the Elis in back-to-back games against two top-20 teams, including the No. 1 team in the country, the Bulldogs showed extraordinary performances between the pipes and on the penalty kill.
In both the Union game and the Quinnipiac game, the Bulldogs were able to shut down all power-play chances, keeping Union from converting on any of their three opportunities and Quinnipiac from scoring on any of their six chances.
Goaltender Jeff Malcolm ’13 stopped 27 of 30 shots from the Bobcats and 30 of 35 from the Dutchmen.
While the winner of the ECAC tournament receives an automatic bid for NCAA national tournament play, as do the winners of every other conference tournament, the Bulldogs ended the season ranked No. 15 in the PairWise rankings. Due to Notre Dame’s 3–1 win over Michigan, the Bulldogs have clinched a spot in the 2013 NCAA hockey tournament and will face No. 2 Minnesota in Grand Rapids, Mich., on March 29.