Yale Gets Playoff Bye With Emotional Win
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale men's hockey team, winners of three straight games, has earned a bye in the first round of the ECAC Tournament after registering a 2-1 win over Cornell before a packed house at Ingalls Rink on the final day of the regular season.
Kenny Agostino had a goal and an assist and Andrew Miller had two assists as the No. 14/15 Bulldogs (16-10-3, 12-9-1) finished third in the standings while holding off a very hot Big Red squad that was unbeaten in five straight before tonight.
Yale senior goalie Jeff Malcolm stopped 22 of 23 shots, including 14 in the final frame to give his team a four-point set on senior weekend.
"That's playoff hockey what you saw tonight," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach. "Guys were blocking shots and diving to get pucks out of their own end. It's a great precursor to what it's going to be like for the next few weeks."
The Blue, which dominated early play by getting 10 of the game's first 11 shots on goal, got on the board 6:22 in on a pretty, 2-on-1, back-and-forth passing play between Miller and Agostino, who carried in over the blueline on the left. The junior sent it across for Miller and the senior sent it back the other way. Agostino one-timed the return feed as he sped into the low slot heading to the left side of the net for his 14th of the year.
"We had two good team games this weekend, and we had contributions from guys who don't always contribute. When we get contributions from all lines, we are a lethal team," said Miller.
The Big Red, outshot 17-3 in the first, evened things shortly after by crashing the net and putting back a rebound. Joel Lowry got the goal from the edge of the crease at 7:42.
Nobody found the net in a strange middle frame that included a combined 11 shots on target.
The game's first penalty didn't come until the 2:01 mark of the third period when Eric Axell went in the box for tripping at 2:01. It was possibly the most important call of the contest. Six seconds later Yale's No. 6 got his second game winner and his third tally of the year against Cornell.
Miller moved the puck to Agostino, who fired a shot from the point off the pads of Andy Iles (27 saves). The puck bounced out to the right and freshman forward Stu Wilson, who had the winner in OT at Ithaca this year, was the first to it and had an entire side of the net to shoot.
"We've been talking about having me drive through the middle [after the faceoff], but it wasn't working in practice," said Wilson. "So I tried to throw it back and then I took a wide angle around. Luckily the rebound came right to me. It couldn't have been much easier. It was more luck than anything."
Both goalies made very tough saves during a wild third period. No sequence was bigger than midway through the frame when Iles halted a Miller grade-A chance from the edge of the crease that turned into a rush at the other end. Malcolm stopped a point-blank blast from Axell.
"We played well defensively and Malcs (Jeff Malcolm) played great," said Miller. "He's our rock in net. He's solid every night. We support him all the time."
The Big Red pulled Iles for an extra skater with 40 seconds left. It would have earlier but Agostino, Jesse Root and Antoine Laganiere all grabbed pucks away from Cornell skaters and dumped them back in the zone. When the Red finally moved it to the other end, Yale's netminder stopped a Brian Ferlin shot and forced a faceoff with 10 seconds left.
Root took the draw but the visitors won it back. The junior Yale forward forced the Cornell puck handler to the outside and then stifled his opportunity for space and a shot as the clock ran out and the crowd volume at the Whale turned up 10 notches.
The Bulldogs, who did not have a penalty tonight, not only secured third place, they earned next weekend off and moved into the No. 10 spot in the Pairwise Rankings.
"We have some guys who are banged up and could use some rest," said Allain.
Malcolm, who returned from an injury last weekend at Princeton, has sparked the Blue over the last three games.
"I don't think he had a lot to do in first two periods tonight," said Allain of his senior goalie. "We were tired and they were pushing for everything they could. He was the difference between success and failure for us tonight."
The atmosphere all game was like a championship contest. When Cornell fans began the "let's go Red" chant, Yale fans followed with "let's go Bulldogs," but there were many more rooting for the Blue.
"It was playoff hockey tonight, tight all the way," said Wilson.
Yale will host an ECAC Quarterfinal series on March 15-17 against a first-round series winner to be determined… Clickhere for ticket information... The Bulldogs went with the same lineup as Friday night… Andrew Miller assisted on both goals and now has 107 for his career, which is six shy of Bob Brooke's school record. Fourteen of his 16 helpers this year were primary ones.
FIRST-ROUND (Friday, March 8 - Sunday, March 10 - Best-of-three games)
No. 12 Harvard at No. 5 Dartmouth
No. 11 Colgate at No. 6 St. Lawrence
No. 10 Clarkson at No. 7 Brown
No. 9 Cornell at No. 8 Princeton
QUARTERFINALS (Friday, March 15 - Sunday, March 17 - Best-of-three games)
TBD at No. 1 Quinnipiac
TBD at No. 2 Rensselaer
TBD at No. 3 Yale
TBD at No. 4 Union
FRIDAY, MARCH 22 (SEMIFINALS)
Semifinal No. 1 - 4 p.m.; Semifinal No. 2 - 7:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, MARCH 23 (THIRD-PLACE & CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES)
Third-Place Game - 4 p.m.
Championship Game - 7 p.m.
Filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director
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image by Don Clark