President-elect Peter Salovey walked through the crowd of students in Payne Whitney Gymnasium doling out high-fives, and the bleachers were shaking with roughly 200 students cheering Yale on from halfway across the country. The Bulldogs had just defeated North Dakota, 4-1, and won the Western Regional bracket of the NCAA hockey tournament. They will be making their first Frozen Four appearance in 61 years.
An explosive start from North Dakota put the Elis back on their heels when Corban Knight popped a quick wrist shot over goaltender Jeff Malcolm’s ’13 shoulder to put the NoDaks up 1–0.
While the Bulldogs may have been down, they certainly weren’t out — and they didn’t play like it either. The Elis put pressure on North Dakota throughout the game, but goaltender Clarke Saunders stood on his head, stopping shot after shot for a total of 35 saves. The Bulldogs’ excellent conditioning, however, gave them an advantage in the third period, just as leading-scorer Kenny Agostino ’14 predicted in a mid-game interview.
In the third period, the floodgates opened. Josh Balch ’13 picked up a rebound off a shot from Anthony Day ’15 and hammered it over Saunders’ shoulder to tie the game 12-and-a-half minutes into the third. Just minutes later, Malcolm was tripped behind his net and the Elis went on their sixth power play of the contest. After a slow start to the power play, Jesse Root ’14 picked up a loose puck on the left face-off dot and threw it on net, sliding past Saunders’ leg pad to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game.
A few icing calls, commercial breaks and a timeout later, the Bulldogs lined up for a draw in their own end when Day and Stu Wilson ’16 jetted up the ice on an odd-man rush. Day fired a shot low off of Saunders and Wilson swatted it out of the air about a foot off of the ice and into the net to widen Yale’s lead to two.
In a last-ditch effort, the NoDaks pulled Saunders, but Yale kept the pressure on and Agostino forced a turnover and followed up by scoring a swift empty-net goal to make the final score 4–1.
The Bulldogs will now have just under two weeks to prepare for their first NCAA Frozen Four appearance since 1952. The Bulldogs will take on the winner of the UMass-Lowell-New Hampshire game in the semi-finals for the national championship on April 11 in Pittsburgh, Penn.