Beast of the East

The Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team clinched a spot in the 2013 Frozen Four Sunday evening after the 5-1 victory over Union in the NCAA East Regional final. For the program, the weekend set a series of firsts, including a Frozen Four appearance and an NCAA Tournament win.

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Quinnipiac will take on St. Cloud State on April 11 in Pittsburgh, Pa., while interstate-rival Yale squares off against UMass Lowell. The 2013 Frozen Four is the first time in history that Quinnipiac and Yale have made appearances, while also being the first Frozen Four featuring two ECAC teams since 1983.

“I knew we had a chance to do this,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “It’s so hard to win in the NCAA Tournament. For us, it’s about going into the Frozen Four and not being content on being there.”

“It’s great for Connecticut, it’s good for the ECAC,” captain Zack Currie said. “But we are focused on our matchup with St. Cloud right now.”

Pecknold touched upon the team’s defense, citing it as one of the main reasons for Quinnipiac’s success this season.

“Our defense is our pressure,” Pecknold said. “Our D-core is one of our strengths. Zach Davies and Danny Federico were awesome. Federico was our seven last year, played 16 games out of 40, and now he’s our number-two D.”

“I think it’s just the whole team mindset,” Currie said. “It helps that we’ve had the four senior defensemen and two of the younger guys stepping up. Playing with Hartzell for so long there’s a bit of a relationship there.”

Quinnipiac’s East Regional weekend featured a blowout win and a late third period comeback. Saturday evening, the Bobcats rattled off three unanswered in the final stanza to defeat Canisius, 4-3. Sunday night, Quinnipiac trounced Union 5-1, three of the Bobcats goals coming in the first period.

Sophomore forward Matthew Peca recorded his first-career hat trick Sunday, while also setting an NCAA Tournament record for the quickest natural-hat trick in just 3:12.

“It’s a great accomplishment to make it to the Frozen Four,” Peca said. “We’ve done a good job of not getting too high or too low. We’re there to win a national championship, and we’re gonna take it one game at a time.”

Of the four teams in the Frozen Four, Quinnipiac is the only one without any players who have been to the NCAA tournament but Coach Pecknold was not concerned.

“No one’s been to a Frozen Four,” Pecknold said. “It’s a whole different ball game when you get to that level.”