Two spots remained unmarked on the checklist for the Quinnipiac men’s hockey team heading into the postseason.
One was to win the Whitelaw Cup, awarded to the ECAC Tournament champion.
The Bobcats, winners of three of the past four Cleary Cups given to the ECAC regular-season champions, won their first conference tournament championship, beating Harvard, 3-1.
They entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 seed with one more box to check. The Bobcats want to win the national title, something they came oh-so close to in 2013 when they lost the Frozen Four title game to rival Yale, 4-0.
“We’ve got to show people we’re not just a good regular-season team,” said junior captain Sam Anas. “Last year was a tough way to end the season. We lost to Harvard in the semifinal of the conference tourney then flew out to Fargo, North Dakota, to play UND which was pretty much a home game for them and we lost (in the NCAA Tournament). It left a bitter taste in the mouth, for sure.”
Thanks in part to Anas, Quinnipiac will get a chance to check off a national championship.
The Bobcats advanced to the Frozen Four with a 4-1 victory against UMass Lowell in the West Region championship game on Sunday night. Anas scored in the second period to give Qunnipiac a 2-1 lead they never relinquished.
The Bobcats, who set a school record with their 31st victory, play Boston College — a 3-2 winner against Minnesota Duluth in the Northeast Region final — in the first national semifinal at 5 p.m. ET on April 7 at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Anas injured his leg when ridden into the boards during the Bobcats’ victory against Harvard in the conference tournament championship and his status was uncertain for the NCAA Tournament. But he returned for Saturday’s region opener and assisted on Quinnipiac’s first goal in a 4-0 victory against Rochester Institute of Technology.
Quinnipiac trailed UMass Lowell 1-0 after the first period Sunday night, and Anas acknowledges the Bobcats have given fans some gray hairs with how they’ve played. He recalled a game at Madison Square Garden against Harvard this season when Qunnipiac blew a four-goal lead but rallied to win in overtime.
In fact, the rally ’Cats have trailed eight times heading into the third period and are 2-2-4 in those games. The Bobcats have scored four times — twice in one game — with the clock winding down and an extra attacker on the ice to send the games to overtime.
Nobody thrives playing from behind more than Anas. He led the ECAC in points (48) and is second with 23 goals, including one Friday night, and a career-high 25 assists. He also led the league with 23 points on the power play, scored a league-high nine goals in the third period, led the league in road goals (11), goals when trailing (9) and scored twice when Quinnipiac pulled its goalie for a sixth attacker.
“For me, I get that adrenalin rush,” Anas said. “This team never thinks it is out of it. We had to go three games to beat Clarkson last weekend, but even when we lost nobody on the bench believed we’d lose until the buzzer. We always think there’s a chance. When we get down, we focus on the details and keep pushing.”
Anas will be an undrafted free agent when the season ends, and he will earn his degree in business entrepreneurship this spring. He’s attended summer camps for the Washington Capitals, Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders, but is also developing a software application with some teammates while in school.
He’s one of nine Bobcats on the roster who are taking graduate-level classes.
“My goal is to play in the NHL,” Anas said. “After the camps they’ve said they’ve like how I play the game and my hockey IQ. They question my size but I seem to have handled it pretty well at every level. I know they NHL is a jump up, but I want to do it.
“My plan right now is to come back next season and work on getting stronger and quicker. I took college-level classes while I played junior hockey because I wanted to lighten my workload when I got here so I could concentrate on hockey, but then other guys were telling me what they were doing and I thought it was a great idea to get my MBA.”
For Anas and the Bobcats, the first order of business is checking off a national championship.