The No. 11 Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s ice hockey team (20-8-3, 15-2-2 ECAC)...
Matthew Peca’s hat trick sends Quinnipiac to first Frozen Four
Providence, R.I. - For the first time in program history the Bobcats are headed to the Frozen Four. Top-seeded Quinnipiac punched its ticket with a 5-1 win over Union in the East Regional final Sunday.
All season long the senior class has been blunt about their chances of succeeding on a national level.
“The only thing that is important to me is winning a season championship,” senior goaltender Eric Hartzell said earlier this season. “Then we will move on after that to an ECAC championship, and then after that we will move on to an NCAA championship, and we will move on to an NCAA championship.”
While the Bobcats could not bring home the Whitelaw cup, they are just two wins away from Hartzell’s other guarantee.
“Our goal is not just to be here, it is to win,” Hartzell added tonight.
Quinnipiac will take on St. Cloud State in the semifinals on Thursday April, 11 at 8 p.m. Yale and UMass-Lowell will play in the other semifinal game for a chance to play in the national championship. None of the four remaining teams have ever won a Division I National Championship and it will be the first time since 1993 that a team will win its first title.
Union trounced Boston College last night, and almost continued its momentum tonight just minutes into the first period. Max Novak walked into the Quinnipiac zone and rifled a shot that Eric Hartzell gloved to keep Union off the board.
“I thought we were ready to roll and we were sluggish and then Hartzell makes the big save on the breakaway and we took over from there and Matthew obviously had a big part in that. He’s a big time player for us and he was our best player tonight,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said.
“I thought it was a turning point in the game and granted it was early but it did happen,” Union coach Rick Bennett said.
Sophomore Matthew Peca set the tone scoring the fastest hat trick in NCAA tournament history. In just over three minutes in the middle of the first period, Peca scored three straight goals.
Peca got his first goal 9:46 into the first period thanks to great hustle from the Jones brothers. A pair of Bobcats got knocked down, one on each side of the net. Troy Grosenick was forced to move to the right where Kellen Jones threw the puck on net. The shot found its way to Peca on the left side where he backhanded it into the gaping net.
Peca made it 2-0 just over a minute later. Peca forced a turnover in the neutral zone and raced in on the far side where he ripped the shot past Grosenick’s glove.
Peca added his third in a row to give the Bobcats a 3-0 on an incredible individual effort with 7:02 left in the first period. Similar to yesterday’s highlight reel goal, he jumped off the near side corner and deked around Union defenseman Mat Bodie. Peca put it on his backhand and flipped into the back of the net.
“Obviously it helped us win and that’s the biggest thing and it helped Quinnipiac make it to its first Frozen Four,” Peca said unselfishly. “That’s as much as I can take out of it.”
The Bobcats have been college hockey’s biggest story this season rising to the top of the rankings thanks to a 21-game unbeaten streak. Quinnipiac entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed, but were not among the favorites to win or even make it to the Frozen Four.
“Right now we are sky high and are flying high. We are going to enjoy this for about a day but then we need to get ready for St. Cloud State,” Pecknold said. “We’re not done. We’re not just happy to go. We want to win games.”