Quinnipiac downs Minnesota in overtime, claims first national championship in program history


Aidan Sheedy

Quinnipiac men’s hockey celebrates its first national championship in program history following a 3-2 win over Minnesota at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, on April 8.

Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

TAMPA, Fla. — Minnesota entered Saturday’s national championship game as the higher seed. It was more talented and highly favored. Gopher fans outnumbered Quinnipiac fans 3-to-1 in Amalie Arena. None of that mattered. It never mattered. The Bobcats erased a two-goal deficit and scored 10 seconds into overtime to claim the first national championship in program history, 3-2. 

Sophomore forward Jacob Quillan played hero. Graduate student defenseman Zach Metsa corralled the puck off an early face-off win in overtime and sent it down the ice to freshman forward Sam Lipkin. The Pennsylvania native found Quillan cutting to the net, and the rest is history. 

“I love every single one of these guys,” Quillan said. “We put our sweat and tears in, working every day at the rink. We had a tough way to get to the final, but we battled every day. (It) feels unbelievable.”

Sophomore forward Collin Graf, Quillan’s linemate, tied the game with 2:47 to play in regulation. The Bobcats put everything they had into the third period, outshooting Minnesota 14-2 before finally getting the equalizer.

Playing 6-on-4 on the power play with an empty net, Graf caught a shot at the left face-off dot and rifled a wrister past Gophers senior goaltender Justen Close. 

“Really, if you watch that goal, we scored that goal because Sam Lipkin is doing exactly what he’s told to do,” head coach Rand Pecknold said. “He’s hiding back post, and the goalie knows that and he cheats the pass and (Graf) beats him five hole.”

The opening period got off to about as bad of a start as it could have for the Bobcats. Barely 20 seconds into the game, senior forward Skyler Brind’Amour was called for elbowing, creating a golden opportunity for a red-hot Gophers power play. 

Quinnipiac killed off the penalty but struggled to keep Minnesota off the board much longer. After senior defenseman Jayden Lee made an unforced turnover in the defensive zone, Gophers freshman forward Connor Kurth went streaking on net. Kurth drew Bobcats sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets out of position and centered the puck to freshman forward John Mittelstadt for an easy goal.

The Bobcats looked nervous in the first period, but settled into their game after the intermission. Minnesota scored again just under five minutes into the period – senior forward Jaxon Nelson cleaned up a rebound – but Quinnipiac struck right back. 

Metsa made a laser of a pass to find sophomore forward Cristophe Tellier’s stick as he crashed the net and the Bobcats cut their deficit to one. 

“We were kind of nervous to start the game to be honest,” Tellier said. “Pucks were just bouncing off (our) sticks. We just tried to calm it down. Hold onto the puck a little longer, establish our game plan, move our feet and it worked out for us.”

The game went scoreless for the 20 minutes that followed Tellier’s tally, but Quinnipiac dominated play. The Bobcats wore down a stellar Minnesota defense and eventually found the back of the net not once, but twice in under three minutes of game action to be crowned national champions. 

“I don’t even know if it’s really sunk in yet,” Metsa said. “It’s been a crazy journey. For it to be a goal at the beginning of the year and for us to come through … it’s a dream come true.”