The Quinnipiac University Bobcats hockey team are headed to the Frozen Four NCAA championship for the first time in its history.
Quinnipiac rallied for a 4-3 win over Canisius Saturday and routed Union 5-1 in the East Regional game Sunday night to advance to the Holy Grail of U.S. university hockey. The Bobcats finished their season ranked number one in the nation as they rolled to the ECAC Hockey regular season title, winning by 10 points.
After coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the third period to defeat Canisius, the line of Mathew Peca, and Montrose natives Connor and Kellen Jones were flying Sunday as Peca notched a natural hat trick in the first period to give the Cats a commanding 3-0 lead.
Connor and Kellen each finished with two-point nights, Kellen netting a goal and an assist while Connor pitched in with two helpers.
Former Trail Smoke Eater Travis St. Denis also added an assist setting up Jordan Samuels-Thomas for the Bobcats’ fourth goal.
Peca’s first goal came off a broken play at 9:46 in the first with the Bobcats on a power play. The sophomore drove down the left wing and tried to hurdle past Union defender Sebastien Gingras, but got caught up and went to the ice. Kellen Jones laid out and pushed the puck on net, where Connor threw a shot that bounced off Troy Grosenick and out to Peca, who backhanded it into the open net.
The sophomore scored again 45 seconds later, grabbing a Union turnover near the blue line and snapping it through a defender and into the net from the right circle. Peca completed the hat trick when he took the puck along the left end boards, maneuvered his way past the Dutchmen’s Shawn Stuart, and backhanded a shot past Grosenick at 12:58.
It was Peca’s first multi-goal game of the year.
Union’s Matt Wilkins, a former Trail Smoke Eater himself, was handed a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting-from-behind after laying out a Bobcats player in the corner at 6:27 in the second.
Quinnipiac (29-7-5) converted on the ensuing power play when Jordan Samuels-Thomas took a pass from St. Denis on the backhand and flicked it into the net.
Kellen Jones made it 5-0 at 11:42, taking a pass from Peca on a rush and driving straight up the slot before beating Grosenick.
Daniel Ciampani scored the Dutchmen’s (22-13-5) lone goal on a power play at 3:15 in the third.
Connor Jones, Peca, Hartzell, Gostisbehere, and Josh Jooris were named to the all-tournament team. Peca was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
Quinnipiac enters the Frozen Four as the top seed and will play St. Cloud in the semifinal, while ECAC rival, the Yale Bulldogs, will play Massachussettes-Lowell in the other semifinal match Apr. 11 in Pittsburgh, Pa. The championship game goes Apr. 13.
This past season, DeKeyser, a Michigan native, finished with 15 points on two goals and 13 assists. He played the 2008-09 season with the Smokies netting eight goals and 17 assists in 58 games with Trail.