Pittsburgh, PA -- The Yale University Bulldogs move on to the Frozen Four National Championship game Saturday night at the CONSOL Energy Center. An Andrew Miller overtime goal sent the Bulldogs to their first finals appearance in program history. After nearly missing the NCAA Tournament after a rough weekend at the ECAC Tournament, Yale is one win away from the ultimate prize. Keith Allain's team became the first ECAC team to make the NCAA Finals since 1990 when Colgate lost to Wisconsin.
The game was a case of Yale doing to UMass-Lowell what the River Hawks had done to so many teams, especially over the past two months. Yale was terrific in transition and always kept a third man back to prevent Lowell from setting up its offense. "[Yale] did what we usually do to other teams, so it was a little taste of our own medicine," said UMass-Lowell junior forward Joseph Pendenza.
Yale did a good job getting the puck deep, but also staying in their lanes and always being back on defense. "We just really kept our shapes and stayed disciplined," said defenseman Gus Young.
Even two goals in a span of 14 seconds during the second period were not enough to give the River Hawks momentum with Yale really controlling play the entire game.
Yale got on the board first with just two seconds left on its first power play of the game. With Shayne Thompson off for high sticking, Yale converted at the 12:55 mark when freshman defenseman Mitch Witek scored his first career goal on a weak wrist shot from the point. Kenny Agostino was in front of the net, but didn't tip the puck. Andrew Miller and Carson Cooper assisted on the tally.
Yale added to its lead with just under a minute to play in the period when Antoine Laganiere banged home a rebound from right in front of the net. It was Laganiere's 15th of the season. The goal came right after a UMass-Lowell penalty expired, officially making it an even strength goal, but it was set up due to the man advantage.
The Bulldogs continued to dominate play well into the second period, but the River Hawks would score two goals in 14 seconds to even the score with a little over five minutes to play in the frame.
Senior captain Riley Wetmore scored his 16th goal of the season when he found a loose puck at his feet and backhanded it past Yale goalie Jeff Malcolm. Derek Arnold tipped the initial shot taken by Wilson when the puck found Wetmore. The goal was some redemption for Wetmore who had fallen down on a shorthanded breakaway attempt earlier in the period.
Just 14 seconds later, Joseph Pendenza raced down the right side and fired a high wrist shot that cleanly beat Malcolm. The goal was the junior's 15th of the season. A.J. White and Josh Holmstrom picked up the helpers.
UMass-Lowell could not capitalize on any momentum from those two quick goals. The Bulldogs dominated much of the rest of that period as well as the third. Yale held a 40-18 advantage in shots at the end of regulation.
With Yale skating circles around Lowell in the extra session, Lowell looked sluggish and lethargic out on the ice. "We just didn't have our legs tonight," said Pendenza.
That is when Miller took advantage to score his 17th goal of the season. With a bouncing puck in the neutral zone, a Lowell defender didn't step up to play the puck. Miller picked the puck up, drove the right side before cutting in to the middle and slipping a backhander past UMass-Lowell freshman goaltender Connor Helleybuck. Carson Cooper picked up the only assist on the game-winning goal. "That's probably the biggest goal in the history of Yale hockey," said Yale coach Keith Allain.
Helleybuck stopped a career high 44 shots, but it was not enough as the team in front of him just didn't play well enough. "Tonight, we certainly didn't have it," said a frustrated Bazin. The loss for the River Hawks ended the most successful season in school history. "I'm proud of this group for this season," said the second year coach.
Yale's win moves the Bulldogs on to the Frozen Four Championship game where it will face in-state and conference rival Quinnipiac. The Bobcats were 4-1 winners over St. Cloud State in the second semifinal.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation for continuing coverage of the 2013 Frozen Four live from the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Penn.