Bobcats battle Friars in NCAA East Regional Semifinals

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Updated: March 28, 2014

The Quinnipiac Bobcats will take on the Providence Friars for the second time this season, Friday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. in Bridgeport, Conn. The Bobcats and Friars skated to a 3-3 tie back on Nov. 27 at High Point Solutions Arena in Hamden.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 5.21.27 PMThe play of Friar netminder Jon Gillies was the story as the sophomore made 45 saves to help Providence salvage a point.

Sam Anas and Connor Jones each recorded 2 points in the game, Anas netting a goal and a helper while Jones assisted on Anas’ and Devon Toews’ goals.

“I thought we played great that night. We controlled a lot of the play. Providence is a great hockey team,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said on Thursday. “They know their strengths, they’re physical, they battle and they have one of the best goalies in the country. We’ll have our hands full tomorrow.”

However, in Friday’s matchup there will be much more on the line for both teams. The winner will clinch a berth in the NCAA East Regional Final and take a step closer to the 2014 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in Philadelphia, Pa.

The Bobcats (24-9-6) enter the tournament as the region’s second overall seed and are recently coming off a 3-2, double overtime loss to the Colgate Raiders in the ECAC semifinals.

Quinnipiac is playing in its second consecutive NCAA tournament and third in school history. Last season, the Bobcats advanced to the National Championship game before falling to the Yale Bulldogs, 4-0.

Even with a lot of freshmen on the team, Pecknold is confident in his team’s experience heading into the game.

“There’s certainly something you get from experience, but we have a lot of freshman that play a lot of big minutes for us that haven’t been in that environment,” Pecknold said on Thursday. “In the end, I’m confident in our team. It’s been an absolute joy to coach this team.”

Freshman Sam Anas leads the Bobcats with 22 goals and 43 points. However, the team’s scoring depth is one of its biggest weapons, having seven players with double-digit goal totals. The Bobcats’ goal per game average is good enough for fourth in the nation at just over three and a half goals.

Providence (21-10-6) also enters the tournament following a loss. The Friars fell 3-1, to the New Hampshire Wildcats in the Hockey East Semifinals last weekend.

The third overall seed in the region, the Friars are in their first NCAA tournament since 2001.

The Friar’s strength is their defense and penalty killing. Nate Leaman’s squad enters the tournament with the nation’s 10th ranked defense and 3rd ranked penalty killing unit. The defensive success is due to the play of the Gillies. The South Portland, ME native boasts an 18-8-5 record, 2.20 goals against average, a .929 save percentage and three shutouts this season.

The two teams will faceoff on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn. The winner will meet the Union-Vermont winner with a chance to move on to the Frozen Four on Saturday at 3 p.m.

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