Yale's appearance in the Frozen Four is all about retribution - in more ways than one. As soon as last season ended the Bulldogs began preparation for this year's run. "This season started the day last season ended," said senior captain Andrew Miller. "As soon as we lost last year, we said our goal was to get to the Frozen Four [this year]. This season started [as soon as last year ended]. We spent five to six days in the gym and a lot of the guys stayed over the summer," said junior forward Jesse Root.
Senior goaltender Jeff Malcolm had a senior season where he showed vast improvement over his first few years in New Haven. Goaltending had been a downfall of some of the Yale teams over the past few seasons. Malcolm's freshman season ended in the regional finals with a 9-7 loss to Boston College. Yale had some very gifted offensive players over the previous five years, but it wasn't until this year that everything came together.
This season Malcolm took over the starting role and ran with it. His teammates are very confident in his ability. "I think Jeff does a great job for us. He gives us confidence to play our own game. We don't have to do too much outside ourselves," said Root. We've really seen Malcolm come into a zone. He's really emerged as a wall back there. We're confident in front of him," added junior defender Colin Dueck.
Yale almost didn't have a chance to make the Frozen Four. The Bulldogs were in good position to make the national tournament as they headed into the ECAC Tournament at Atlantic City. But, Yale lost twice - to Union in the semifinals and Quinnipiac in the consolation game. Those results put their chances in peril.
Yale needed Notre Dame to defeat Michigan in the CCHA Championship game just to get in to the field of 16. The players and coach Keith Allain said they were keeping track of the results. "I watched [the ND-Michigan game] with a group of the guys. It got intense, but I was very happy Notre Dame won," said Root.
The Bulldogs have come close over the last five years, but it was not until this year that Keith Allain and his team broke through to the Frozen Four. Yale has had only one appearance in the Frozen Four, in 1952.
The Yale players recognize the significance of the venue and playing in the Frozen Four. "It's an unbelievable facility. It's a beautiful place, a big stadium, but it won't affect what happens between the glass. "Not just being here is enough. We want to win," said Miller.
Yale's semifinal opponent will be UMass-Lowell, the regular season and tournament champions in Hockey East. The River Hawks have used a great transition game, an ability to stifle opponents in the neutral zone and stellar goaltending to be the hottest team in the nation since December. "We have a pretty good idea of what Lowell is good at. They defend extremely well. They compete hard on the puck and they transition quite well going from defense to offense," said Allain.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation for continuing coverage of the Frozen Four.