ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — With the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament already locked up entering the weekend, Quinnipiac knew its fate before the first semifinal game even got underway Friday.
Brown? Not so much.
But it’s starting to get a little clearer for the Bears, who beat the top-seeded Bobcats 4-0 to advance to their first ECAC championship game since 1993.
2013 ECAC Hockey Championship
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No. 7 Brown will face either Yale or Union Saturday night as the Bears look for their first-ever league title.
“It’s a team that is really driven to succeed,” said Brown coach Brendan Whittet, who played for Brown in the 1993 ECAC championship, a 3-1 loss to Clarkson. “It’s the tightest team I’ve ever been around. It’s not one individual, it’s not me and it’s not the staff. It’s a complete team.”
Brown was the only league team that Quinnipiac hadn’t beaten this year, as both games between the two ended in a tie.
“It definitely gave us a lot of confidence tying the No. 1 team in the country twice,” Borelli said. “We just knew that we could play with them. I think by them not beating us, it might have put a little seed of doubt in their head. We played a great game and they didn’t play up to their level.”
While Whittet said the Bears played their most complete game of the year, Quinnipiac couldn’t get much going. The Bobcats outshot Brown 29-23, but had very few prime chances and didn’t convert those they had.
“I thought they were good and Borelli was excellent,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “It was more on us. We stunk. We were a bad hockey team. I don’t know if we would have beaten anyone today.”
Brown led 2-0 after one period thanks to goals by Lorito and Garnet Hathaway.
Mark Naclerio fought the puck free along the end boards and swung it out to Lorito, who beat QU goalie Eric Hartzell from the bottom of the right faceoff circle at 9:05.
“They’re just two very good players down low,” Lorito said of linemates Naclerio and Nick Lappin. “I just found the soft area near the net.”
Hathaway made it 2-0 at 16:05, working his way up the left wing while shielding the puck from Quinnipiac’s Zach Tolkinen before cutting in and flicking a shot that found its way in.
The Bobcats had some chances early in the second, but a pair of Bears’ goals in just under three minutes put the game away.
Senior Francis Drolet picked an opportune time to score his first goal of the season, taking a behind-the-net pass from Marc Senecal and snapping it high past Hartzell to make it 3-0 at 12:56 in the second. The goal was set up by some solid work along the boards by Brown.
“[Brown] did everything they needed to do,” Quinnipiac captain Zack Currie said. “They got pucks deep [and] worked extremely hard.”
Pecknold pulled Hartzell (19 saves), a Hobey Baker finalist, in favor of Michael Garteig for a few seconds following Drolet’s goal.
“I didn’t think [Hartzell] was being aggressive enough in the net for the first three goals,” Pecknold said. “I thought he was passive and I wanted to get him out and challenge him to be aggressive.”
Lorito’s five-on-three power-play goal made it 4-0 at 15:36 in the second. Naclerio zipped a pass across the slot to a waiting Lorito on the right post, who snapped a shot above Hartzell and into the net. It was the sophomore’s 22nd goal of the season and eighth in the last seven games.
The loss dashed Quinnipiac’s hope for their first league title, as the Bobcats will play in Saturday’s consolation game.
“We’re disappointed,” Pecknold said. “It’s almost inexplicable.”