April 10, 2013 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Root Comes Home

Yale's Center Heads Back to Pittsburgh

by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH — Jesse Root's crowning moment of the 2013 NCAA tournament came nine seconds into Yale's first game. Racing to the net, he redirected a pass from Kenny Agostino past Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox to clinch a 3-2 in for the Bulldogs.

A day later, he added yet another piece to his crown, scoring the game-winning goal in a 4-1 win over North Dakota to seal Yale's first Frozen Four bid since 1952.

Root's heroics over a 48-hour span in Grand Rapids, Mich., two weekends ago undid more than 60 years or frustration and early finishes for Yale. Thursday afternoon, the next step in that process comes with a national semifinal date against Massachusetts-Lowell.

For Root, the game also marks the first time he'll play a college hockey game at home in three years at Yale. A native of Pittsburgh, Root has a chance to make a mark in a building he spent in with his family over the years.

"I couldn't be more excited," Root said. "I was a little sad on the trip. I spent a lot of great years with my dad and brother going to games."

Like most young hockey players in western Pennsylvania, Root grew up idolizing Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and the other great players on the Pittsburgh Penguins' dominant teams of the early and mid 90s.

"My dad had a season tickets when I was growing up," Root said. "I was a huge Mario fans, a huge Jagr fan. So it played a huge role in developing my passion for the game."

Root centers Yale's top line, flanked by gifted wingers Kenny Agostino and Andrew Miller. The trio draws the task of creating offense on a UMass-Lowell team that has allowed just 10 goals in its previous 10 games. The River Hawks have shut down some of the nation's best offenses in the process.

The Bulldogs' offense, led by Root and his linemates, broke out against North Dakota. Trailing, 1-0, in the third period, Yale scored four goals, including an Agostino empty-net goal, to advance past North Dakota. It was Root's goal that gave Yale the lead.

Agostino and Miller both outscored Root on the season. The pair ranks among the most talented duos in the ECAC. Root's role as the pivot between his dynamic flanks speaks to his nature, blending the stick and puck skills of a first-line center with the grit of a kid born in the shadow of the Steel City and trained at the Taft School in Waterbury, Conn.

Agostino's connections to Pittsburgh have been well documented in recent weeks. A 2010 fifth-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Agostino was traded, along with St. Cloud State's Ben Hanowski and a first-round pick, to the Calgary Flames for Jarome Iginla. Obviously, Root and his teammates aren't focused on Agostino's future just yet. Root's admiration for his linemate, however, has added to the group's production.

"I can't say more about anyone else in hockey," Root said.

"(Kenny) loves the game. You can see that when he plays. As a player, he's one of the best puck protectors I've played with. As a linemate, that opens up play a lot for us," Root continued."

Agostino and Miller draw a majority of the attention among Yale's top line. They're the type of playmakers and goal-scorers that score special goals — and a lot of them. But there's more to hockey than pretty goals. Timely goals change games and seasons. A won puck battle generates a critical scoring chance.

Jesse Root does both of those things. And, this weekend, he'll show off those skills in the city he learned them.

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