No Frozen Four Repeat for Quinnipiac
by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. When Quinnipiac started the season 12-1-1 and had a 13-game unbeaten streak snapped in mid-November, it was all rosy in Hamden, Conn. It seemed as though the Bobcats were again poised to return to the Frozen Four, and perhaps take care of unfinished business from losing last season's championship game.
Ultimately, it didn't happen. This team was strong in some ways, but perhaps not as much in others, and Providence exposed some holes in a 4-0 win Friday.
Quinnipiac's early mistakes made a win over Providence unattainable.
"They were just uncharacteristic plays by our team," senior forward Connor Jones said. "We are usually a sound team defensively, winning races, winning battles. We just didn't have it tonight and Providence capitalized on those chances."
Two defensive mistakes in the game's first 10 minutes led to one goal and almost another, but it was disallowed on review. But goal or not, the momentum of the game was charted.
"One of those mistakes was made by me," senior defenseman Zach Tolkinen said. "It is devastating when you go down one, then two. It is tough but I think every guy in our locker room thought we were going to come back. Nobody quit, which is a testament to the character in the locker room."
One of the things easily overlooked when watching Quinnipiac is its lack of experience on defense. Most games, the forwards are so dominant on the forecheck, it covers for the young defense. But this lack of experience, and plethora of mistakes, have led to a lot of the opponent's offense this year.
But Quinnipiac refused to lay blame at its young 'D.'
"We just played poorly across the board," coach Rand Pecknold said. "We worked hard all year to get to this stage. It is unfortunate we didn't bring our best game."
"The young guys were great and came a long way," said Tolkinen. "They were studs when they got here. It was a treat for me to get to see their development. I am looking forward to seeing them get better. They are a special group of kids."
Quinnipiac may have entered with the second-rated defense in the country, but the possession was a big reason. When teams control possession there is little opportunity for mistake. Tonight, was clearly not its night, as Providence made the Bobcats pay early and often.
"I thought we played hard as a team," Jones said. "We just didn't have it tonight and it was tough to see because it was in a regional."
Of course, reflecting in a time of loss is never easy, but Quinnipiac's senior class has much to appreciate. It came to Quinnipiac just as the program was rising to new heights, and it helped take it even further.
"The last four years have been the ride of my life," Tolkinen said. "Those five (seniors) are five of my best friends. It was treat to play with those guys. I learned a lot from the Jones twins and Cory Hibbeler is a heck of a man, a guy that will probably be in my wedding some day."
This team featured three freshmen and a sophomore on defense. All are really talented.
"For those young guys back there, they have promising careers ahead of them," Jones said.
For Quinnipiac, its second consecutive great senior class leaves Hamden. This class included the likes of Kellen and Connor Jones, Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Hibbeler. Those players will be hard to replace.
"This was heartbreaking," Connor Jones said. "We have had our highs and our lows in four years. You look at guys you played with and you think about the things you have gone through together.It is unlike anything you can even imagine.
"The first two years here were kind of weird because Kellen and I were used to winning championships, playing until May. There are 27 guys that would much rather be in the rink than on a beach.
"When we got to junior year, everyone just bought in. We changed our attitude and we changed the culture that year. When you get hungry to come to the rink every day, it is a lot of fun. You might not like what was said, but it makes you better."
Of course, the program has plenty to look forward to. It continues to recruit well and could be right back in the NCAAs next year if things break right.
But those seniors won't be around for another chance.