HAMDEN, Conn. — Chris White’s third goal of the game, at 6:18 of double overtime, lifted Quinnipiac to a 6-5 victory over Iona in the longest game in MAAC history. Quinnipiac advances to the MAAC Final Four for the fourth straight season; they will face Sacred Heart, which defeated Canisius 3-2 in overtime.
“Ryan Morton played the puck off the boards in the neutral zone and then set a nice pick to break me into the [offensive] zone. I saw him coming late and the defenseman overplayed Morty for the pass, so it gave me the lane to cut across and beat the goalie to the far side,” White said of the winning goal.
White’s hat trick was only the fourth in MAAC playoff history and came about 27 minutes of playing time after Iona’s Tim Krueckl notched his third goal of the game off a scramble in front as the Gaels forced overtime with 23 seconds remaining in regulation time.
Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold praised his team’s effort in the second half of the season as they went from seventh to second in the MAAC. “I think the whole second half of the year has been a credit to the fact the freshmen have grown up and my seniors have stepped up and played well,” he explained.
Iona coach Frank Bretti was left trying to find some solace for his team and for the 11 seniors who will be graduating. “I told the guys there might be a day when Iona wins a championship and this group will be remembered as building our program. I told these guys that great athletes don’t always win championships. That’s the deal you make in sports,” he said.
Quinnipiac opened the scoring three minutes into the first period after failing to capitalize on a 3-on-2 rush. Quinnipiac regained the puck and Morton scored from the top of the crease.
The Gaels answered four minutes later as they scored the first of three power-play goals, the first just four seconds into the man advantage. Rob Kellogg won the draw to Krueckl who walked in front to tie the game.
Less than a minutes later, Iona allowed the first of two give-back goals as Quinnipiac regained the lead as Neil Breen scored from the hash marks as he redirection found its way past a screened Scott Galenza at 7:54.
Iona pulled even when the power play clicked once again as Kellogg deflected a Nathan Lutz point shot past Jamie Holden at 11:28.
The Gaels finished off their power play hat trick a little more than two minutes later as Krueckl rammed home a Carter shot from the left circle to make it 3-2.
Quinnipiac took a page out of the Iona playbook as they tied the game just four seconds into their third power play of the game. Ryan Olson won the ensuing faceoff to the left of Galenza. White came off the boards, skated into the slot, and beat Galenza high to the glove side at 4:24.
Once again the Gaels came roaring back to take the lead as Chad Nordhagen rifled a shot from the top of the right circle that beat Holden between the pads as he was dropping to the ice at 6:13.
With his team down 4-3, Pecknold removed Holden, who allowed four goals on 12 shots, and replaced him with Justin Eddy. “Jamie has been unbelievable all year. I think if I left him in, I think we still win the game because he would have settled down. I did that move because the team was deflated. I think it gave the team some energy,” Pecknold explained.
The move would pay off in the long run as Quinnipiac did settle down and started to shift the momentum their way. It didn’t hurt that Eddy stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced.
Pecknold’s switch paid immediate dividends as Quinnipiac tied the game just 70 seconds after the switch. Galenza stopped Matt Craig on a breakaway, but he was unable to regain his position before White pounced on the rebound.
Quinnipiac took a 5-4 lead as Galenza again was called upon to stop another breakaway — this time it was Matt Froehlich with the original shot. Morton followed up the play to pop in the rebound at 13:31.
Faced with the prospect of playing their final 20 minutes of hockey, the Gaels opened up with a strong start to the third period. Both teams had near misses as Galenza and Eddy were strong in net — each making 13 saves.
The Gaels pulled Galenza for an extra attacker with a little more than a minute remaining. Iona finally drew even with 23.5 seconds left in regulation time as Krueckl converted of a scramble in front for the third hat trick in MAAC playoff history.
What did Pecknold say to rally his troops after the tying goal?
“We talked about some of the same things. Basically, we don’t lose at home. We lost one game all year, which was to Iona. The confidence level was unbelievable in between the third period and first overtime. They weren’t deflated [and] they knew we were going to win.”
Quinnipiac controlled the first overtime period as they had a trio of golden chances to win the game. Brian Herbert shot wide as he skated in on a partial breakaway just three minutes into overtime. At the 6:40 mark, Craig hit the crossbar on a shot from the right faceoff dot. About seven minutes later, Tom Watkins’ shot from the left point rang off the far post.
Despite facing a second overtime period, Pecknold was confident. “I actually felt the longer it went, the better it was for us. Iona did not use their fourth line much tonight. I didn’t play four lines the whole night, but I gave my fourth line guys some ice time.
Quinnipiac nearly won the game at the five minute mark of the second overtime, but Morton’s shot from the high slot hit the right post. A little more than a minute later, White finished off his hat trick as he finished off the Gaels.
“I’m happy with the way my guys battled back. We faced some real adversity with stuff that went on in the first period, and I thought we faced an even bigger clump of adversity when Iona scored with 23 seconds left. I’m really proud of my guys and it was a big team win for us,” Pecknold said.