Zach Metsa caps off legendary career at Quinnipiac with national title


Aidan Sheedy

Quinnipiac graduate student defenseman Zach Metsa recorded 37 points in both his senior and graduate seasons with the Bobcats.

Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

 TAMPA, Fla. — When Quinnipiac played Colgate at Nassau Coliseum on Dec. 29, 2018, then-freshman defenseman Zach Metsa was scratched. 

He was in and out of the lineup as a rookie for the Bobcats, recording just four points during the 2018-19 campaign. He did not appear in six games, including the bout with the Raiders on Long Island. 

“Sorry about that,” Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold said jokingly at an April 5 press conference. “But look where you are now Zach, come on, you’re better for it.” 

It was 1,559 days until Quinnipiac played in an NHL arena again. This time, there were infinitely higher stakes – in the NCAA semifinal against Michigan on April 6 and then the championship against Minnesota on April 8 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. 

Metsa was in the lineup this time around. No longer a reserved freshman, but rather a grizzled graduate student with five years of college hockey under his belt – and his experience showed. 

He scored the dagger to put the Bobcats up two against the Wolverines in the semifinal and assisted on all three goals, including sophomore forward Jacob Quillan’s overtime winner, in the championship game. 

“I don’t even know if it’s really sunk in yet,” Metsa said after the win. “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.” 

The journey to the national championship started in his freshman year. Metsa bought into a commitment to the process that allowed him to flourish down the road. 

“I was battling to just get ice time, “ Metsa said. “I was always raised right. I was always told just keep my head down, keep working, stay in your lane, and that’s what I did.” 

A stellar senior class that featured the likes of Chase Priskie, Brandon Fortunato, Luke Shiplo, Craig Martin and Scott Davidson helped instill Quinnipiac culture into Metsa and his classmates. 

“Whenever we strayed away they brought us back,” Metsa said. “They showed us the way and a lot of us as we got older and became a part of the leadership group, we were able to pass it down to the younger guys.” 

That culture forges a connection between every player that dons a Quinnipiac uniform, something that makes Saturday’s NCAA championship all the more special. 

“I saw a bunch of (alumni) with tears in their eyes in the stands after the game,” Metsa said. “It’s unbelievable how deep Bobcat blood runs, and it means so much that we were able to bring this championship back to them.” 

As a recruit, Metsa was in attendance when the Bobcats fell to North Dakota in the 2016 title game. As a player, he experienced the agony of three NCAA Tournament losses, four ECAC Hockey tournament losses and a playoff run that ended before it began due to COVID-19. 

Despite more than 120 wins over five years with the program, heartbreaking losses year after year left the Bobcats feeling that they’ve “won a lot but haven’t won much,” as Metsa put it on an ECAC Hockey podcast in January and affirmed during the Frozen Four media day. 

It’s why he and four other seniors made the commitment to return for a fifth year with the program, one last shot to finally reach the top of the mountain, and they did. 

 “This is why we came back,” Metsa said. “We talked about it, it’s so hard to make a run like this and actually do it, and there’s times you don’t know if it’s actually going to happen. This team is amazing. We just kept fighting and fighting and fighting. Everyone doubted us, and we proved everyone wrong. I think that’s what’s most special about it.”

Quinnipiac graduate students, forward Michael Lombardi and defenseman Zach Metsa, pose with the NCAA championship trophy after defeating Minnesota 3-2 in overtime on April 8 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. (Aidan Sheedy)

He wasn’t a highly touted recruit, nor an NHL draft pick. But that didn’t matter. Metsa came to Quinnipiac and worked for his opportunity to shine, even if it took five seasons. 

“Believe in yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone’s got their own path, their own journey,” Metsa said. “Work in the dark, work in silence.You don’t need to show it off on social media and all that. Just put in the work every day and just be consistent with it.”

In 2018, Metsa watched his team play from the stands of an NHL arena. In 2023, hundreds of thousands watched him captain the Bobcats to their first national championship in a different NHL arena. How’s that for full circle?

After 177 games and 121 points in a Quinnipiac uniform, Metsa had his curtain call on Saturday in Tampa. Though don’t be surprised to see him back in an NHL facility sometime soon.