If you told me a few months ago – even a few weeks ago – that my state would have two teams in the Frozen Four, the only way it would have been funnier is if you said one of them would be UConn. UConn had a solid year as the surprise team in the worst conference in America, but they have never been Connecticut’s team. That title is currently shared between Quinnipiac and Yale. The neighbors are both in the Frozen Four, seeking their first national titles. As Dylan Hicks and I continue our look at the Frozen Four, we examine the Yale Bulldogs, the surprise of the NCAA Tournament after one weekend.
Team: Yale, 20-12-3
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
How they got here: Despite crashing out of the ECAC Tournament in the semifinals, Yale squeaked into the NCAA Tournament as the final at-large team, earning the No. 4 seed in Grand Rapids, Mich. Looking at what both Yale and St. Cloud State did, it was a good year to be a 4-seed. The Bulldogs went to Grand Rapids and in their first game, a goal from Jesse Root nine seconds into overtime gave Yale a 3-2 win over No. 1 Minnesota, whose fans argued all season that they deserved to be No. 1 overall over Quinnipiac – only to be undone by another Connecticut team. The next day, Yale took care of North Dakota with an easy 4-1 victory, sending the Bulldogs into the Frozen Four for the first time in 61 years.
Player to watch: Kenneth Agostino. Just like Dylan’s player to watch on St. Cloud, Ben Hanowski, all eyes will be on Agostino as he enters the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that traded him and Hanowski with a first round pick to Calgary for Jarome Iginla last Wednesday. Agostino leads Yale with 40 points, 23 of them coming as assists. If not for Agostino’s brilliant setup for Root from behind the net, Yale might not have even gotten past Quinnipiac. Matt Stypulkoski, a fellow UConn College Spun writer and my roommate, as well as a former high school hockey player in New Jersey, had nothing but good things to say about Agostino, a New Jersey native himself. He will certainly be looking to give Pittsburgh fans a look at what they gave up for Iginla.
Keys to beating UMass-Lowell: Continue playing with the no fear attitude they had in Grand Rapids. Union gave Yale the business and then some in the ECAC Semifinals, with the Dutchmen winning 5-0. Quinnipiac then rocked Yale 3-0 in the conference’s third-place game. Somehow, despite that, Yale finished ahead of Danny DeKeyser and Western Michigan in the PairWise rankings, and clinched the final spot in the tournament. Once they got in, they showed no fear. They didn’t care that they were playing 900 miles from home, closer to Minnesota and North Dakota than Connecticut, they outplayed the Gophers and the team with no nickname and have rightfully earned their spot in Pittsburgh. If they keep playing the gritty, no fear hockey they’ve been playing, Yale could absolutely knock off a hit-or-miss UMass-Lowell team.