Qunnipiac hopes its first game against Boston College, in Thursday’s first Frozen Four semifinal in Tampa, is one to remember.
“I think it’s exciting for us to play a new opponent,” coach Rand Pecknold said Wednesday. “We’ve never played them before. You look at Denver versus North Dakota (in Thursday’s second semifinal), I think it’s their 275th time playing or something like that. It’s kind of funny.” (Close. Thursday’s meeting will be the 236th in the 66-year history of their rivalry.)
Certainly the Bobcats hope to have the last laugh this weekend and win their first national championship. No.1-ranked Quinnipiac (31-3-7) plays BC (28-7-5) with the winner advancing to Saturday’s championship game against the Denver-North Dakota winner.
The schools’ first meeting was actually scheduled for next fall at the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh, Pa.
“It’s exciting to play a team like Boston College,” said junior forward Sam Anas, who ranks ninth nationally in points (50) with 24 goals and 26 assists. He leads players in the Frozen Four with 132 career points and 69 career goals. “We’re focused on them right now, doing a lot of preparation. Doing a lot of extra things.”
Anas is still recovering from a leg injury against Harvard in the ECAC Tournament championship game, which the Bobcats won.
“Well, I fell great that we’re here in Tampa and really excited to get going and excited to get playing,” Anas said.
Both Boston College and Quinnipiac have offensive defensemen, with BC leading the nation in blue-line scoring with 30 goals and 93 assists. Quinnipiac is second with 31 goals and 89 assists. The tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, Quinnipiac also is 13-2-4 in 19 games against teams that were ranked at the time they played.
The Bobcats are making their second Frozen Four appearance. In 2013, they fell 4-0 in the title game to Yale as the overall No. 1 seed.
“I think the biggest role our senior have is to really make sure that all the other players are focused on the game rather than on all the excitement,” said Bobcats senior Soren Jonzzon, who played in the 2013 Frozen Four. “In the end we’re hear to play a hockey game, and hopefully two hockey games, and we just gotta make sure that everyone’s got their focus on that.”
While Quinnipiac’s seniors hope to close out their careers with a championship, Pecknold recalled his first season with the Bobcats.
“My first goal? Survival,” said Pecknold, who won the Penrose Award as national coach of the year. “We had midnight practices. I taught high school. I had to get up at 6 a.m. I would get home. By the time I got to bed it was 3 a.m. Sleep 3 to 6, go to my job, get home.
“And I think I won one game. I think it was 1-12-1 after 14 games. I was like, ‘What? What am I doing, for nothing?’ But I loved it. I knew we’d get better. In Year Two we brought in 19 freshmen and we were off and running. My fifth year we went Division I.”
Now in his 22nd season, Pecknold has the Bobcats on the brink of a national championship.
Four more Quinnipiac fast facts:
- Led by goalie Michael Garteig, Quinnipiac limited BC’s Hockey East rival UMass Lowell to just 15 shots on goal in the NCAA East Regional final to advance to the second Frozen Four in school history in just its fifth NCAA tournament appearance.
- Garteig ranks second in the nation with eight shutouts behind BC’s Thatcher Demko (10). Demko has 13 shutouts for his career, Garteig 19.
- Quinnipiac has outscored its opponents 159-78 and has allowed just 22 goals after the second period across 40 games. Remarkably, 84 of the Bobcats goals have come in the last 10 minutes of periods.
- The Bobcats have trailed in 17 of their 41 games — 357 minutes and 20 seconds. They’re 10-3-4 in those games.