Halfway through the first period, Quinnipiac's two quick goals appeared to have set the tone for a highly-offensive showing from the Bobcats.
But once the dust settled after the first period, the penalty kill and defense are what ultimately led Quinnipiac to the title game with a 3-2 win over five-time champion Boston College. The Bobcats will face the winner of North Dakota-Denver on Saturday night at 8 p.m.
"I thought the compete was great on the P.K. tonight. The willingness to block shots. Our neutral zone was really good in kind of denying them entries," Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. "The only issue we had was we lost more faceoffs than we normally do on the P.K. and had some failed clears where guys just got to have a little more poise. But, again, we found a way and I think our P.K. is better than what we showed tonight. But it was good enough."
Tim Clifton picked up half of his team's six minor penalties called on Thursday night, but Pecknold was quick to point out his contributions away from the icebox.
"Timmy knows he needs to be more under control. He was good tonight outside those three penalties. His compete level was fantastic. Off the charts. He's a big leader for us and a big reason why we won."
Luckily for Clifton and Quinnipiac, the team boasts one of the strongest penalty kills in all of college hockey too, stopping a combined 133 power play opportunities by their opponents. The Bobcats held the Eagles to just 1-for-5 on the power play, with the lone goal coming from Ryan Fitzgerald in the third period.
"I think they played within the structure well. They knew who our top guys were and what we were trying to do. So we've got to give a lot of credit to Quinnipiac. They played a great game," said BC defender Steve Santini. "Like you mentioned, they did great in the penalty kill, and unfortunately ended our season, but that's hockey. We're going to be gracious in victory and defeat."
On the flip side, the Bobcats also converted just one of their power-play attempts, but Landon Smith's goal in the second period proved to be the game winner. Pecknold said his team can sometimes be cute with the power play but against a tough team like BC, his team needed to just drive it straight to the net.
"I thought that's something we had to do with Demko, an elite goaltender, one of the best in the country. We just had to keep putting pucks on net and find ways to score rebound goals. That was an ugly, greasy goal at the net front, and that's how you win hockey games."
The special teams were the biggest contributor to the Bobcats victory, but Quinnipiac goaltender Michael Garteig also deserves credit for his performance down the stretch. Garteig stood on his head for the Bobcats making four of 34 crucial saves in the final minutes, including a glove save in the final two seconds to secure the 3-2 win.
"Unfortunately, they got one with about three minutes left, but the boys did everything they could to keep it a 3-2 lead," Garteig said. "Blocking shots and doing everything that we could. It was a special win. It was a big one for our program.”