Malcolm Takes the Cake
Yale Senior Goaltender Posts Title Game Shutout on 24th Birthday
by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer
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PITTSBURGH Jeff Malcolm forgot Saturday's date completely.
He remembered to turn his phone off Saturday morning, but it wasn't the date that led him to this. It was his plans for the evening — a national championship game — that forced him to cut off all contact with his friends, his family and anyone else who wanted to wish him luck.
The date, of course, was April 13. Always an important date in his life of, now, 24 years, Saturday was Malcolm's birthday. Not until he and his teammates headed to CONSOL Energy Center for their date with "War on Whitney" rival Quinnipiac did Malcolm remember he turned 24 on Saturday.
"I didn't know until the afternoon, someone said happy birthday to me," Malcolm said. "I guess it's my birthday."
Everyone gets a birthday every year. Not everyone gets to play in a national championship game. That fact was far more important.
Saturday night, Malcolm made 36 saves, earning a shutout, in a 4-0 win over Quinnipiac to clinch Yale's first national championship after 137 years of hockey. Throughout the game, the Yale fans jumped on every opportunity they could to serenade Malcolm with a rendition of "Happy Birthday."
On the ice, Quinnipiac, similarly, took advantage of every chance it had to serenade Malcolm with a chorus of shots. Slapshots from the point, wristers from the circle, pokes from in close, the Bobcats — the tournament's No. 1 overall seed — threw everything they could at Malcolm. He was perfect in response.
The best chances came on breakaways, first from Matthew Peca, then from Jordan Samuels-Thomas. Two of QU's best, most-skilled forwards, skated in on Malcolm and faked and dangled and deked to open even the slightest hole. Malcolm stood his ground each time, forcing saveable shots and easily brushing them aside.
"I felt comfortable," Malcolm said. "The save on Samuels-Thomas, he's a heck of a player, was one, but they just kept coming, kept coming. They're a great hockey team."
The Bobcats created equally dangerous chances in the second period with a two-man advantage. As the puck sailed from each point on the QU umbrella, Malcolm calmly squared himself, pivoting from spot to spot, waiting for the latest futile shots to disappear into his glove.
"Jeff played great all night," Yale senior defenseman Colin Dueck said. "You could tell right from the start, he was feeling it. He was getting shots, and he was seeing them and moving well. In the second period, he made a pretty good short breakaway stop and I knew at that point he's just closing the door. Playing in front of him, I mean, that's huge for us because we're confident."
Yale sophomore Clinton Bourbonais pushed the Bulldogs ahead with 3.5 seconds remaining the second period, tipping a shot from Gus Young just enough to guide the puck through Quinnipiac goaltender Eric Hartzell. Scoring the game's first goal to end the period was the crowning moment of Bourbonais' season. Malcolm's 15 second-period saves made the moment possible.
For Bourbonais, his goal was secondary to Malcolm's brilliance on Saturday. The leadership Malcolm and the Yale senior class offered to Bourbonais and the other underclassmen set the example that taught Bourbonais to do exactly as he did on the goal. Play until the whistle, battle for space, work to the front of the net and fight for everything.
"He's a great role model," Bourbonais said of Malcolm. "He took me under his wing as a freshman. He's worked so hard to get where he is. He's been our backbone the entire season. It's his birthday. This is the best present we could ever give him."
Yale added three more goals in the third period, including an empty-net goal from Jesse Root, to wrap up the victory. Malcolm made 10 saves of his own to seal the victory. The four goals his teammates mustered were more than enough to spend the final few moments of the game in anticipation of the celebration.
Before the clock struck zero, Malcolm's teammates were already on top of him, piling on top of the goalie that made their dream a reality. The goalie who suffered a leg injury on Feb. 1 that looked, at first, like it could end his season. Without Malcolm, the Bulldogs went 0-5-0. When he returned on Feb. 23, Yale's NCAA tournament hopes were questionable at best. After a disappointing showing in the semifinal and consolation game of the ECAC tournament, Notre Dame's defeat of Michigan in the CCHA championship game made Yale the last team into the NCAA tournament.
After gaining new life, it was Malcolm who guided the Bulldogs past Minnesota and North Dakota to win the West Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich., before Thursday's national semifinal win over Massachusetts-Lowell.
"Tonight they had a couple of chances early, and we could tell on the bench that Jeff was sharp," Yale coach Keith Allain said. "But, to me, what epitomized it was that we got the goal late in the second period. They come out, and they're really pushing. In the first three or four minutes of the third period they were getting chance after chance, and he held the fort for us.
"He did what great goaltenders do. He gave us a chance to win."
As Malcolm and his teammates picked up their new trophy Saturday night, they immediately headed left toward the Yale portion of the crowd. At this point, Malcolm was content just to celebrate the national championship — happy enough only to hear the Yale fight song bellowing from the throng of blue-and-white clad Yalies that made the trip to Pittsburgh.
He didn't hear that at first, though. Once again, the fans, this time joined by countless neutral fans in attendance, broke out into "Happy Birthday" to wish Saturday's hero the best of birthdays.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Malcolm said. "I couldn't ask for a better birthday. Our support base is so big. Yale's been tremendous for us."
Jeff Malcolm woke up Saturday morning not realizing it was his birthday. Thirty-six saves, a shutout and a national championship later, it's certain that this birthday is one Jeff Malcolm will never forget.