PITTSBURGH — “Happy Birthday, dear Malcolm,” the Yale student section chanted as goaltender Jeff Malcolm ’13 rose the NCAA Division I national championship trophy above his head. On his 24th birthday, the senior stopped all 36 of the shots he faced in the final game of his collegiate career, earned his third shutout of the season and, to put the icing on the cake, led Yale to its first national title.
Quinnipiac’s Eric Hartzell was considered to be the nation’s top goaltender for most of the season. He was a Hobey Baker finalist and a first-team All-American, played the most minutes of any goaltender in college hockey, accumulated five shutouts and ended the season ranked No. 3 in goals against average. But while Hartzell bested Malcolm in the ECAC third place game, Malcolm got the better of Hartzell when it really mattered — in the national championship.
“[Malcolm] played out of his mind tonight, like he has all season for us,” forward Jesse Root ’14 said. “Every time we got in trouble he was there to bail us out. His play gave us so much confidence.”
Shot after shot, Malcolm “stood tall,” according to head coach Keith Allain ’80. He stopped several breakaway opportunities for Quinnipiac and kept his composure throughout the most important game of his life. On two of the breakaway opportunities, one by Jordan Samuels-Thomas and one by Matthew Peca, Malcolm maintained his position without biting on the Bobcat forwards’ fakes and knocked aside what could have been two quick goals for Quinnipiac.
“Jeff played great all night,” Colin Dueck ’13 said. “You could tell right from the start he was feeling it. He was getting shots, and he was seeing them and moving well.”
Before Malcolm went head to head with Hartzell and came out on top, he had to outplay two other top-ranked goaltenders to earn Yale a berth in the championship. Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox was sixth in Division I in goals against average, and UMass-Lowell’s Connor Hellebuyck, who had the most shutouts in the country, led the nation with 1.3742 goals against. Malcolm out-dueled each of them as Yale took 3–2 overtime victories against both Minnesota and UMass before facing Quinnipiac in the final.
On Saturday he topped both of those performances, transforming into a brick wall on his birthday to deny every scoring opportunity the Bobcats created.
Despite Malcom’s strong play throughout the regular season — in which he held opponents to 2.2437 goals against — he was not lauded the same way some of the other goaltenders were heading into the tournament. Hartzell was recognized as a Hobey Baker contender and Hellebuyck earned commentators’ praise with the No. 1 save percentage in the country as a freshman. But few talked about Malcolm’s ability to make saves when it counted.
Malcolm played in eight extra-minute contests this season and stopped every shot he faced.
His championship shutout landed him among an elite group of goaltenders who have earned shutouts in the national title game. He is just the fifth goalie to accomplish such a feat since the NCAA Division I national tournament was started in 1948.
“He’s been our rock all season,” Kenny Agostino ’14 said. “Our team had its ebbs and flows all year but no question he has been consistent all season.”
The Lethbridge, Alberta native ended the season with the nation’s 20th best goals against average and 29th best save percentage at 0.919.