Friday, July 20, 2018
Colleges

Quinnipiac, no matter how you spell it or say it, one win from hockey national title

TAMPA — Can't spell it. Can't pronounce it.

Can't beat 'em.

Quinnipiac.

The little hockey engine that could has crashed this Frozen Four.

Crashed it, put its feet up and made itself right at home. Yeah, sure, the Bobcats are the No. 1 team in the nation, but look at these other schools. Denver. North Dakota. Boston College.

That's hockey royalty. That's a start of a college hockey Mount Rushmore.

Quinnipiac? Who's that?

That's the school that does all the polls, right? Well, here's an unofficial poll: There is a 100 percent chance that it is now the team to beat in this Frozen Four. That's with a margin of error of zero percent.

This team has come out of nowhere. Well, not nowhere: Connecticut, at the foothills of Sleeping Giant State Park. I'm not making that up. That's really the name of the park.

How appropriate.

A sleeping giant that has awakened and is now a hockey power. Here's who Quinnipiac is: a team headed to the final. It's a team on the verge of its first national champion­ship after disposing of one of college hockey's big boys on Thursday at Amalie Arena. Quinnipiac beat Boston College 3-2.

"Certainly a team worthy of playing for a national championship," Boston College coach Jerry York said.

He would know. No coach has won more college games than York. And his teams have been in like a million of these Frozen Fours.

Even crestfallen BC captain Teddy Doherty had to admit: "Heck of a team they have over there."

For the most part, it was a methodical, smothering performance by the Bobcats. It was one of those games that plodded along and plodded along, almost in slow motion, as if the game was being played in slush.

"Choppy," is what Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold called it.

Yet, before you knew it, it was late in the third period and Quinnipiac was wrapping up another victory.

"The compete factor was outstanding," Pecknold said. "We don't have to be perfect, we're ultracompetitive."

So was BC. The Eagles didn't go quietly.

A goal with 4:16 left made it interesting and wobbled Quinnipiac for the final couple of tense minutes. Goalie Michael Garteig was called upon to make a brilliant glove save on a wicked BC slap shot with only 4.2 seconds left that looked for all the world like it was going to send the game into overtime.

But surviving this Boston College Hail Mary only proved that Quinnipiac has the spunk and mettle it takes to win this precious title. In the end, just like most of Quinnipiac's sure victories, there's the opening faceoff and, suddenly, time runs out and there's a team party going on in front of the Quinnipiac goal.

And you can't help but scratch your head, shrug your shoulders and wonder:

How did that happen?

Surely, that's how. Just like most of Quinnipiac's 43 games.

The Bobcats have lost only three times all season. After watching Thursday's steady performance, you wonder how they lost even three. I mean, the Bobcats don't destroy teams, but they wear them out, beat them down, suffocate them.

"They can beat one guy, they can beat two guys, they can beat three," Pecknold said.

"But we're going to have a fourth and fifth guy."

They come in waves.

And someone always steps up.

Senior Travis St. Denis, the Canadian kid who didn't even know where Connecticut was on the map when he signed to play at Quinni­piac, had two assists.

Kevin McKernan, a Massachusetts kid who probably should have gone to BC, scored just 2:31 into the game. Andrew Taverner from Calgary scored less than five minutes later and Quinnipiac's choke hold was on.

Landon Smith, a Colorado kid who probably should be at Denver (in fact, he originally was supposed to go to Denver), added what proved to be the winning goal only 23 seconds into the second period.

And Garteig, the program's all-time leader in victories, made 34 saves, including that ridiculous one in the waning moments, to send Quinnipiac back to the national title game for the second time ever and the first time since 2013

"Now we get another kick at the can," said St. Denis, the last player on the roster to have played in the disappointing loss to Yale in the national championship game three years ago.

And it's a deserving kick at that can. Yet, leave it to Pecknold to cry poor after Thursday's victory.

"I don't think it was the prettiest game on the planet," Pecknold said.

He always says stuff like that.

But he also says stuff like this: "This team is resilient … and all year long, we have found ways to win. That's what we do."

That's what it did Thursday night. That's what it plans on doing Saturday night in the final.

Call it what you want. Spell it the best you can. But get this part right: Guess which school is 60 minutes away from a national title?

Quinnipiac.

   
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