NATTY CHAMPS: Jacob Quillan’s OT goal gives QU first championship in program history


Photo: Aidan Sheedy

Ryan Johanson

Tampa Bay, Florida was the host of the 2023 National Championship as the No. 1 overall seed Minnesota Golden Gophers took on the No. 2 overall seed Quinnipiac Bobcats for a chance of immortality. For the Bobcats the game was their third appearance in a National title game. The previous two times the Bobcats made it to the finals both resulted in a loss. In 2013 the Bobcats lost to the Yale Bulldogs and in 2016 also in Tampa Bay, the Bobcats lost to North Dakota.

For Rand Pecknold and the Bobcats, the third time’s the charm as the Bobcats took down the Gophers 3-2 in overtime to win the program’s first national title. Pecknold reached the mountaintop in his 29th season coaching the Quinnipiac Bobcats. 

“It (winning a championship) wasn’t even a thought, it was a grind, my life was 12-hour increments, and we practiced at midnight,” Pecknold said. “I had a teaching job so I get home from school and I slept 3-6, then went to recruit, then go practice and then sleep 3-6 am.” 

The Golden Gophers came out flying in the first period after they earned their first power play of the game as Skyler Brind’Amour went to the box with a contact to the head minor 21 seconds into the game. 

The power play didn’t amount to anything as the Bobcats killed it off. Later on in the period however, first-year forward John Mittelstadt scored his fourth goal of the season with 14:25 left in the first period as goalie Yaniv Perets was caught out of position as he was tangled up with defenseman Jayden Lee. 

“We were kind of nervous, to be honest, the puck was bouncing off our sticks and we just had to calm it down,” sophomore forward Cristophe Tellier said. “Hold the pucks for a little longer to establish our game plan and it was built for us. It was unbelievable.” 

The Bobcats came out strong in the second period having the first three shots of the period which were all saved by Close. Even with the strong showing from the Bobcats, the Gophers struck first in the period as Jaxon Nelson scored his 10th of the season as he batted the puck past Perets to take the 2-0 lead within the first four minutes of the game. 

The Bobcats did capitalize off their pressure in the second period as Zach Metsa sent a puck on net that was tipped in by Tellier to cut the Gophers’ deficit to 2-1. The Bobcats, unlike in the first period, won the shots-on-goal battle 11-6 after their continuous pressure in the second period. The Bobcats had a hill to climb in the third period if they wanted to get their first national title ever. 

Entering the third period, the Bobcats threw the kitchen sink at the Gophers as they had 14 shots on goal compared to the Gophers’ two. Quinnipiac overall only allowed 15 shots on goal with Perets saving 13 of them. 

Senior forward Brind’Amour talked after the game about how the Bobcats’ defense gave him hope for the final parts of the game. 

“It’s been good all year and it’s one of the things we focus on,” Brind’Amour said. “After the first period, I felt we were all over them and I knew if we got that tying goal I felt good from where we were.” 

With being down 2-1 for most of the third period, Pecknold decided to pull Perets as they gained a power play with 3:28 left in the game. The Bobcats needed to get a goal to keep their season alive, which they did as sophomore forward Collin Graf found the five-hole of Close to tie the game up 2-2 with 2:47 left in the game.

“I was trying to get it to the net,” Graf said. “We were getting a lot of rebounds around the net in the second and the third and just about time one of them went in.” 

Pecknold, who’s goalie-pulling move with 4:00 left cost the Bobcats in last year’s quarterfinal, decided to try it once again. This time, it worked wonders.

“I just feel like you’re gonna wait a bit and go 6-on-5, why not do it 6-on-4 especially with an O-zone draw because you’ll probably get possession as we did,” Pecknold said. “Graf makes a great play and we scored that goal because (Sam) Lipkin did his job to move the goalie over.” 

The goal by Graf tied the program record for points in a season with 59 points as he tied Bryan Leitch’s record from the 2008-2009 season. 

“[Graf’s] brought a dynamic element to our forward group,” Quinnipiac captain Zach Metsa said. “Him, (Jacob) Quillan and Lipkin found chemistry that is unbelievable and carried us throughout the year. He was unbelievable this year.” 

The game eventually went to overtime where off the opening faceoff of overtime Metsa sent it up to a streaking Lipkin who found Quillan, who went to his backhand that got past Close to win the Bobcats’ first National Championship in history. 

The goal was the quickest overtime winner ever in a National Championship as the goal only lasted 10 seconds of game time.

“It’s unreal,” Quillan said. “We are such a close group of guys and everyone is best friends on the team. I love all of them, we put our hearts, sweat and tears into every day working at the rink. We had a tough way to the final but we battled every day and it feels unbelievable.” 

The Bobcats finished the year on the top of the mountain for the first time in the program and university history.