Sunday, March 31, 2013

Quinnipiac on its way to Frozen Four

If there were any doubters before this weekend that wondered how a struggling Quinnipiac team won as many games as it did, just watch tape of the last four periods. The Bobcats showed their stuff, starting with a third-period comeback against Canisius and continued tonight in blasting Union out of the arena.

Quinnipiac, like Yale, is headed to the Frozen Four. Still having a hard time wrapping my head around this one.

Goalie Eric Hartzell set the early tone, a save 2 minutes in on a Union break. Matthew Peca took it from there, scoring three times in three minutes. Union coach Rick Bennett said the game was over then.

Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said he sensed the spark lit in his team on Saturday, when Peca scored to bring the Bobcats within 3-2, a game that resulted in a win over Canisius.

"When he scored that goal, I knew we were going to win," Pecknold said. "It's been one of those seasons. This has been a magical year."

Pecknold spoke of his team's character. When pressed on his definition of character, he quoted former Yale coach Tim Taylor. "Doing the right things when no one is watching. That's character," Pecknold said. "There are a lot of kids that will do the right thing when the coach is hovering over them. But will they do the right thing when we're not there? Character is an important part of having a successful program."

A few quick stats that puts things in perspective:
  • The last time the Frozen Four had two teams from the same state was in 2005, when Denver and Colorado College got there. Before that, it was in 2001 with Michigan and Michigan State.
  • Should Yale and Quinnipiac reach the national finals, it would be the first time two schools from the same state played for a title since 1978 when it was Boston University vs. Boston College. Yale and Quinnipiac may be from neighboring cities, but it would be the same feel.
  • Matthew Peca set an NCAA tournament record for fastest natural hat trick. He wound up with four goals in a span of 24 minutes (counting his Saturday third period goal) and nearly had another when he shot wide.
Playing with the albatross of being the No. 1 team in the national polls isn't easy even for established programs that have been there before. Quinnipiac is new to the big stage. It's loving every minute.

"We're happy to be the No.1 team in the country," Connor Jones said. "We earned it. We have that confidence."


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