Quinnipiac rolled to the ECAC Hockey regular-season title. Now, the top-ranked Bobcats are on their way to Pittsburgh after a thorough dissection of Union in the NCAA hockey tournament East Regional championship game.
Matthew Peca scored a natural hat trick in just over a three-minute span, and the Bobcats showed why they were the best team in the league during the regular season with a 5-1 victory over the
13th-ranked Dutchmen on Sunday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
The Bobcats (29-7-5) advance to their first Frozen Four. They will face Midwest Regional champion St. Cloud State in the semifinals April 11 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The other semifinal pits Yale, Quinnipiac’s neighbor in the New Haven, Conn., area, against UMass-Lowell in the other semifinal. The championship game is April 13.
The ECACH tournament-champion Dutchmen (22-13-5), who were seeking a second straight trip to the Frozen Four, saw their season end, along with their seven-game winning streak, with their third loss of the season to the Bobcats. It was a stark contrast from Saturday’s semifinals, when third-seeded Union rolled to a 5-1 win over second-seeded Boston College, while top-seeded Quinnipiac rallied from a 3-1 third-period deficit to top fourth-seeded Canisius, 4-3, in the semifinals. Peca started the rally when he scored with 11:58 left in the third.
“It’s definitely tough,” Union coach Rick Bennett said. “You feel bad for the five seniors, and the guys that battled hard throughout this whole season. I know, here we go with the peaks and valleys things again, I guess it’s good publicity. But at the same token, it was a great finish, and that’s what you want to do as a program, you want to finish strong.
“I know it’s not how we wanted to end up. It’s the difference between heaven and h-e- double-l-l. That’s the way it goes, sometimes, in sports.”
Union had a chance to take a 1-0 lead early in the first period when Max Novak got a breakaway. But goalie Eric Hartzell, the ECACH Player of the Year and Ken Dryden Award winner as the league’s top netminder, made a glove save.
“Max has been on fire. He’s been playing great for us,” Union senior right winger Wayne Simpson said. “He had a great burst of speed. I think we all thought it was going in. He’s a good scorer, but Hartzell’s a good goalie.”
And then, Peca, in effect, ended the Dutchmen’s season in a 3:12 span of the first period.
After getting knocked to the ice by Dutchmen defenseman Sebastien Gingras, Peca got up and put a rebound of a Connor Jones shot past goalie Troy Grosenick at 9:46.
Peca got his second goal at 10:59, after intercepting a Simpson cross-ice pass in the neutral zone. With center Kyle Bodie back, Peca skated down the right wing into the Union zone, and beat Grosenick glove-side with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle.
Peca scored his third goal on the power play. Coming out of the left-wing corner, he moved past defensemen Mat Bodie and Shawn Stuart and put a backhander past Grosenick at 12:58.
“Peca basically won the game in the first period,” Bennett said. “There were some tremendous plays.”
The three goals in 3:12 is the fastest hat trick ever in an NCAA tournament game.
“You have to take it one shift at a time,” Simpson said. “You can’t worry about a three-goal deficit. You have to worry about getting the next goal. We’ve had times over my career, even this year, when we were down, 3-0, in the first
period and came back to make it a game.”
But not this time.
Matt Wilkins was called for a five-minute major for hitting from behind at 6:27 of the second period. Just under a minute later, Jordan Samuels-Thomas pushed a pass from Trevor St. Denis past Grosenick.
Kellen Jones made it a five-goal cushion with 8:18 left in the second when he took a Peca pass, split the defense and lifted a backhander over a diving Grosenick.
The Dutchmen ended Hartzell’s bid for a shutout early in the third period. Greg Coburn, skating down the left wing, sent a pass to Daniel Ciampini coming down the slot, and he fired a shot past Hartzell.
“You’re going into the third period down, 5-0, it’s pretty tough to get up for it,” Union junior defenseman and captain Mat Bodie said. “I thought we did a great job of coming out, and playing and competing.”
Union 0 0 1 — 1
Quinnipiac 3 2 0 — 5
First Period — 1, Quinnipiac, Peca 13
(C. Jones, K. Jones), 9:46. 2, Quinnipiac, Peca 14, 10:59. 3, Quinnipiac, Peca 15, 12:58 (pp). Penalties — Carr, Uni (boarding), 11:37; Roy, Uni (unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00; Peca, Qui (cross-checking), 20:00.
Second Period — 4, Quinnipiac, Samuels-Thomas 16 (St. Denis, Goodman), 7:22 (pp). 5, Quinnipiac, K. Jones 12 (Peca), 11:42. Penalties — Van Brabant, Qui (cross-checking), 2:49; Wilkins, Uni, major-game misconduct (hitting from behind), 6:27; St. Denis, Qui (hooking), 9:25; Union bench, served by Ciampini (too many men), 13:52; M. Bodie, Uni (roughing), 19:59; C. Jones, Qui (holding), 19:59.
Third Period — 6, Union, Ciampini 11
(Coburn, Simpson), 3:15 (pp). Penalties — Dalhuisen, Qui (tripping), 2:16; Gostisbehere, Uni, major-game misconduct (contact to head), 11:21; C. Jones, Qui (tripping), 11:21.
Shots on Goal — Union 5-10-4 — 19. Quinnipiac 7-10-9 — 26.
Power-play opportunities — Union 1 of 3; Quinnipiac 2 of 5.
Goalies — Union, Grosenick 17-10-5 (26 shots-21 saves). Quinnipiac, Hartzell 29-6-5 (19-18).
A — 5,007. T — 2:28.
Referees — Derek Shepherd, Marco Hunt. Linesmen — Sam Shikowsky, Nick Bradshaw.