In beating Dartmouth, Quinnipiac finally enjoys some semifinal success

Quinnipiac beat Dartmouth to advance to the ECAC Hockey championship game (photo: John Crouch).

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Quinnipiac has been a model of consistency the last four years — in both a good and bad way.

The good? The Bobcats have made the ECAC Hockey semifinals during each of those seasons and are assured of making the program’s fourth straight NCAA tournament this year. Quinnipiac has won two regular season titles during that stretch as well.

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The bad? The Bobcats haven’t had a lot of success in the league semifinals during that stretch, losing in the opening game three years in a row entering Friday’s game against Dartmouth.

Two goals early in the second period helped that streak come to an end, as Quinnipiac beat the Big Green 3-1 to advance to the ECAC championship game for the first time since 2007, when the Bobcats lost 4-2 to Clarkson.

“It’s a hump we had to get over,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. “I thought we were excellent last year and we had a couple bad bounces. On the big sheet [in Lake Placid], it’s a different game.”

Still, Pecknold defended his team entering the weekend, noting the program’s rise to prominence in the ECAC despite being in the league for only a decade.

“Going to a Frozen Four [in 2013] is extremely difficult,” he said following Friday’s game. “Winning a regional is extremely difficult. I’m just sticking up for my seniors.”

Aside from getting shut out 4-0 by Brown in 2013, Quinnipiac hasn’t been far off the last two seasons. The Bobcats lost in double overtime to Colgate in 2014 and 5-2 to Harvard last year, a score inflated by two Crimson empty-net goals. That loss came without forward Sam Anas, who has scored 20 goals in each of his three college seasons and had a goal and an assist against Dartmouth on Friday.

The scenario entering Friday’s game against Dartmouth was similar in some respects to the matchup between Brown and Quinnipiac in 2013. The Bears were the seventh seed in the league playoffs and reached the semifinal weekend on the strength of a hot goalie in Anthony Borelli. The Big Green were also a seventh seed, and swept Yale last weekend thanks to an outstanding effort in net from senior Charles Grant.

But any similarities ended there. Quinnipiac might not have played its best game of the season, but it was a much better effort than 2013, when the Bobcats came out flat against the Bears.

“We definitely wanted to push the pace,” Quinnipiac junior Connor Clifton said. “We know the big ice; we’re not making any excuses about it. We wanted to push the pace and get in the offensive zone.”

The fact that Quinnipiac has made it to the semifinals four years in a row is impressive considering the roster turnover the Bobcats have undergone during that stretch. This year’s team has only two players who saw significant action during the 2013 season — center Travis St. Denis and defenseman Alex Miner-Barron.

Quinnipiac beat Yale 3-0 in the now-defunct consolation game that season, the Bobcats’ only win in the championship weekend since advancing to the championship game in 2007.

Notes

• Fans were able to get their picture taken with the Stanley Cup, which was in the concourse during the games.

• Had Dartmouth won the league title this weekend, it would have made the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 1980, when current coach Bob Gaudet played in 28 games in goal for the Big Green.