Men’s ice hockey advances to NCAA National Championship

Men's ice hockey advances to NCAA National Championship

Max Molski

Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey faced the Boston College Eagles in a Frozen Four matchup on Thursday evening. The game marked Boston College’s 25th Frozen Four appearance – the most of any collegiate program – while Quinnipiac was making only its second trip. The Eagles also boast 12 NHL draft picks to the Bobcats’ two.

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Yet, on Thursday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa, the No. 1 team in the country topped a perennial power.

Quinnipiac defeated Boston College, 3-2, to advance to its second-ever NCAA National Championship game.

“This team is resilient,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “It’s great character, great culture and all year long we’ve found ways to win. That’s what we do.”

Quinnipiac hopped on the scoreboard early. Scott Davidson scraped the blue line to get onside before disrupting Boston College on the forecheck. He then sent a pass between the faceoff circles and Kevin McKernan whipped a shot beneath the glove of Boston College goaltender Thatcher Demko, one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, to give Quinnipiac the lead 2:31 into the first period.

“I think our forechecking is huge,” Quinnipiac forward Landon Smith said. “I think it’s a big part of how we start the game. If we succeed in the way we want to forecheck, it creates chaos and tips things in our direction.”

The Bobcats scored their second goal with 12:40 left in the opening period. Andrew Taverner snuck the puck through Demko’s five-hole after taking a feed from Travis St. Denis. The goal was Taverner’s second of the postseason while St. Denis earned his ninth point of the playoffs and extended his point streak to six games.

The Eagles responded with a quick answer to start the second period. Teddy Doherty put the initial shot on Quinnipiac goaltender Michael Garteig and Alex Tuch slammed home a rebound for his third goal of the NCAA Tournament.

Boston College defenseman Ian McCoshen took a cross-checking penalty for the Eagles early in the second period, allowing for Quinnipiac’s first power play. The Bobcats, who entered the game with a 29-percent conversion rate on the power play, took no time capitalizing on its first opportunity Thursday night. Landon Smith knocked a loose puck in from the crease nine seconds into the power play for his fourth goal of the playoffs.

“That goal was huge,” Pecknold said. “Our power play will definitely be cute at times and make some unbelievable plays and other times we’re like ‘Let’s get it to the net.’ I thought that was something we had to do with Demko today.”

The Eagles brought it to a one-goal game with 4:16 left in the third period. Ryan Fitzgerald knocked in a rebound off McCoshen’s initial shot at the end of an Boston College power play.

From that point forward, Michael Garteig took control. Quinnipiac’s goaltender faced 14 shots in the final period, including a barrage of shots in the final minutes. Garteig had to flash his glove to stop a laser off McCoshen’s stick with 1:10 to go and even after the Eagles pulled Demko for an extra attacker, Garteig and the Quinnipiac defense held firm and cemented the 3-2 win.

“With the goaltender pulled, I thought we had two really exceptional chances to score that [Garteig] made unbelievable saves on,” Boston College head coach Jerry York said.

With the win, the Bobcats will face the winner of the other Frozen Four matchup between Denver and North Dakota. After falling short with a loss to Yale in the 2013 National Championship game, St. Denis said he and the Bobcats are eager to win the program’s first title in his final collegiate game.

“It’s very exciting,” St. Denis said. “It’s a tough loss our freshman year for our senior class. Now we get another kick at the can. We’re definitely very excited for Saturday.”

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