Root Leads Yale to First Frozen Four in 61 Years
by Liz Vukelich/CHN Reporter
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. North Dakota’s over-turned goal two-and-a-half minutes into the first period was probably the worst best thing that could have happened to Yale en route to its 4-1 win over North Dakota in Saturday’s regional final of the NCAA Tournament.
At first, the ruling that North Dakota forward Derek Rodwell had contact with Bulldog goalie Jeff Malcolm at the time of the goal — the officials’ reason for the recall — seemed like a blessing to Yale. After all, on paper, Yale was supposedly no match for North Dakota with its veteran roster that boasts two Hobey Baker Award finalists.
The Bulldogs celebrated the call and congratulated Malcolm as if they themselves had accomplished some big feat, and it should have sparked some new life into Yale’s offense, which to that point had been lackluster at best.
But the ruling — which took more than five minutes to be decided — did the opposite and completely took the wind out of the Bulldogs’ offensive momentum. It took more than 50 minutes for Yale to finally find its footing and look confident on the ice.
“North Dakota jumped out and got the early lead,” said Yale coach Keith Allain. “We’ve got such a great unit, the guys stuck with the plan and they broke through. I told them if they’d get one (goal), they’d get three.”
And that's exactly what happened, though it took a while to get there. And the hero of the weekend wrote one heckuva story to get Yale to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.
After that equalizer, Yale’s passes suddenly looked cleaner and it skated with more poise, confidence and aggression in North Dakota’s zone in the game’s final five minutes — enough so that junior forward Jesse Root snuck in the go-ahead goal through lots of traffic in front of the crease to seal the game.
Root was the hero in Friday's thrilling OT win over Minnesota, and once again, got the game winner Saturday. That would be a storybook weekend in and of itself. But to add to the plot line, Root is a native of Pittsburgh, and now will get to play in the Frozen Four in that very city.
“They’re both sweet,” Root said. “Any time you get to move on is special. It’s not the go ahead goal if Josh (Balch) doesn’t score (first) and Jeff doesn’t play great in net. A lot made that happen.”
Since Allain took over the program, it has seen great heights, going to its fourth NCAA tournament in five years, double the amount of all its previous history. Yale defeated North Dakota in the 2010 tournament, but lost to BC the next night. Two years ago, the Bulldogs were the top overall seed in the tournament, but lost in the second round to Minnesota-Duluth.
Finally, in a year less was expected of them than previous trips, Yale knocked off two of college hockey's long-time powerhouses and made the Frozen Four for the first time in 61 years.
The win was extra meaningful to Allain, who never accomplished the feat during his time playing goal for the Bulldogs from 1977-80.
“I probably wouldn’t be coaching in college hockey if it weren’t for Yale,” said Allain, who took over for the legendary Tim Taylor in 2006. “Yale hockey has meant the world for me and it will continue to do so, so this is very important to me.”