PITTSBURGH (AP) — Yale captain Andrew Miller stopped a reporter when he asked what it felt like to be the final school to make the 16-team when the NCAA hockey tournament began.
Actually, we were the 15th seed," Miller said.
And ultimately, the last one standing.
Miller capped his brilliant career with a breakaway goal in the third period, Jeff Malcolm stopped all 36 Quinnipiac shots and the Bulldogs won their first NCAA championship with a 4-0 victory Saturday night.
It was sweet revenge for Yale (22-12-3), which lost the three previous meetings with the top-seeded Bobcats by a combined 13-3. The nation's oldest hockey program, however, left no doubt in the final, riding the play of Malcolm and some unlikely offensive contributions to capture a title 117 years in the making.
"Tonight was our turn," Yale coach Keith Allain said.
The Bulldogs have been playing hockey since 1896 but had only made the tournament twice before Allain took over in 2006. The Yale graduate accepted the job with the promise from his bosses the school would do what it takes to be competitive. In seven seasons he guided the Bulldogs all the way to the top.
"I came back to prove you could go to the best university in the world and prove you can play hockey at the highest level," Allain said.
Yale did it throughout the tournament, knocking off three No. 1 seeds, including its Connecticut rivals from just down the street. Quinnipiac (30-8-5) — located less than 10 miles from the Yale campus — spent most of the year ranked No. 1.
The Bobcats (30-8-5) hardly looked like it after Yale's Clint Bourbonais redirected a shot between goalie Eric Hartzell's legs with 4 seconds left in the second period and freshman Charles Orzetti scored his first goal in four months 3:35 into the third to make it 2-0.
Miller, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, then broke loose and flipped a backhand by Hartzell for his 18th goal of the season. Pittsburgh native Jesse Root added an empty netter to set the coronation in motion.
"You've got to play your game," Miller said. "We had some great players on our team. A lot of guys that don't get noticed, they're our heroes."
Hartzell stopped 27 shots, but the Hobey Baker finalist let in a couple of soft goals that gave Yale all the momentum it would need.
"I thought we were the best team in college hockey for the season," Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. "Unfortunately, we didn't prove it tonight."
The Bobcats dominated the season series, sweeping all three meetings by a combined score of 13-3. Quinnipiac trailed for all of 18 minutes in the three games combined and Hartzell allowed only one goal in the previous eight periods against Yale.
Yet Pecknold insisted the Bulldogs weren't the same team the Bobcats steamrolled 3-0 three weeks ago in the ECAC tournament consolation game. Yale tripped up national powers Minnesota and North Dakota to make the Frozen Four for the first time since 1952, then edged UMass Lowell 3-2 in overtime in the semifinals Thursday.
On the biggest stage, the Bulldogs finally put it together behind Malcolm.
The senior celebrated his 24th birthday by keeping the tournament's highest-scoring team at bay, including a crucial 5-on-3 penalty kill in the second period that kept the game tied. The Yale fans serenaded the goaltender with "Happy Birthday" during one stoppage in play, and Malcolm responded by taking turning away Yale's nemesis one breathtaking stop at a time.
Ultimately, Hartzell blinked first.
The clock winding down late in the second period, Young flipped what appeared to be an innocent shot from just outside the left circle. Bourbonais slapped his stick on the ice just as the puck rolled past him a few feet in front of the crease. The change of direction sent the puck between Hartzell's legs to give Yale an unlikely lead and a major boost heading into the final intermission of the season.
Quinnipiac attempted to respond early in the third, flying around the Yale net in the same way the Bobcats overwhelmed St. Cloud State on Thursday. Malcolm, in perfect position nearly every time, maintained his composure.
His teammates repaid his hard work with another unlikely goal. Orzetti, a freshman who hadn't scored since Dec. 8, streaked down the left wing and fired a shot at Hartzell. The rebound trickled to Hartzell's right and Orzetti slammed home his own rebound between the goalie's legs to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.
The soft goals were uncharacteristic of Hartzell's outstanding season. Yet they counted anyway.
"Without Hartzy we're not here, we don't go to the Frozen Four," Pecknold said. "He was awesome all year for us."
Just not in the final 21 minutes of the season.
Miller, who scored in overtime in the semifinals against Lowell, broke through 9:06 into the third to make it 3-0. The Bobcats panicked, pulling Hartzell with 7:19 remaining.
The ploy lasted all of 20 seconds. Root delivered the puck into the empty net and drained any drama out of the final 7 minutes. Confetti rained down at the final horn as the Bulldogs mobbed Malcolm in celebration.
"In the NCAA tournament anybody can beat anybody," Miller said. "Whoever has the hottest goalie, best team game wins."
-- Will Graves
Illinois gives Groce contract extension, raise
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Illinois has rewarded coach John Groce's successful first season in Champaign with a contract extension and a $200,000-a-year raise.
Athletic Director Mike Thomas said Saturday that Groce's contract will be extended one year through the 2017-18 season. The raise will increase his pay to $1.6 million a year. Both changes still need approval of the university's board of trustees.
"The arrow is definitely pointing up for Fighting Illini basketball, and this helps solidify the commitment by both the University and John to continue moving the program to a championship level," Thomas said in a news release.
Groce credited his players, most of whom he inherited from a team that finished the previous season 17-15 and lost 12 of their last 14, costing coach Bruce Weber his job.
The Illini won 23 games, made it to the NCAA tournament and defeated Colorado before losing to Miami. They finished 8-10 in the Big Ten.
"This was one of the most gratifying seasons of my career because of how much I enjoyed coaching this group of players," Groce said. "They bought in from day one, had great attitudes, and gave tremendous effort which allowed us to have success."
Groce came to Illinois after a four-year run at Ohio.
-- David Mercer
Michigan's Burke to announce plans Sunday
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Trey Burke has made a decision about his future and he's ready to announce it.
Burke will have a news conference Sunday at Michigan.
The Associated Press college basketball player of the year is expected to say he's skipping his last two seasons of college to enter the NBA draft.
Burke averaged 18.6 points — almost four points more than he did as a freshman — and 6.7 assists last season. He led the Wolverines to the NCAA championship game for the first time in two decades. The 6-foot, 190-pound point guard thought about going pro a year ago after helping Michigan win its first Big Ten title since 1986, but chose to come back to campus for his sophomore season.
Vols' McRae plans to return for senior season
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee guard Jordan McRae plans to return to school for his senior season rather than entering the NBA draft.
McRae said, "I'm not ready for my experience at Tennessee to be over" in statement released Saturday by the university announcing his decision. The 6-foot-5 guard had requested an evaluation from the NBA's undergraduate advisory committee.
McRae earned first-team all-Southeastern Conference honors this season and ranked fourth in the league with 15.7 points per game. In league competition, McRae scored 19.2 points per game.
At the end of the spring semester, McRae will be 24 credit hours shy of earning his degree in sociology/criminal justice.
Tennessee is still waiting on a draft decision from 6-8 forward Jarnell Stokes, who averaged 12.4 points and 9.6 rebounds as a sophomore this season.
Rally set for UConn parade in Hartford
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Dannel Malloy is set to participate in a parade and rally honoring the University of Connecticut women's basketball team for bagging a record-tying eighth NCAA title.
His office announced Saturday that Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman will participate in the celebrations scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Hartford.
The parade will kick off at 4 p.m. at the State Capitol, travel north on Trinity Street, and circle Bushnell Park before returning up Capitol avenue to the statehouse, where the rally will be held.
Malloy, UConn coach Geno Auriemma and some players are expected to address the crowd at the rally.
The event is being hosted by the Hartford Business Improvement District and will be paid for using private donations.
Arizona's Kanute completes sweep
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The University of Arizona's Ben Kanute completed a weekend sweep USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships, winning the Olympic-distance race Saturday.
Kanute finished the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run at Tempe Beach Park in 1 hour, 46 minutes, 36 seconds. On Friday, he won the draft-legal race.
"Everything felt really solid," Kanute said. "It was just a matter of following my pace on the run and going hard to the finish. I wanted to get out to an early lead and try and hold that as long as possible. I knew once I got to the far turnaround and crossed the bridge, it was home free from there."
South Florida's Michael Poole was second in 1:47:08.
Colorado's Michelle Mehnert won the women's Olympic-distance race in 2:01:13. California's Erika Erickson was second in 2:02:28.