ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – The team that may have prevented the Bulldogs from capturing their third straight conference regular season title stood in the way of Yale advancing to Saturday night's ECAC Hockey Tournament Championship Game. The No. 3 ranked Elis (26-6-1) used three points from Andrew Miller and a shutout from Ryan Rondeau to beat Colgate 4-0 in the first semifinal at Boardwalk Hall.
Yale takes on Cornell, tonight's 3-0 winner over Dartmouth, at 7:30 p.m. for the 2011 Championship, the night before the NCAA Hockey Committee announces its 16-team field. The Bulldogs and Big Red meet Saturday for the second time in the last three ECAC Championship Games.
The giant-slaying Raiders (11-27-3), coming off playoff series wins at RPI and Union, managed to earn a 1-1 tie at New Haven on the second-to-last day of the regular season, denying the Blue a much needed point before Yale finished one-point out of first place.
Despite being a one-goal game most of the way, today was a different story. Yale outshot Colgate 40-22 and did not score on the power play, while Miller hit the net and handed out two assists.
"They gave us all we could handle tonight. We expected it to be close," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach of Hockey. "We knew how tough they were to beat after the last meeting."
Rondeau, recording his second straight shutout, made 22 saves and stopped six man-advantages on the way to breaking the single-season school (5) record for blankings. He is the only Yale goalie to have two shutouts in post-season play, five days after keeping St. Lawrence off the scoreboard in a series clinching win at Ingalls Rink.
"I just go out and play and have fun. I try not to think too much out there," said the senior Yale netminder who ranks second among Division I goalies in goals against average.
Both teams threw eight shots on target in a scoreless opening frame. Yale had the first advantage of the game, it's only opportunity in first period, while the Raiders had two chances to find the net up a man. Both sides had a couple of grade-A chances but Rondeau and Michalik came up with big saves. The closest the Elis came to scoring was a long backhander from Laganiere that hit the pipe squarely in the first minute.
The Bulldogs dominated the second period with 19 shots on goal but could only get to their locker room with a 1-0 lead. Michalik came up big (18 saves), especially on close-range shots. Yale peppered him from every angle, but six of his 18 saves came from players who were low, between the dots.
The Raiders, who had just six shots on target in the period, appeared to take a 1-0 lead 18 seconds in, but a video review confirmed that a Colgate player had kicked the puck into the net. A few minutes later, Yale forward Kevin Limbert had a mini-breakaway but fired the puck over the net from the middle slot to keep the game scoreless.
The Blue finally cracked the egg at 5:07 of the middle frame, and it came off a faceoff won by Miller in the right circle. The sophomore won it back to Cahill who cut across from the boards, took two strides and then unleashed a wrister that hit the back of the net for his 14th of the season.
The Elis continued to pour on the shots in the third. Miller, who had primary helpers on the first two, was in on the tally that made it 2-0 at 6:42. He fired a shot from the high slot that was knocked aside by Mihalik. The puck came out to the right circle where Agostino was in position to snap off a low shot through a small opening for his 11th goal.
Yale used a great penalty-kill to fuel a three-goal lead. O'Neill took a feed in the left circle but had no angle to shoot. He saw Miller cruising into the high slot open and quickly put the puck on his stick. Miller (12th goal) spun to shoot and then sent a rising wrister over Mihalik's shoulder at 14:49.
"He can do a lot of things for us. He played a good game overall," said the Yale head coach about Miller.
The Raiders pulled Mihalik with just under three minutes left after a Yale penalty. The four Eli skaters prevented Rondeau from seeing more than a good look and the empty net eventually grabbed some rubber. Laganiere (4th) intercepted a break-out pass inside the blueline and fired it home with 14.7 seconds left.
Rondeau made eight saves in the third, but the lack of quality rebounds may have been more important. "Tonight was what we've seen from him all season," said Allain. "He's been steady."
The shutout was also a product of Yale's overall defensive effort, which included limiting the Raiders to seven shots on goal over six man-advantages. The Bulldog fore-check was relentless, players got in front of Colgate shots from the point and the Elis took care of the puck in potentially dangerous situations.
"They are so quick to the puck, and they don't give you much time and space," said Colgate head coach Don Vaughan, describing what it's like to play Yale.
BULLDOG BITES: Today's attendance was 3,351... This is the second time the Elis advanced to the conference title contest. The only other time was a 5-0 win over Cornell in 2009... Yale's lineup was the same as the last of the ECAC Quarterfinal series… The Elis arrived on the Jersey Shore early Wednesday evening. Thursday was a practice and media interview day, and also an opportunity to get accustomed to the surroundings before the championship banquet inside Boardwalk Hall (BWH)… This is Yale's fifth appearance at the ECAC Championship Weekend… This was Yale hockey's first game in Atlantic City. BWH, a national historic landmark built in 1929 that hosts the Atlantic 10 Basketball Championships, has not had hockey on a regular basis since the ECHL Boardwalk Bullies called it home from 2001-05. "It's an interesting, old, historic building, and it was neat for us to play here. I think it's a good experience for us to play in a building like this heading into the national tournament," said Keith Allain.
Filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director