April 12, 2013

Frozen Four: In-state rivals to vye for hockey glory

The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH - Andrew Miller scored 6:59 into overtime to lift Yale to a 3-2 victory over UMass-Lowell in the NCAA men's hockey semifinals Thursday.

The senior captain raced around a pair of River Hawks defenders, then slipped a backhander between the legs of UMass-Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. The Bulldogs (21-12-3) will play Quinnipiac in the final Saturday.

Mitch Witek and Antoine Laganiere gave Yale an early two-goal lead, and the Bulldogs controlled play for long stretches but couldn't finish off the top-seeded River Hawks in regulation.

Riley Wetmore and Joseph Pendenza scored 14 seconds apart in the second period for Lowell (28-11-2), and Hellebuyck nearly made it stand up. He stopped 44 shots but had no answer when Miller zipped to the net.

Jeff Malcolm made 16 saves but didn't even see a shot in overtime.

The Bulldogs took out perennial NCAA powers Minnesota and North Dakota on the program's way to its first Frozen Four appearance in 61 years. Yale is the only one of the four participants to ever play in a national semifinal before this year, and is one win away from a title.

The Bulldogs took the lead 12:45 into the first period when Witek scored his first goal of the season in the waning seconds of an otherwise ragged Yale power play. His bouncing, skitter shot didn't have much on it but slid by Hellebuyck to put the River Hawks behind for the first time in the NCAA tournament.

Laganiere made it 2-0 with less than a minute to go in the first, jamming home a rebound off a Matt Killian shot for his 15th of the season.

The period ended with the River Hawks and Hellebuyck -- named Most Outstanding Player of the Northeast Regional after surrendering just one goal -- reeling while Yale continued its impressive run.

Wetmore gave the River Hawks life 14:38 into the second period, stopping Derek Arnold's shot from the point, then flipping the puck to his backhand and into a wide-open net.

Before the Bulldogs could catch their breath it was tied. UMass-Lowell won the ensuing faceoff and A.J. White raced down the right side and slid a backhand pass to Pendenza, who zipped it past Malcolm.

QUINNIPIAC 4, ST. CLOUD STATE 1: Quinnipiac jumped to an early lead and cruised to the final.

Jordan Samuels-Thomas had a goal and an assist for the top-seeded Bobcats, while Ben Arnt, Kellen Jones and Jeremy Langlois also scored for Quinnipiac (30-7-5), who will play in-state rival Yale in the final Saturday.

Hobey Baker Award finalist Eric Hartzell stopped 32 shots for the Bobcats, easily outshining fellow finalist Drew LeBlanc of St. Cloud State. Le-Blanc was held scoreless as the Huskies (25-16-1) struggled to keep up with Quinnipiac. Joey Benik scored his tournament-leading fifth goal for St. Cloud State but it wasn't nearly enough.

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