Over the past three days, Dylan Hicks and I have previewed three of the four teams in the NCAA Frozen Four. We now come to the last team, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Quinnipiac Bobcats. The boys from Hamden are one of two Connecticut teams in the Frozen Four, which still sounds weird to say. But if Quinnipiac and Yale – which are 15 minutes apart down I-91 – meet for the national title, it will be an exciting and tense night in New Haven County.
Team: Quinnipiac, 29-7-5
Location: Hamden, Connecticut
How they got here: Despite an early exit from the ECAC Tournament, the Quinnipiac Bobcats, who went on an incredible 21-game unbeaten streak during the season, earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, which placed them in the advantageous Providence Region against Atlantic Hockey’s surprising champion Canisius. The Griffins gave them some trouble, but the Bobcats got a 4-3 win in the first round. Next came Union, who smacked Boston College in the first round, but Quinnipiac gave them a taste of their own medicine. Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Matthew Peca registered a hat trick 13 minutes into the first period en route to a 5-1 win for the Bobcats, who clinched a berth in the Frozen Four with the win.
Player to watch: Eric Hartzell. There are a lot of players to watch on this Quinnipiac team. With Peca, the Jones brothers, Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Jeremy Langlois, there is a lot of firepower. But all eyes will be on the Hobey Baker finalist between the pipes for the Bobcats. Hartzell has been a man possessed during the 2012-13 season. A 1.55 goals against average tells the story for Hartzell. I kept hearing his name through the first three months of the season and how he could be an easy Hobey Baker candidate. I needed to see it to believe it, and I wasn’t disappointed. I went to Quinnipiac’s game against Union, where they overcame a 2-0 deficit in the third to beat the Dutchmen, and then I saw him again 10 days later when the Bobcats were nearly upset by UConn. Both games were won because Hartzell bore down and even when he seemed to be struggling, he made it known that the net was his.
Keys to beating St. Cloud State: Don’t go down early. For as good as Quinnipiac is, they can struggle to settle into games early on. Against a team like the Huskies, who also feature a Hobey Baker finalist in Drew LeBlanc, they cannot afford to do that. That said, if that does happen, St. Cloud will need to stay out of the box, because Quinnipiac’s power play is phenomenal, especially in the third period when they need to get the tying or winning goal. Both games that I attended were won by the Quinnipiac power play. It is a deadly sight.