'That’s why they play the games'
This time, Quinnipiac has no answers, loses big to Yale
PITTSBURGH -- Yale’s 4-0 win against Quinnipiac in Saturday night’s Frozen Four final proved exactly why hockey games are played on ice and not paper.
Quinnipiac appeared to have the upper hand going into the big game, the game that would determine the national champion. The Bobcats were ranked first in the nation, the Bulldogs came into the tournament seeded 15th out of 16 teams. Three times this year the two teams met, and three times Quinnipiac handled Yale. It had been more than two full years since Yale last overcame Quinnipiac.
That streak is over.
Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold had insisted all week that Yale was a much different team now than when they last met March 23 in Atlantic City, N.J. Turns out, Pecknold wasn’t joking.
“We’re devastated,” said a downcast Pecknold after the game. “It was a great year. This isn’t the way it was supposed to end. I’m proud of my guys. I really couldn’t ask for a better group.”
Beating the same team four times during the course of a single season wasn’t nearly as big a factor as a lot of people seemed to be making it, Pecknold insisted before and then again after the game. Although the combined scores of their three previous meetings this season was 13-3, Pecknold felt the games themselves were actually far closer than that.
“I do think in the first three games, if you believe in luck and bounces, we got some good bounces in the first three games,” he said. “We scored some iffy goals in those games. We got a little bit of luck, and then it turns out [Saturday night], they got the luck on the first two [goals]. Both those goals weren’t great goals. That’s why they play the games. That’s hockey. Sometimes, they go in. Sometimes, they don’t.”
The two teams appeared very evenly matched for most of the first 40 minutes. Yale’s Clinton Bourbonais popped in the first goal of the game with just four ticks of the clock remaining in the second period. Quinnipiac wasn’t overly fazed by that first score, but then came the third and final period.
Yale pumped in three more goals, including one empty-netter after Pecknold pulled goalie Eric Hartzell to put more bodies in the Yale offensive zone.
“We weren’t perfect through two periods, but we played well enough,” the veteran Quinnipiac head coach continued. “We had plenty of chances, and we just couldn’t score. We had a ton of Grade-A [scoring opportunities] in the first two periods and just couldn’t finish. Sometimes, the puck just won’t go in the net for you.”
It wasn’t that Quinnipiac wasn’t getting shot opportunities. Yale goalie Jeff Malcolm was having the game of his life, certainly the most important one. He came up huge.
“[Malcolm] had a great game,” Quinnipiac captain Zach Currie said. “We had some extremely good chances in the first two periods. If we capitalize on one or two of those, it’s a completely different game and who knows what happens in the end?
“He showed up at a big moment. He played extremely well when he needed to, made the saves when he needed to. So obviously, it’s frustrating when you’re on the other end of that.”
It was those missed chances that seemed to bother Pecknold most. At one point, penalties gave Quinnipiac a 5-on-3 advantage, and still, the Bobcats couldn’t convert it into points.
That’s the kind of thing that causes teams to lose games, and it did Saturday.
“It wasn’t very good,” Pecknold said. “Our guys didn’t make good decisions. We didn’t screen the goalie on one shot. It was poorly executed. I’ll go through the video. There were probably 10 moments -- 5-on-3, couple of power-play good looks, we take a little too long, Jordan [Samuels-Thomas] has a breakaway and Malcolm makes a big save.
“I don’t think you can pick any one thing. We’ve scored goals, not in abundance all year, but we’ve been scoring in this tournament. They just wouldn’t go in [Saturday night].”
The one thing Pecknold refused to do was cast any blame whatsoever on Hartzell, who had come through for him during so many other games.
“Eric was our best player this year,” Pecknold said. “I think he was the best player in college hockey. I really do. I still believe that. He was the most dominant player in college hockey this year for what he did for us, taking Quinnipiac to the national championship game.”
This is how serious Pecknold was about Hartzell. Without him, Quinnipiac doesn’t go to the Frozen Four. It’s as simple as that, so no, there won’t be any finger-pointing at the guy between the pipes.
It was a team loss, and it hurt.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the players, the season we had,” Pecknold said. “I think we were the best team in college hockey this season. Unfortunately, we didn’t prove it [Saturday night].”