Quinnipiac advances to national championship game with decisive win over Michigan


Aidan Sheedy

With a 5-2 win over Michigan Thursday, Quinnipiac men’s hockey moves on to its third NCAA Championship game in program history and first since 2016.

Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

TAMPA, Fla. — It only takes one bounce to win a hockey game. The Quinnipiac men’s hockey team got two, combined with a whole lot of heart and grit to help take down Michigan 5-2 Thursday and advance to the NCAA National Championship game. 

The Frozen Four semifinal marked win No. 33 for the Bobcats this season, breaking the previous program record set in 2015-16 and matched last season.

“Quinnipiac culture was on full display tonight,” head coach Rand Pecknold said. “We won a lot of races, won a lot of battles. When we got beat at times we had a second, third layer there … just proud of the boys and we’re excited to move on and play Minnesota.”

Quinnipiac came out of the gate firing, erasing any notion of it being a slow-starting team by pressuring the Wolverines early and often. 

A strong power play generated several quality looks for the Bobcats, who converted just after it expired. Sophomore forward Jacob Quillan followed a soaring rebound behind the goal line and fired a shot into the net off the back of Michigan junior goaltender Erik Portillo. 

The Wolverines answered right back. Freshman defenseman Seamus Casey walked the entire Bobcats’ defense and cut across the top of the crease to beat Quinnipiac sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets. His goal evened the game at one just under two minutes after Quillan’s tally. 

“I thought Seamus Casey might have been the best player on the ice tonight,” Pecknold said. “He really gave us a lot to handle. That was the whole in between first and second, talking about him.”

The Bobcats’ top-line center didn’t let the game stay tied for long. A brilliant backhand pass from freshman forward Sam Lipkin sprung Quillan on a breakaway, which he potted five-hole to give Quinnipiac the lead again. 

“We want to take care of the puck and limit their chances, but at the same time we want to pounce on offense,” Quillan said. “And that’s what we did early in the game.”

That score remained for nearly 20 minutes of game action, but it wasn’t for a lack of chances. Perets made several big saves on a net-front scramble and Portillo denied Bobcats sophomore forward Collin Graf on a breakaway to keep the game 2-1. 

With just over 10 minutes to play in the second period, Michigan equalized. Freshman forward Adam Fantilli sent a howitzer under the bar off a slick pass from sophomore defenseman Luke Hughes and the Wolverines found themselves in the driver’s seat heading into the back half of the game. 

Perets made another phenomenal save, this time sliding across the crease to deny a shot with his right pad and send the game into the final intermission tied at two. 

The Bobcats netminder made 29 saves in the game, his sixth game with at least that many this season. 

“He’s excellent, I think he’s been the best goalie in the country this year,” Pecknold said. “You look at the stats, it’s not even close.”

Early in the third period, Lipkin broke the game open once more, doubling up on his linemate Quillan’s bank shot with one of his own. The Philadelphia native corralled a rebound behind the net and directed it off Portillo’s calf and in to retake the lead. 

The goal came off an assist from Graf, giving him his 58th point of the season and sole possession of No. 2 all-time for Quinnipiac single-season points, one shy of Bryan Leitch (2008-09) for the record. 

An intense 11 minutes of play followed Lipkin’s goal, with both sides exchanging chances, including a crossbar for the Wolverines, to no avail until the seven-minute mark. 

Graduate student defenseman Zach Metsa rifled a seeing-eye wrist shot from the top of the left circle to extend the Bobcats’ lead to two. 

Forward Ethan de Jong, a fellow grad student, joined the party with an empty netter with under two minutes remaining to seal the victory for Quinnipiac. 

The win is rewarding, but there’s still a lot left on the table for the Bobcats. 

“I think maybe give yourself 15-20 minutes to enjoy it, and then we still have a job to do,” Metsa said. “It was our goal from the beginning of the year (to win a national championship) and we have an opportunity to get it. Got to take care of our bodies, eat well and rest up.”

Quinnipiac advances to face top-seeded Minnesota in the national championship game at 8 p.m. Saturday. The Golden Gophers stopped Boston University 6-2 in the opening semifinal game of the day. 

The matchup will be just the second time the two teams have faced off against each other and the first since 2000, when the Bobcats were in just their third season as a Division I program. 

“We don’t mind being the underdog,” Pecknold said. “Nobody gave us a chance to win tonight, nobody will give us a chance on Saturday, but we’ll find a way to figure it out.”