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Of McNally and Miracles: Star Defenseman Returns to Ice

Miraculous McNally
Patrick McNally participates in a practice at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. a day before the ECAC tournament semifinals.

With ticks to go in the Game 3 rubber match of the ECAC tournament quarterfinals, the Yale men’s ice hockey team held a 2-1 lead, its anaconda-like defense suffocating Harvard’s attack in a seemingly inevitable fashion.

Yale had yet to lose a game in 2014-2015 when leading after two periods. The Crimson, meanwhile, had yet to win a game when trailing after two. The visitors had provided little indication of reversing that trend with a stifled effort out of the intermission.

“This game is over,” Josh Seguin of College Hockey News tweeted from the press box with about four minutes to go. “Harvard has done nothing this period.”

Around then, things began to change—innocently enough at first.

Harvard junior Desmond Bergin saucered a pass to fourth-year forward Colin Blackwell, who pirouetted over the red line. As he cut into the Yale zone, he took out the stick of Bulldog junior Ryan Obuchowski, who skated after it as Crimson forwards crowded the crease and Blackwell moved to his backhand.

Two seconds later, Obuchowski and the 2,500-odd witnesses at Ingalls learned a valuable lesson:

Never, ever count out Patrick McNally.

***

Bergin struggles to contain his amazement.

“From an uneducated point of view—I wasn’t in on all the doctor’s meetings and stuff—but just knowing his injury, it almost seems comical or miraculous that he’d be able to play in so short a time,” Bergin says. “But he kept saying that he was going to be back for the playoffs.”

Bergin is fielding a call about McNally—his partner on the Crimson’s first defensive pair. It’s Tuesday morning, three days before the ECAC tournament semifinals in Lake Placid, N.Y., where No. 17/15 Harvard (19-12-3, 11-8-3 ECAC) will play No. 7/7 Quinnipiac (23-10-4, 16-3-3).

Less than 36 hours earlier, Harvard had eliminated Yale, 3-2, in a double overtime contest—the longest ever in the schools’ 250-game series. With just over three minutes left in regulation, McNally had connected on Blackwell’s backhanded assist to tie the game. Then with just over three minutes left in the second overtime period, McNally provided the shot that led to junior forward Jimmy Vesey’s game-winning strike.

But for all the fourth-year defenseman’s late-game heroics, Bergin is just amazed that McNally was skating next to him.

Near the end of the call, Bergin tries to amend his comments, saying that he doesn’t want McNally to take them the wrong way. Later that evening, McNally reacts to Bergin’s words good-humoredly.

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