Quinnipiac's Historic Season Ends in Disappointment
by Scott McLaughlin/Senior Writer
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PITTSBURGH As the second period was coming to an end, Quinnipiac goalie Eric Hartzell moved the puck around the boards and out of harm's way. Yale defenseman Gus Young kept it in the zone and flicked a seemingly harmless shot toward the net. But Clinton Bourbonais managed to get his stick on it, and the puck wound up squeaking through Hartzell's five-hole to give Yale a 1-0 lead.
The Bobcats regrouped during the intermission and came out with some good shifts to start the third. But three and a half minutes in, Yale's Charles Orzetti put a shot on net from the left circle. Hartzell made the initial save, but Orzetti followed up the rebound and slapped it back toward Hartzell from a tough angle. Hartzell got his pad flat on the ice, but the puck somehow snuck underneath him anyway.
"It was very, very unfortunate," Hartzell said. "My pad was flat on the ice. It just went under it. My pad was flat on the ice. After you wear a set of pads for a full year, they become a little bit like pillows towards the end of the year. Unfortunately he just found a soft spot, and the shot was hard enough to get through. ... I wouldn't have played it any different."
At the other end of the ice, the Bobcats never found those soft spots. They generated plenty of quality chances in the first two periods, but they couldn't get one past Yale goalie Jeff Malcolm.
The 4-0 final would indicate a dominant performance from Yale, but the Bobcats were right there all game. Even after 2-0, it still looked like they had a chance to get back in the game. It wasn't until Yale's third goal with 10:54 to go that the game out of reach.
"We weren't perfect through two periods, but we played well enough," said coach Rand Pecknold. "We had plenty of chances and we just couldn't score. Sometimes the puck just won't go in the net for you, and it's unfortunate that was one of the things tonight. ... We just couldn't get it to bounce tonight."
Saturday's loss ended an incredible season for the Bobcats. They reeled off a 21-game unbeaten streak at one point. They won their first ECAC regular-season title. They earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. And they reached the Frozen Four for the first time in program history.
"I'm really proud of the guys. We made a lot of history this year," Hartzell said. "Obviously we wanted to win tonight, but it just didn't happen. The guys should be really proud of themselves. We accomplished something this school's never accomplished. Unfortunately tonight just didn't go our way."
What the Bobcats accomplished this season should bode well for the program's future. But for next year, they have a lot they'll need to replace. They lose 11 seniors, including Hartzell, four starting defensemen, and four of their top nine forwards. On top of that, forwards Matthew Peca, Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Kellen Jones and Connor Jones will likely all have the chance to turn pro if they want to. Peca and Connor Jones said after the game that they'd be back, though.
"It's extremely tough," said senior defenseman Mike Dalhuisen. "It's the tightest group of guys I've ever played with. It just went by so fast. I don't have any regrets. I'm sure none of the guys have regrets. It just sucks that we all have to go our separate ways now."
Even if the Bobcats don't get back to this game next year, there's no denying that they're set up for sustained success. They have a state-of-the-art arena, an administration that has made a strong commitment to the program, and a coach who just signed an extension in August.
"The sky's the limit for this program, especially after this season," Peca said. "We have a good core of forwards coming back. I think the biggest thing is that we learn from this. It's disappointing. It's frustrating. But we learned a lot from the 11 seniors we had this year. We'll be ready to go next year."