One of the oddest seasons in ECAC Hockey history ended with one of the most unlikely league champions.
Third-seeded St. Lawrence beat No. 1 Quinnipiac 3-2 in overtime Saturday at the Frank Perrotti Jr. Arena to win the ECAC Hockey championship and advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007.
It was the second straight overtime game for the Saints, who beat Colgate 5-4 Thursday to advance to the league title game for the first time since 2001. Those back-to-back playoff wins came after St. Lawrence ended the regular season on a 0-5-1 stretch and hadn’t played since Feb. 27 due to a COVID-19 shutdown.
With only four teams playing this year in ECAC Hockey, Quinnipiac advanced to the title game when Clarkson ended its season earlier this month after members of the team violated COVID-19 protocols.
David Jankowski scored the game-winning goal 3:44 into overtime, while goalie Emil Zetterquist finished with 24 saves for the Saints. Kaden Pickering and Justin Paul had the other St. Lawrence goals, while Odeen Tufto and Wyatt Bongiovanni scored for Quinnipiac.
Keith Petruzzelli had 25 saves for the Bobcats (17-7-4), who will likely get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament next week.
“We had nothing to lose,” Zetterquist said. “That helps a lot going into those situations. Honestly, I love being there. You literally have nothing to lose. It’s just awesome every chance you get to play in overtime.”
St. Lawrence trailed 2-1 entering the third after Tufto and Bongiovanni scored twelve seconds apart early in the second period to put the Bobcats ahead.
“It’s going to happen,” Saints coach Brent Brekke said of Quinnipiac scoring two quick goals. “Over the course of coaching, the one thing that you find is that teams that are great, they usually don’t score just one, they score two. Just knowing that, you have to be able to rebound. Our guys stay focused and didn’t get frustrated.”
The Saints tied it when Luc Salem launched a shot from the point that bounced off Petruzzelli and to a waiting Paul, who put it in the net at 16:22 in the third.
Jankowski won it for the Saints early on in the overtime period, skating along the left wall before cutting towards the middle and lofting a shot through several Quinnipiac skaters and into the past Petruzzelli at 3:44.
“Our coaching staff talks a lot about getting to the middle and trying to get something on net, maybe trying to expose them that way,” said Jankowski, who also added an assist earlier in the game . “I tried to pick a spot and I fell down and didn’t really see it go in and then I heard the reaction and that’s all that I remember.”
The Saints, who didn’t start their season until Dec. 31, have been in six overtime games and had thirteen games decided by one goal or fewer. At 6-8-3, the Saints are the sixth team in Division 1 men’s hockey history to make the NCAA tournament with a sub-.500 record and the first since Alabama Huntsville in 2010.
“Last year we were in a ton of close games and I feel like every game this year has been a one-goal game,” Jankowski said. “We talk about it as a team and our leadership group and how we have to be a lot better than we were last year. I think we’ve proved that we’ve gotten better at it. That was definitely a focus point coming into the year.”
St. Lawrence came out strong in the opening minutes of the game and took a 1-0 lead when Pickering put home a rebound at 3:07 in the first. The Saints outshot the Bobcats 7-4 in the opening period.
“They were excited,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said of St. Lawrence. “Our guys were nervous and we shouldn’t be. We talked all week about confidence and dealing with adversity. I thought we stunk in the first, period, just stunk.”
For St. Lawrence, the league title came after a rough three-year stretch where the program won a combined eighteen games and saw Brekee take over after Mark Morris was fired following the 2018-19 season.
“To go out in a way like … we’ve been through a lot,” senior captain Dylan Woolf said. “It means a lot to every one of us.”
NOTES: It was the third straight season that the ECAC championship game went to overtime, a league record…Bongiovanni was in the lineup for Quinnipiac for the first time since Dec. 27 after missing time with an injury. He has five goals in eight games this season. “He did well,” Pecknold said. “He’s a goal scorer; it would have been great to have him for the whole season and have him [at 100 percent] He’s not there right now. For the percentage that he’s at and playing tonight, I was really happy.”