The Yale Bulldogs found their NCAA Tournament hopes in serious jeopardy when they lost twice at the ECAC Tournament in Atlantic City. Instead of being firmly in the national tournament as they had been at the start of ECAC Tournament week, Keith Allain's team was squarely on the NCAA bubble. It took a Michigan loss to Notre Dame in the CCHA Finals to give Yale a position in the final field of 16.
Though the semifinal and consolation game of the ECAC Tournament didn't go the Bulldogs' way, Keith Allain wasn't too worried about his team. "I thought we played very good against St. Lawrence in our league playoffs, that second round. And we hit a bump in the road in Atlantic City," said the head coach in his seventh season.
The Bulldogs had played well enough all season long to still be in a position to make the NCAA Tournament. Yale had impressive non-conference wins over Denver and Colorado College of the WCHA and a win and tie against UMass-Amherst and Boston College of Hockey East. That helped Yale's cause in the all-important Pairwise Rankings.
"The body of work we did in the regular season put us in a good position to play in the [NCAA] tournament. But after a poor weekend in Atlantic City, we didn't want it to be the way that Michigan had to lose to get in. But we were happy we got in and came ready to play last weekend [against Minnesota and North Dakota]," said Yale senior Andrew Miller.
Yale certainly came to play last weekend against two very formidable foes from the WCHA. Minnesota was the number one seed in the West Region. Yale defeated the Gophers with a Jesse Root tally just nine seconds into overtime. The next night Yale dispatched North Dakota 4-1 to earn the program's first trip to the Frozen Four since 1952.
"I thought we were back on our game last weekend. We see Atlantic City as an aberration. I think the real dynamic for us are our work ethic and our compete level. You compound that with a team game which is what we try to play, and I think it makes us a formidable opponent," said Allain.
Yale will look to bring that team concept to the Frozen Four when it faces UMass-Lowell in the first semifinal. Allain said his team is still trying to find out as much as it can about the River Hawks. "We've been on the phone lines. We've been downloading game [tape]. We're starting to develop a pretty good picture of them. They're a great team."
Allain said two things have stood out in his early assessment of UMass-Lowell. "The defensive play and the pace they play at, and they're also a team we think, like us, that competes very, very hard," said Allain.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation for continuing coverage of the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four.