Collier: Bulldogs defy expectations, get Bobcats off their backs
April 14, 2013 4:00 AM
Quinnipiac's Bryce Van Brabant checks Yale's Josh Balch into the boards in the first period of the championship game Saturday night at Consol Energy Center.
Yale's Jesse Root celebrates a goal against Quinnipiac in the third period.
By Gene Collier Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A tangible temptation to portray a Yale-Quinnipiac hockey game as something other than what it generally is persisted in this town all week, and long into a Pittsburgh Saturday night.
It was somehow irresistible.
You may have been made aware, for example, somewhere in the social media cacophony amid Tiger's penalty, Kobe's injury and Geno Malkin's dubious epidermal adventures, that Yale and Quinnipiac, the opponents in the NCAA title game, are separated by but a few miles of Connecticut highway, or that they are bitter rivals, or that Quinnipiac has been the best thing in college hockey, or that college hockey was practically invented by Yale, but there was still no real point in all of that.
Just as there was no point in calling this the Battle of New Haven.
Yale's got players from 12 states and Norway, and Quinnipiac's got hockey talent from Canada's far Western provinces to Arizona's Valley of the Sun to Holland and back.
What nobody wanted to say, necessarily, is that when Yale and Quinnipiac drop the puck, whether on campus or across the street from the lamented Igloo, Yale is probably going to lose.
Not every time, no, but probably too often for any real anticipation for college hockey's championship to sustain a presupposition of suspense.
Quinnipiac was 10-5-2 all-time against Yale, but more urgently, the Bobcats whipped Yale thrice on the ice this very winter, and by a combined score of 13-3.
So this was going to be different?
Was it ever.
The Bulldogs ignored precedent, ignored Hobey Baker Award finalist Eric Hartzell standing implacably in the Quinnipiac goal cage and ignored still again that they were in this tournament by the skin of their perfectly straight teeth.
Displaying an ungodly amount of patience and plenty of down-to-earth hockey skill, Yale prevailed, 4-0, and won more than just another Yale-Quinnipiac fray.
Yale won the national championship.
Few students of college hockey may have suspected it, but the balance of power got a whole new complexion the minute Hartzell looked down just as the second period was about to expire and noted that something had just gone past his skates in the wrong direction.
Clinton Bourbonais had just redirected a shot from above left circle by Bulldogs defenseman Gus Young for the first penetration of either goal line all game. With four seconds left in the middle period, it was 1-0, Yale.
It was impossible to say as the final period started whether that leaky little goal even nicked the confidence of Hartzell, but that was an awfully juicy rebound he allowed on Charles Orzetti's wrist shot from the left circle barely 3:30 into third, and Orzetti picked it up and fired it inside the near post for a 2-0 lead at 3:35.
It was impossible to say, as well, that a two-goal lead for the Bulldogs had punctured the concentration of the favored Bobcats, but that was a terrible lapse that let Yale's Andrew Miller flash into the Quinnipiac zone all by himself not six minutes later. Miller, who won the overtime game against Massachusetts Lowell here Thursday night, beat Hartzell decisively this time. At that moment, Yale had scored as often against Quinnipiac in just over two and a half periods as it had in three games this season.
And all it seemed to take was for the Bulldogs to shake an early case of the brain cramps.
You might have assumed that if there was a team in this Pittsburgh edition of the Frozen Four that had immunized from mental mistakes, that team would be Yale.
The current Bulldogs roster includes 20 people who've won a scholar-athlete award somewhere along the line, 14 players who graduated in the top 10 percent of their class, 10 members of the National Honor Society and four class presidents.
None of that, apparently, stops anyone from taking an ill-advised penalty like the one defenseman Rob O'Gara took in the neutral zone less than three minutes into the title game, or the one fellow defender Colin Dueck committed five minutes later.
Yale was fortunate that the first period turned into a penalty-killing clinic by both teams, and Quinnipiac was even more fortunate to be doing it all in front of the 6-foot-4 Hartzell, who'd been pretty much impenetrable all winter.
Perhaps most astonishingly, the Bulldogs were saving their stupidest penalty for a critical situation late in the second period, when they were whistled for having too many dogs on the ice.
C'mon, I know you guys can count to six.
You go to Yale.
I suspected Quinnipiac's fellas could do the same, but they committed the very same infraction in a dizzying sequence of fate-tempting that saw both teams enjoy a 5-on-3 opportunity and both goalies nearly rammed through the end boards by roughing or charging infractions.
When Yale survived all of that, the temptation to anticipate the unexpected pervaded the building. History was there to be bulldogged. It certainly looked delicious.