Entering overtime of Friday’s regional semifinal against Minnesota, the men’s hockey team looked to be facing an uphill battle. The Golden Gophers, the second-ranked team in the country, had captured the momentum by rallying from a two-goal deficit in the third period to send the game to extra time. But before the spectators had a chance to settle in for some bonus hockey, Kenny Agostino ’14 threaded a pass to Jesse Root ’14, who sent the puck past goalie Adam Wilcox to win the game for the Elis.
While the dramatic overtime win sent Yale students on campus, miles away from the action, into a frenzy, the way in which the Bulldogs (20–12–3, 12–9–1 ECAC) won was nothing new for the team. Root’s goal nine seconds into the extra period — the fastest overtime goal in NCAA tournament history — clinched Yale’s fifth overtime win in eight tries this season. The other three overtime games ended in ties, bringing the team’s overtime record to an unbeaten 5–0–3.
“We have been so successful because all of the work we put in consistently in the off season and during the season which gives us the endurance for overtime,” said defenseman Ryan Obuchowski ’13, a member of the ECAC all-rookie squad.
The Elis set the tone for their overtime success during their early season road trip to Colorado over Thanksgiving break. Yale squared off against Denver and Colorado College, respectively ranked No. 2 and No. 14 in the country at the time, on consecutive nights. But the team dispatched both with clutch overtime play: Agostino scored less than two minutes into overtime to beat the Pioneers 2–1 on Friday, and forward Josh Balch ’13 tallied another early one on Saturday night to send the Elis to a 6–5 win over the Tigers.
Not only did the team establish an early precedent for overtime success, but it made a statement against highly ranked opponents. In addition to OT wins against Minnesota, Denver and Colorado College, the Elis also collected an extra time winner against then-No. 18 Cornell on Jan. 15 and tied Boston College and Union earlier in the season, ranked No. 2 and No. 12 respectively at the time of the games.
“I would say the main thing in overtime is to remember that the best way to ensure victory is adhering to the game plan as best you can,” forward Antoine Laganiere ’13 said. “You can’t be scared to lose. You must just be calm and stay focused on the task and the game plan. I guess we have worked on mental toughness enough to do this.”
Helped in large part by their overtime heroics, the Bulldogs now find themselves back in the Frozen Four for the first time since 1952. There, they will face a stiff test in their semifinal game against UMass-Lowell, the No. 3 team in the country and the No. 1 seed out of the Northeast Regional. But if the contest goes to overtime, the Elis would appear to have the advantage. While the River Hawks are also undefeated when going to extra time, they have much less experience than the Elis, posting a 1–0–2 record in only three games.
The Elis will square off against UMass-Lowell on April 11 in Pittsburgh in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals.