Eyes on Tampa: Bobcats score four to knock off Ohio State, advance to Frozen Four

Zachary Carter

The Quinnipiac University men’s ice hockey team is flying south for the winter, delivering one of their most polarizing performances of the season on Sunday to defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes 4-1 and advance to the Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida. 

This is a major win for head coach Rand Pecknold and the Bobcats, a team that holds the best record in Division 1 hockey over the past two seasons (64-11-6). Pecknold has previously coached his teams to two other Frozen Four appearances, first in 2011 and then in 2016.

If you weren’t in your seat for the puck drop, you may have missed the first goal of the game. No more than 60 seconds had passed in the opening period before Ohio State’s Joe Dunlap stole an arrant pass from Quinnipiac defenseman Jacob Nordqvist, splitting the two defenders and beating sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets on the backhand for a quick Buckeye lead. 

Even with a goalie like Perets in the crease, it was no question of if Ohio State gets on the board, but when they would. The Buckeyes trampled Harvard 8-1 in their first game of the NCAA tournament, setting them up for this match against the Bobcats. 

Quinnipiac, unwilling to be deterred, answered promptly in the latter half of the period. First-year forward Victor Czerneckianair ripped a shot at Buckeyes goalie Jakub Dobeš, who made the save but the rebound found Christophe Fillion, who crashed the net and banged in Quinnipiac’s answering goal. 

Dobeš struggled all night to control rebounds, allowing Quinnipiac several second-chance opportunities to put the puck on the net and cause chaos in the crease. 

While the Total Mortage Arena in-house PA announcer was still addressing the Fillion goal, Quinnipiac struck again. Desi Burgart picked up the puck behind the OSU goal, passing it out front, off of a Buckeye defender’s skate, directly to fellow forward Skyler Brind’amour, who ripped a shot past Dobuš to take the lead. In a span of just 15 seconds, the Bobcats tied the game and went ahead in one giant swing of the momentum. 

The second period had all of the same action, but none of the goal-scoring. The two teams exchanged power-play opportunities left and right, but found no luck in the respective man advantages. The Buckeyes went 0-4 on power plays over the course of the game. 

Pecknold praised his team’s defensive efforts in the win, despite his desire to play less of it and clean up his team’s puck management. 

“In the end, we defend usually because we have the puck, but we didn’t do a good enough job of that tonight,” Pecknold said. “But we found a way, guys were blocking shots and the penalty kill was excellent.” 

A make-or-break third period was all that stood between Quinnipiac and a trip to the Frozen Four. The Bobcats, eager to prove themselves, stepped up in their biggest moment. 

Hamden’s hero, Christophe Tellier, extended Quinnipiac’s lead to two goals when he batted a puck up in the air to himself in an alley-oop style, batting his own pass past a diving Dobeš. The Buckeyes netminder nearly made a sensational save on the play, nabbing the puck with his outstretched glove but a replay review later determined that the puck had crossed the goal line. 

Senior defenseman Jayden Lee would put the finishing touches on the game late in the period, dropping in an empty net goal to cement Quinnipiac’s spot in the next round. 

Quinnipiac flipped the script today, coming from behind to defeat a dangerous Ohio State team. Coming into the day, the team that scored first in the tournament would go on to win. This a trend that the Bobcats broke against the Buckeyes in this game. 

The goal to stretch Quinnipiac’s lead by two was one of the driving factors in the win. Tellier spoke on how his goal was a continuation of the team’s efforts all season and how the win fits in with a team-first culture that has been cultivated since day one. 

“We’re pretty good at shutting games down and (our) guys took care of the rest,” Tellier said. “We have a great culture here at Quinnipiac, and my teammates did a great job all night.” 

To return to the Frozen Four is a testament to the quality of work put in by Pecknold, his coaching staff and his teams throughout the years. Quinnipiac, once again, has a chance to reach for a national championship, the one thing that has eluded them since Pecknold took over the coaching responsibilities almost three decades ago. 

“(This is) an exciting moment for Quinnipiac and Bobcat nation,” Pecknold said. “We’re just ecstatic to go back to the Frozen Four.”

When they arrive in Tampa, Florida, the Bobcats will have the Michigan Wolverines waiting for them. A rematch of last year’s regional final is now on the docket, but it was Michigan who beat Quinnipiac one year ago 7-4. The Bobcats will have plenty of time to reload and plot their revenge, with the semifinal game set for April 6 at 8:30 p.m.