ALBANY, N.Y. — There are a few games in the NCAA bracket that offer the high-scoring, adrenaline-filled offensive stare-downs to show the stars of the college hockey game.
While UMass-Lowell and Yale didn’t offer the offensive juggernauts on Saturday, the pair showed what kind of knock-down, drag-out kind of fight a defensive stalemate could be.
2016 NCAA East Regional
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The teams have a tournament overtime history, with a game ending in the same score. In 2013 the Frozen Four semifinal saw Yale take the game en route to its first national title.
“Aside from the outcome, I thought it was a terrific hockey game,” Yale coach Keith Allain said. “I thought that both teams played as hard and as well as they were able to.”
With the overtime period barely started, Gambardella capitalized on a turnover after a scramble in the corner, as the puck slipped off the heel of Yale defenseman Ryan Obuchowski’s stick.
“Chris Forney started the whole play — he made two huge keep-ins at the blue line for us coming down on the play,” Gambardella said. “It’s never easy for him knowing when he’s gonna take a hit to make a play. John Edwardh, my linemate, did an unbelievable job of possessing the puck. I made a cutback, threw it to the net, I was lucky to get a stick on it.”
Gambardella’s first goal of the night forced overtime on a beautiful passing play with C.J. Smith.
Pairing with his linemate, Smith burst through the neutral zone and pulled a defenseman with him to the corner. Yale goaltender Alex Lyon, tracking the play, was pulled to the edge of his paint, leaving the net wide open for the River Hawks’ alternate captain to put it home.
Bulldogs senior center Stu Wilson, who played on an impactful line with Joe Snively and John Hayden, had confidence in his team that was playing just its third game in a month.
“We definitely wanted it to be different,” Wilson said. “We had a lot of confidence, we were playing well. It just goes to show you how one little breakdown can end a season.”
The Bulldogs put two goals up, with the first from Frankie DiChiara at the end of the first and the second Ryan Hitchcock to give Yale its first lead of the game midway through the second. The lead held until Lowell scored in the third.
Yale graduates a flood of talent, including Mitch Witek, Rob O’Gara and Ryan Obuchowski, who led the Bulldogs not only to a national championship but to becoming a perennial defensive power as well.
“It’s raw for me right now to really express my feelings,” Allain said. “It’s a unique group, and I think of them as a group of individuals as well and what they brought to Yale, Yale hockey, the Yale hockey community is something that I’m going to be benefiting from for the rest of my life.”