East Regional Notebook
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. The end was in sight for Canisius.
Just over 12 minutes to go. A two-goal lead over top-ranked Quinnipiac. Somehow, it appeared the Canisius Golden Griffins, a team that snuck into the NCAA tournament by winning Atlantic Hockey’s automatic bid, was going to knock off the top team in the land.
Then Matthew Peca happened.
The Quinnipiac sophomore bobbed his way around the offensive zone, found the puck on his stick and roofed it over Canisius goalie Tony Capobianco to make cut the deficit to 3-2.
The Bobcats added two more within the next six minutes to win, 4-3, advancing to tomorrow’s regional final.
“When we got that second goal, it gave us life, we felt it and I knew we were going to win the hockey game,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “I think our bench knew, too.”
It was the lone appearance on the scoresheet for Peca, but his play around the Canisius net was determined.
He constantly weaved his way through seams and disrupted Capobianco’s vision. Later in the period he scooped up a loose puck and darted towards the crease, drawing a hooking call on Mitch McCrank that, while not resulting in a goal, helped the Bobcats keep momentum late in the third period after tying the score.
“(Peca) was excellent,” Pecknold said. “Matthew and the twins were, by far, our best line. The other three were hit or miss from shift to shift, some guys were struggling. (Peca) was one of our best kids tonight. That goal was big time. I’m still not quite sure how he got it under the bar.”
Making a name for themselves
A week ago, few could point out Canisius’ home state on a map. Even fewer could pronounce it.
It was a common problem for head coach Dave Smith on the recruiting trail.
After such an inspiring effort on the national stage, he isn’t likely to find that problem any longer.
“The things that have happened with our program in terms of people who didn’t know how to pronounce it, spell it or even know where we were, this gets us in conversations,” Smith said. “It helps in recruiting and just the spirit on the campus. This is a leap forward. It’s not a step, it’s a leap. In eight years we have talked a lot about it being small steps and now you look back and it’s in our lap today. Our players came up with the slogan ‘raise the bar’ and they put it on shirts. They did today.”
No flow to be found
Long television breaks aren’t something Canisius is accustomed to. Even Quinnipiac, which had its share of television face time this season, hasn’t had to face prolonged commercial delays that stretch over two minutes.
“There was a challenging flow,” Smith said. “We don’t play in a lot of TV games, period. With long timeouts, and I thought the refs did a nice job keeping it moving, but it felt like momentum was going their way in the third.”
That was evident, as the Bobcats struck three times in the final frame.
“It can be really hard,” Pecknold said. “TV timeouts are tough when they’re a minute, but when they’re as long as they are, it’s not the type of game that us or Canisius are used to playing.”
Griffs go all-in
Not that Canisius had nothing to lose – the Griffs were, after all, in the NCAA tournament with their season on the line – but even Smith admits that no one thought his program would be here.
“We were playing with house money,” Smith said. “We had to explain to some of our guys what that meant, but once we did, we were playing with house money. We wanted to be aggressive with it.”
And they were. Taking a 2-1 lead in the second period and then adding a third insurance goal in the third and it seemed like the Griffs’ all-in philosophy was about to hit big.
“People say a two-goal lead is the worst in hockey,” Smith said, “I don’t know, I’d take a two-goal lead and try to play with it. It was just a slow burn. The shots were the shots, we weren’t trying to win the shot battle, we wanted to win the scoreboard battle. I didn’t think we went into a shell.”
Quinnipiac’s Connor Jones led all players with a whopping eight shots on goal. ... The Griffs blocked 23 shots while the Bobcats put 40 on goal. ... Quinnipiac didn’t have a power play until the third period, when they had three, and converted on their second of the game. Canisius went 0 for 2 with the extra man. ... Quinnipiac out-attempted the Griffs 89-40.
Yale preps Union for BC
Some are surprised at Yale's run to the Frozen Four after dispatching WCHA foes Minnesota and North Dakota in the Midwest regional.
Don't put Union head coach Rick Bennett in that group.
Bennett utilized a gameplan against Boston College, ending the defending national champions' season in the opening round, that was similar to his strategy against the Bulldogs.
"We actually took the game plan from when we played Yale," he said. "Yale was a great test for us in that their fowards can really transition but (Boston College) takes it to a different level. There was no disappointment there. Our transition to defense needed to match their transition to offense."
All-ECAC final on tap
Union and Quinnipiac will faceoff in the East final tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. The winner will join fellow ECAC squad, Yale, in the Frozen Four.
The Bobcats won both regular-season meetings, 4-0 and 3-2, but the teams haven't played since mid-January.
"One team is going to the Frozen Four and it's great for our league," Bennett said. "You hope it's your team. For now, we'll buckle down, watch video and get ready."