Fast and physical. Period one of the 2013 NCAA National Championship between Quinnipiac and Yale was hockey at its finest.
Yale’s Rob O’Gara set the tone less than three minutes into the frame with an elbowing call before teammate and superstar Kenny Agostino scrapped in an angst-filled opening sequence. Any questions of the rivalry living up to its billing were answered two minutes later when Quinnipiac’s Cory Hibbeler responded with a minor of his own, but Eric Hartzell answered the call, blanking an impressive Yale powerplay on two separate occasions.
The Bobcats Hobey Baker finalist goaltender could not buy any help from his offense, however, as his counterpart Malcolm combined to make sprawling saves on two Bobcats special team’s chances.
“We had some great chances in the first period,” Bobcats defenseman Zach Currie said. “We have to finish on our chances when we get them.”
The period ended in a scoreless tie, but not without a handful of golden scoring opportunities for both squads.
Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Matthew Peca looked to put Quinnipiac on the board first early in the second period when he dangled Gus Young before Malcolm turned away his breakaway chance. Following the chance was semi-final hero Jordan Samuels-Thomas, who gathered a careening puck behind the Yale defense but could not best Malcolm.
“He was the best player on the ice tonight,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Peckhold said. That was the best game I have ever seen him play. He was great all night.”
The Bobcats again knocked when they were afforded a two-man-advantage for more than a minute in the middle of the frame. Malcolm stood tall though, as the Bulldogs killed the disadvantage and received a five-on-three chance of their own.
“They have done that all year and you saw it tonight,” Malcolm said of his defense. “Guys got the puck out for me and let me see the shots.”
A bench minor for too many men on the ice was assessed to the Bobcats and Zach Davies was whistled for goaltender interference 47 seconds later, giving the Bulldogs a chance to break the tie.
It appeared that the Championship would go into the third period scoreless for the first time in 45 years after neither team capitalized on their powerplay chances, but Bourbonais had other ideas.
“We had been stressing getting bodies and pucks to the net, and that’s what the goal was,” Bulldogs head coach Keith Allain said. “That gave us momentum for the third peroid.”
Bourbonais drifted through the slot where he collected a Young snap-shot and redirected it through Hartzell’s legs for a 1-0 lead with just 3.5 seconds left to play. The Yale center’s tally was just his fourth goal of the season.
The Bulldogs goalscorer added on 3:35 into the third period when he picked up a helper on Charles Orzetti’s marker.
“We wanted to pressure their defense,” Yale forward Andrew Miller said of his team’s gameplan. “They were running around a little because they were down, and we took advantage.”
After receiving a pass and gliding over the blueline, Orzetti tossed a shot on Hartzell that was harmlessly turned aside. The rebound skittered to the right goaline extended where Orzetti attempted another shot that slipped past the Quinnipiac netminder and put Yale up 2-0.
Quinnipiac struggled to regain composure for the next few series as Yale’s heavy forecheck and physcial play stifled the Bobcats and paved the way for a Miller goal.
Agostino skated the puck out of his own zone before slipping a feed up to the senior for an uncontested breakaway. Miller’s wrister found an opening through Hartzell for his 18th of the season to seal the win.
“[Quinnipiac] had a couple of chances early and then we get the late goal,” said Allain. “In the third period they came out pushing and Malcolm held the fort. That is what great goaltenders do. He gave us a chance to win the game.”
Yale’s impressive season concluded with wins over three number one seeds, including Minnesota and North Dakota. With their victory tonight, the Bulldogs became the first four seed to ever win the NCAA Men’s Hockey National Championship.
For Allain, the magical run was all about his team’s mindset: “Our team had great focus. We focused on Minnesota first and then we focused on North Dakota. We just chipped away at it.”