The Bulldogs were 5–0–2 in overtime games this season entering the Frozen Four. On Thursday evening they made that record 6–0–2.
Six minutes into overtime, Carson Cooper ’16 forced a turnover just inside Yale’s blue line and spun around, chipping it off the boards and out of the zone. Captain Andrew Miller ’13 shot up the center of the ice and lunged for Cooper’s loose puck, barely beating a UMass defender.
Miller sped down the right side of the ice, navigated his way around a defender and broke away toward the net. He faked left, slid the puck to his right side and tapped it through the legs of UMass’ sprawling Connor Hellebuyck.
The Yale crowd exploded, Miller punched the air in victory and head coach Keith Allain ’80 rushed onto the ice with his team to celebrate the 3–2 victory and Yale’s first trip to the Frozen Four finals in program history.
“To me, up until right now, that was probably the biggest goal in the history of Yale hockey,” Allain said.
Twenty, 40 and 60 minutes into the game, it was clear that the Bulldogs were bent on outshooting, outskating and outhustling their opponents. Yale opened up an 11–5 edge in shots during the first period and continued to outshoot its opponents in every period. When the buzzer signaled the end of the third, Yale had built a 40–18 shot advantage.
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead in their second-ever Frozen Four appearance when freshman Mitch Witek ’16 tipped the puck over the leg of the UMass goaltender at 12:55 in the first period. The goal was the first of Witek’s Yale career and came during a Yale power play that has proven itself the 11th most efficient in the nation, with a 21.12 percent conversion rate. Miller notched his 133th assist on the goal — tying him with Bob Brooke ’83 for the Yale record.
Right-winger Antoine Laganiere ’13 added to the tally six minutes and 13 seconds later. After UMass defenders blocked two shots from Matt Killian ’15, Laganiere picked up the rebound and slammed it past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
The River Hawks, by comparison, had only one major offensive burst in the game and it lasted a mere 14 seconds. But they made it count.
Yale had just killed the first UMass power play of the game and just over five minutes remained in the second period when successive goals from team captain Riley Wetmore and center Joseph Pendenza put UMass on the board and erased the early lead Yale had taken.
The Elis kept the pressure on in the third period — with 16 shots to UMass’ 13 — but were unable to set the red light flashing.
And then came overtime. Yale has tied or won every single overtime scenario it has faced this season. It shocked the nation in the West Regional when Jesse Root ’14 took down Minnesota with a one-timer nine seconds into extra time.
Today, the goal came from Miller.
“It was just a matter of time before we got one,” Miller said in the postgame conference. His efforts earned him the team award for the game — an old, yellow hockey helmet that he wore to meet the press.
Yale’s appearance today was the first it has made in the Frozen Four since 1952. The team has never made it to the final round of the tournament, nor has it won a Division I national title.
Yale will take the ice in the CONSOL Energy Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday, against the winner of tonight’s Quinnipiac-St. Cloud State game.