2013 NCAA DI MEN'S HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP
YALE BULLDOGS   QUINNIPIAC BOBCATS

Go ahead and tally the reasons why Yale won’t beat its East Coast Athletic Conference brethren from Quinnipiac. The Bulldogs haven’t, yet, in 2013. They’ve lost to Quinnipiac three times this season; to outsiders, they should prepare to hang a fourth on that albatross.

Here is why they will beat Quinnipiac.

Easy stuff first: It’s the national championship, not the regular season or a conference tournament. The big stage and circumstance might be the big equalizer.

“Early in the year, I thought we were pretty good,” Yale head coach Keith Allain said. “And I told everyone that we'd be better in January than we were in December, and we'd be better in March than we were in January. Because of the time and the focus and the energy that these guys put into it, that's turned out to be true.”

Familiarity works both ways. Quinnipiac knows Yale; Yale knows Quinnipiac.

At some point, Yale must beat Quinnipiac. Numbers, odds, dice rolls ... have to come up “Bulldogs,” when so unfavorable.

Media scuttlebutt following Thursday’s national semifinals conceded the difficulty of one team beating another four consecutive times. More numerology: Yale enters the national title game with a 21-12-3 record. No men’s hockey team has won a championship with fewer than 22 victories since Michigan State did in 1966.  Minnesota won the 1974 national championship with exactly 22 victories.

Another thing for the Bulldogs to buck.

Another is those three loses to Quinnipiac, the latter in the ECAC tournament consolation game.

Here are two qualifiers: The first loss came during Yale’s season-worst, five-game losing streak in February. The third loss was a game neither team wanted to play, after both had lost the previous day in the ECAC tournament semifinals.

Toss it out the window, per Allain.

“I think emotionally our team is in a different place now,” he said Friday. “In a consolation game, no one likes to play a consolation game, first of all.  ... I don't think there was much life on either team.”

At some point, Yale must solve Quinnipiac goaltender Eric Hartzell. Why not the national championship game?

The Bulldogs already have chomped one elite goaltender. UMass-Lowell’s freshman sensation, Connor Hellebuyck, who entered Thursday’s national semifinal against Yale with 20 victories and the nation’s best goals-against average and save percentage, left defeated.

Finally, there is confidence, which comes back to familiarity, and pressure.

It’s all on top-ranked Quinnipiac.

-- Denise Maloof, NCAA.com

 

Why will Quinnipiac win it all Saturday night? C’mon. Just look at its record against Yale this season. Three wins, zero losses. This year, Quinnipiac has Yale’s number.

Stats? You want stats? No problem. You might consider their all-time marks against each other -- 10 wins for Quinnipiac against five for Yale. They’ve tied twice. If history isn’t your thing, however, there’s more.

In their three meetings during the 2012-13 campaign, Quinnipiac has won by scores of 6-2, 4-1 and 3-0. Folks, that’s a combined score of 13-3. Enough said? Maybe. Maybe not.

That was then, when there wasn’t nearly as much at stake. Sure, the schools are located just a few miles apart, and they’re Eastern College Athletic Conference rivals. Playing for school pride matters, of course, but this is a national championship we’re talking about.

On paper, Quinnipiac would have to be considered the better team. The Bobcats are ranked first in the country, the Bulldogs are fourth. Quinnipiac had the first seed going into the NCAA hockey tournament, while Yale was 15th.

Quinnipiac’s 2012-13 record is 30-7-5 (17-2-3 in ECAC play) and Yale stands at 21-12-3 (12-9-1 conference). Quinnipiac hasn’t lost to Yale since a two-game skid during the 2010-11 season.

Success begins at the top, and head coach Rand Pecknold has led Quinnipiac out of its hockey dark ages in many ways. He’s already been recognized by the New England Hockey Writers Association as the Clark Hodder Division I Coach of the Year, and he was a finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award.

UMass-Lowell’s Norm Bazin took home that particular coaching honor. It was the third time in Pecknold’s career that he had been a Spencer Penrose Award finalist.

You’ve also got to like their matchups on the ice. Going into Thursday’s semifinals, Matthew Peca was tied for the tournament point lead. Twins Connor and Kellen Jones were second -- and they were in a four-way tie for most tournament assists.

There’s more.

Jordan Samuels-Thomas’ two-point game against St. Cloud State was his sixth multi-point game of the season, and the goal was his team-high 17th of the year. When Jeremy Langlois scored midway through the first period, it was his 100th career point.

Finally, Eric Hartzell is in the net for Quinnipiac. Pecknold calls him “just an absolute stud,” and he did lower his goals-against average to 1.53 per game, third best in the nation. He’s played more than 2.462 minutes in goal for Quinnipiac, which is good enough for most in Division I this year.

He is Quinnipiac’s guy, hands down. If he has the kind of game he’s had all year, that’s it. Lights out. Quinnipiac wins the national championship.

-- Rick Houston, NCAA.com