Jacob Quillan buried the winning goal against the number one seed with a setup by Zach Metsa and Sam Lipkin.
The pinnacle of college hockey is the Frozen Four, which took place this year at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay. The four teams each represent one region, Michigan from the Allentown region, Quinnipiac from the Bridgeport region, Minnesota from the Fargo region, and Boston University from the Manchester Region.
The semi-finals occurred on April 6, with 2nd seed Quinnipiac beating 3rd seed Michigan, which included 1st round NHL draft pick Luke Hughes (New Jersey Devils) and freshman Adam Fantelli, who won the Hobey Baker and is projected to be the second pick in this year's draft (behind Connor Bedard). Furthermore, the team also consists of eight more draft picks or projected to-be-drafted players. Quinnipiac only had two draft picks on their roster, in the 6th and 7th rounds. Despite these odds, Quinnipiac beat Michigan 6-2. The other game was 4th seed BU vs. 1 seed Minnesota. BU, led by junior goalie Drew Commesso (Chicago Blackhawks) and Lane Hutson (Montreal Canadiens), took on the Minnesota Gophers. The Gophers have a first line of top prospects, including Logan Cooley (Arizona Coyotes), Matthew Knies (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Jimmy Snuggerud (St. Louis Blues). Minnesota moved forward with a 6-2 win. Both of these games were very similar. For the first two periods, momentum would take huge swings, the scores after the second being 2-2. For both semifinals, one team absolutely dominated the third, resulting in a defining win.
The National Championship game took place on April 8. Minnesota took an early lead, with a goal from John Mittelstadt five minutes into the period. Jaxon Nelson added to this lead four minutes into the second to make it 2-0. However, three minutes later, Cristophe Tellier and the Quinnipiac Bobcats would rally, bringing it to 2-1. At this point, the game had been pretty even, with Minnesota holding a slight edge. However, in the 3rd period, Quinnipiac took over. Thanks to a late penalty on Logan Cooley, the Gophers were put in a 4-on-6 position with 5 minutes left in the game. Five seconds after Cooley’s penalty ended, Collin Graf of Quinnipiac scored to tie the game. Pre-overtime, the atmosphere had an insane energetic intensity. Ten seconds in, a stretch pass from Zach Metsa to Sam Lipkin set up Jacob Quillan for the overtime winner in favor of the Bobcats.
The number of shots tells the story of the game. In the first period, Minnesota outshot Quinnipac 7-4. In the second, Quinnipiac came back, outshooting the Gophers 11-6. Finally, in the third period, the Gophers were outshot 14-2. The final amount of shots was 15-30 in favor of the Bobcats.
While Minnesota is amazing, both on paper and ice, they could not get it done. It looked like they were not playing to win or to score, but to not get scored on. This led to a defensive mindset and an incredible effort by goaltender Juston Close who saved 27 out of 30 shots.
The victory was especially emotional for Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold. “I had a little bit of a meltdown after we won. I was probably worse on the bench. I kept hugging some of my assistant coaches so they couldn’t see me crying. I was a mess.” When Pecknold started with the Bobcats in 1994, they struggled in division two. They didn’t have money for food on the road or to play their full schedule. Soon afterward, Quinnipiac moved to Division One in 1998, joining the ECAC in 2005. Pecknold had grown this program from a bottom D2 school to Division One National Champions.
Quinnipiac’s National Championship is truly one for the history books. Despite being thought of as underdogs, especially to the NHL prospect powerhouses of Michigan and Minnesota, they pulled through when it mattered most.