|Connor Jones couldn't dent Brown's Borelli in semifinal loss.|
ECAC Championship – the weekend that wasn’t This past weekend, the ECAC held its annual tournament in Atlantic City for the final time (thankfully) before moving it to Lake Placid, NY next year. The four semi-finalists, Quinnipiac, Yale, Union, and Brown, would be competing for the Whitelaw Trophy presented to the winner of the tournament. On Thursday, the annual ECAC awards were announced and Quinnipiac was the recipient of several. Rand Pecknold took home Coach of the Year honors while Eric Hartzell earned both Goaltender of the Year and Player of the Year honors. In addition, he was named to the ECAC First Team. Zach Davies took the Best Defensive Defenseman award and was named to the ECAC Third Team along with Jeremy Langlois. The Bobcats, having clinched the Cleary Cup as the regular season champions, were looking to add another piece of hardware to their already spectacular season, and would be facing the #8 ranked Brown Bears in Friday’s first semi-final game at Boardwalk Hall. The winner of this game would face the winner of the 2nd semi-final between #3 Yale and #4 Union. There was tremendous buzz around the possibility of another matchup between Quinnipiac and Yale in the final. However, it didn’t turn out that way. Brown came out hungrier than Quinnipiac and used a stellar performance by goaltender Anthony Borelli combined with a solid defensive performance, as well as some offensive prowess to send the Bobcats to the 3rd-place consolation game with a convincing 4-0 victory. It was easily Quinnipiac’s worst game of the season. From the net on out, the team struggled. The usually stout Eric Hartzell gave up 4 goals and the offense just couldn’t figure out a way to get the rubber past Borelli. Defensively, the team struggled as well. At the end of the day, the better team won the game. Brown simply wanted it more. The amazing season that the Bobcats had put together took a huge chink in the armor. All season long we heard that a league tourney championship was one of their goals. Well, that will have to wait until at least next year. In the second game on Friday, Yale and Union squared off in what was thought to be a battle of two solid teams who, like Brown, had significantly stepped up their games going into the end of season. In what turned out to be another laugher, the Dutchmen man-handled the Bulldogs and soundly defeated them 5-0. That’s right… the top two teams in the tourney didn’t score a single goal in the semi’s. Those double goose eggs meant that Yale and Quinnipiac would face off against each other, but only for 3rd place bragging rights. Neither team showed much of anything in their respective games. Both were flat and outclassed. The game still had some meaning to Yale who needed a victory to secure a place in the national tournament. A second loss on the weekend wouldn’t eliminate the Bulldogs, but would take their fate out of their own hands and require help from teams in other playoff action around D-I hockey. For Quinnipiac, the game meant nothing in terms of the tournament as they had already locked up the #1 overall seed. The only question was where they would be playing as a Brown win in the championship final would send the Bears to Providence as the host school, and the Bobcats would likely end up in Manchester, NH. A Brown loss would likely mean a date in Providence for the Q. More importantly, the Bobcats needed to play well in order to gain momentum going into next weekend. Having struggled a bit over the last 3 or 4 weeks, they needed a little confidence. After a scoreless 1st period, it looked like neither team would be able to score a goal. Then, at 4:34 of the 2nd, Bryce Van Brabant picked up a loose puck between the circles and wristed it past Jeff Malcolm to put Quinnipiac up 1-0. Scoring first seemed to energize the otherwise sluggish Bobcats. The difference to that point was the play of Hartzell who was stopping everything thrown at him. He was doing his part to give the team an opportunity. To be fair, Quinnipiac got help on a couple of Yale no-goals that were reviewed but not overturned. Just over 2-1/2 minutes into the 3rd, Quinnipiac struck again when Cory Hibbeler put a juicy Malcolm rebound into the twine at the 2:42 mark, giving the Bobcats a 2-0 advantage. Yale kept pressuring but could not figure out how to beat Hartzell. In the final minute, a hard charging Kevin Bui deposited another Malcolm rebound with only :53 seconds remaining in the game. Quinnipiac defeated Yale 3-0 giving Hartzell his school best 10th career shutout, and 5th of the season. The win was also #27 on the year for the Bobcats, tying another school record. In the championship final, Union defeated Brown in a very well played game to win the Whitelaw Trophy and secure a spot in the national tournament. Quinnipiac will take the #1 seed in the Providence regional on Saturday at 5:30 pm and face a red hot Canisius, the #16 seed and Atlantic Hockey champions. The winner will face the winner of the 9:00 pm game between #12 Union vs. #6 Boston College. The regional final will be played on Sunday at 6:30 pm. While the weekend wasn’t what everyone wanted it to be, the fact remains the Quinnipiac will still be playing next weekend with an eye on the ultimate prize: a Division I National Championship.
|Bobcats were left feeling defeated Friday, but erased those thoughts with a 3-0 white washing of rival Yale.|