The Night is Young's
Junior Defenseman Makes Two Pivotal Plays in Yale's Title Win
by A.J. Curry/CHN Reporter
PITTSBURGH With its historic 4-0 win over conference rival Quinnipiac on Saturday night, Yale made all kinds of history – most notably, by being the first team to topple three No. 1 seeds, becoming the first Yale team of any kind to win a national championship since its men’s swimming squad did so six decades ago.
“History,” certainly, epitomizes the Ivy League School – the third-oldest university in the country and the birthplace, really, of college hockey. It’s fitting then, that Yale’s junior defenseman Gus Young – who has plenty of connections to the Ivy League – made two monumental plays, one defensively and one offensively, to help propel the Bulldogs to the 2013 national title.
The truth is, Young – whose brother Seamus played hockey at Princeton and whose father Kevin played football and lacrosse at Dartmouth in addition to winning a 1975 heavyweight wrestling championship – appears in boxscores relatively infrequently. The Dedham, Mass., native had just five career goals – one of which was against Minnesota in the NCAA opening round this year – along with 16 career assists prior to Saturday night’s championship game in Pittsburgh.
As the second period wound down, a Quinnipiac clear attempt zipped around the boards behind the Bobcats’ Hobey finalist Eric Hartzell. At the time, the 18,000-plus fans in the CONSOL Energy Center began to assume a scoreless tie after two periods, which would have been just the second such score after two in title game history (1968).
Young had other ideas, pinching in on the left point and blindly firing the puck to the net, where Clinton Bourbonais tipped it between Hartzell’s legs to give Yale the 1-0 lead – one they would never relinquish. When the puck snuck behind Hartzell, only 3.5 seconds remained on the clock.
“I knew there was less than 10 seconds left, so I was jumping up in the play no matter what,” said Young. “The puck came around the boards. I was already in the zone more than I would be in a regular situation. I’d be lying if I said I saw Clint there, but these whole playoffs, we’ve been stressing getting pucks and bodies to the net. Clint was able to get a stick on it and make a great play.”
Young made the split-second decision to pinch because he understood the situation – and the time left on the clock.
Continued Young, “With our system, our right defenseman pinches, and our left defenseman usually backs off. In that situation, since it was such a hard shot around the boards, I knew that there would be people behind me. I knew I had support from the forwards backing me up.”
The goal also marked a season-long evolution for the usual stay-at-home defenseman.
“I’m definitely a defensive defenseman, a stay-at-home guy,” said Young. “I usually play one of the top two lines of the other team, try to shut them down. I like to start offense by moving the puck from my own zone. As the season went on, I started becoming a little more comfortable jumping up into the play more.”
And on the game’s turning point play, that he did. But Young’s instinctive move was, in fact, the second of two pivotal plays made by the Colorado Avalanche draft pick on Saturday night. The first was quieter – but just as important. Young’s name was called by Yale coach Keith Allain when the Bulldogs found themselves with a five-on-three power play to kill, with 8:35 left in the second period.
With Quinnipiac looking to take advantage of the situation – the score still 0-0 – Young’s anticipation helped thwart a chance, as the Bobcats skated into the Yale zone with numbers. Consider the situation – Quinnipiac, the No. 1 seed in the country, was looking to take the lead in the national title game, against a Yale team winless against the Bobcats in three tries this year. With the golden opportunity of a two-man advantage, a goal might have crippled Yale.
“The (Quinnipiac) player who had the puck switched," Young said. "I knew he had it, so I was able to back off (the second Quinnipiac) player and slide to the one with the puck. He made a pass there, and I was able to read it and clear it.
“It is an instinct play. But, at the same time, you’re able to make those instinct plays when everyone’s doing their job.”
That clear killed off the final several seconds of the five-on-three chance – helping to set the stage for his later heroics. All season, Young has been a steadying presence of the Bulldogs’ defense, the behind-the-scenes leader of which is assistant coach Red Gendron. Young was paired with freshman blue liner Rob O’Gara – the two are alumni of a pair of archviral New England prep schools, Noble and Greenough (Young) and Milton Academy (O’Gara).
“I knew he was a Nobles guy, and my old Milton friends didn’t like him very much,” said O’Gara, smiling. “But since I got here, he’s been a great mentor and a great friend. He’s amazing.
“To be lucky enough to play with him all year was a great honor.”
The greatest honor, of course, came late Saturday night in Pittsburgh, when the buzzer sounded, and Yale secured its historic national championship – the first for an Ivy League or ECAC school since Harvard won it all in 1989.
“Those plays are typical of Gus Young,” said Allain of both key moments made by his defenseman. “He’s one of our most competitive players. He’s our best defensive defenseman. He’s good for a big hit every now and then as well.
“You don’t win championships without guys like Gus.”