Michael Garteig didn’t want to miss a minute of his final season with his Quinnipiac hockey teammates.
And he really hasn’t.
He carries eight shutouts, a .926 save percentage and 1.83 goals-against average into Thursday’s opening round game of the Frozen Four against Boston College.
The only game Garteig didn’t start this season he finished in relief. He’s been Quinnipiac’s Iron Man and the backbone of a team entering its second Frozen Four as the No. 1 overall seed.
He’s enjoyed every minute of it, too.
“After we beat Harvard in the ECAC Tournament title game, when we went back to the locker room, I didn’t undress for 15 to 20 minutes,” Garteig said. “I just sat there soaking it all up and watching everyone celebrate. It was such a cool moment. This is a very, very, very special group of guys to be with. It’s been great going to battle with them and we’re not done yet.”
The last and only other time Quinnipiac made it to a Frozen Four was in 2013, when the Bobcats lost 4-0 in the title game to Yale. Garteig watched that game from the bench while backing up Eric Hartzell, who finished that season with a .933 save percentage and 1.57 goals-against average.
From Hartzell, Garteig said he learned how to attack the game and, like many of his teammates, he stays at the school during the offseason working on his game.
Of all the seniors, only forward Travis St. Denis played a significant role on the 2013 squad. But the class is tied with North Dakota for most wins in college hockey over the past four seasons (108).
Garteig already has his degree and like several of his teammates is getting his masters in business, but the one thing he craves most is to hoist the Frozen Four trophy Saturday night with his fellow Bobcats.
In a season where they’ve gone 31-3-7, the Bobcats have been at their best in the conference tournament and East regional where they’ve avoided the close calls that led to the nickname “Cardiac Quinn” during the regular season.
Four times this season they’ve scored with Garteig pulled for an extra attacker to send games into overtime.
They are 4-1-7 in overtime and they’ve trailed in 17 games this season, including the East Region title game where they fell behind 1-0 against UMass Lowell 3:01 early, but ended up holding the River Hawks to just 15 shots on net in a dominating 4-1 win.
“I think this team has shown we the have character and resilience to come back,” Garteig said. “We never think we’re out of a play or out of a game.
“That title game against Lowell may have been our best of the season. There was no time where we gave them space or had breakdowns. This team bails each other out when it does happen. You look at a guy like Travis St. Denis, my roommate the past four years. He may be our best overall player, but he does so many things that go unnoticed and don’t show up in the scoreboard.
“There was a play with a puck that squirted loose in the slot and Travis dove out to swat it away. That doesn’t show up anywhere in the stats, but I notice it. These guys are really unselfish. They block a lot of shots (583).”
There is a slogan the Bobcats have bought into: Never satisfied.
Yes, the Bobcats won the ECAC regular season title, were ranked No. 1 for 19 consecutive weeks in PairWise and took home the school’s first Whitelaw Cup as ECAC Tournament champions. But Garteig said that’s not enough for this squad and coach Rand Pecknold echoed his sentiment.
“I certainly wouldn’t say that it’s a sense of relief that we made the Frozen Four,” Pecknold said. “It’s a sense of accomplishment for our program and our players. We’re not going down there just to play in the Frozen Four. We’re going there to win it.”
Who’s your choice to win the Frozen Four?
Who is your choice to win the Frozen Four? Total Voters: 382
Who is your choice to win the Frozen Four?
Total Voters: 382
Above: Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig. (Courtesy of Quinnipiac Athletics)