Yale Senior Sends Bulldogs to National Title Game
by A.J. Curry/CHN Reporter
PITTSBURGH Coming into the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four, Yale senior captain Andrew Miller needed just one more assist to match former Bulldog Bob Brooke as the program's all-time assists leader.
Miller, who has assisted – so to speak – Yale in reaching milestone after milestone during his prolific four-year career, accomplished that personal milestone just 12:55 into the first national semifinal on Thursday, tallying an assist – his record 113th – on freshman Mitch Witek’s goal.
It was Witek’s first-career goal and Miller’s 154th career point. But it was Miller’s 155th career point, of course, that proved even bigger – as his overtime backhander along the ice beat UML goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to send the upstart Bulldogs to Saturday’s national championship game.
“You better put it in,” said a relieved Miller afterwards, about his thought process as he skated in one Hellebuyck. “You only get one opportunity in games like that against a great defensive team.
“It was a split-second reaction. I can’t remember my thought process from the blue line to the goal.”
By tying Brooke as the all-time Yale assists leader, Miller finds himself in impressive company. Brooke was the first Yale player to play in the NHL, where he ultimately enjoyed a 166-point career over the course of 447 games. Brooke, a former Olympian as well, and Miller are the only Yale players ever to have triple-digit assists totals.
Now Miller – whose Yale career will end on Saturday – looks to close his prolific career with a national title — all thanks to driving the puck to the net in overtime instead of dishing out one of his trademark assists.
Said Miller, “Coach has been all over me (to shoot more) this year, but I also have two good linemates who can put the puck in the net, which they’ve done all season. We try to play a good team game for our line.”
Certainly, Miller’s list of individual accomplishments is long. His 155 career points trail only five other former Bulldogs, all of whom were either All-Americans, Hobey Baker finalists, NHL all-stars or Olympians during their careers. And Miller’s first three season assist totals in New Haven all rank among the top 10 in Yale’s long college hockey history, which started with a game against Johns Hopkins on January 31, 1896 — the first-ever U.S. college hockey game.
“It’s a huge honor to be on a sheet of paper with those guys,” said Miller, wearing the team’s decorated “hard hat” afterwards as the team’s appointed star of the game. “It’s unbelievable. But that’s a testament to the guys I’ve played with. They’ve put the puck in the net, and I’ve found them in good areas."
This season, the former Michigan high school Mr. Hockey was named a first-team All-ECAC selection and the Ivy League Player of the Year.
But Miller’s contribution to his team’s success has proven even more meaningful.
He’s part of a senior class that has been to three NCAA tournaments and that’s won two ECAC titles along with three Ivy championships. And of course, he and the other seniors – among them, goaltender Jeff Malcolm and power forward and highly touted NHL free agent Antoine Laganiere – led the Bulldogs to their first national semifinal since 1952.
Now, playing like a veteran team undeterred by the circumstances, they’ve gone one momentous step further.
Said Miller, “It’s an honor to send Yale University to the championship game. We’ve worked hard to be here.”
Thanks to Thursday’s overtime triumph, Yale will play for the national title on Saturday night, looking to be the first ECAC team to win the championship since 1989 (Harvard).
And who else but Miller to have scored the goal to put the Bulldogs in his position?
After all, if his Yale career has been defined by anything at all, it’s been his helping hand – and his overtime goal proved to be the biggest assist of his career.