Quinnipiac is on pace to win its 1st NCAA title

Greg WyszynskiESPN5 minutes of reading

Quinnipiac won the 1st Frozen Four national championship in dramatic fashion

Quinnipiac scored 10 seconds into overtime to defeat Minnesota 3-2 and win its first Frozen Four national championship.

Quinnipiac won its first NCAA Division I men’s hockey national championship Saturday night with a 3-2 victory over Minnesota at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

Sophomore forward Jacob Quillen scored 10 seconds into the extra session off a pass from forward Sam Lipkin to end the Bobcats’ rally.

Guillen scored the opening goal in overtime when defenseman Zach Metza found Lipkin in the zone with a long pass and Guillen cut to the net on a set play, stuck the handle around Minnesota goaltender Justin Close and scored the winner.

“It’s our play,” Lipkin said. “That’s a play right there.”

Quillen, a 21-year-old from Nova Scotia, said his team has practiced that game “100 times this year.” It worked twice in the national championship game, including his overtime winner.

“It’s a dream come true,” Quillen said. “These guys have worked really hard all year. We’re really close. We’re like a band of brothers.”

It was Quinnipiac’s third attempt to win the national title after losing in 2013 and 2016.

“I’m trying not to cry. It’s so proud. It’s awesome,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. “An amazing team. An amazing culture. You can’t put a price on what we’ve done for Quinnipiac University. We’ve got a nutty.”

The Golden Gophers were the No. 1 team in the nation when their roster was filed with NHL-drafted players. They were seeking their first national title since 2003 and sixth in program history. Minnesota was shocked by Guillen’s goal, with some slamming their sticks in anger while others fell to the ice, drained of emotion.

“We had it. It was going to sting. It was a smash,” Minnesota coach Bob Motzko said.

A Quinnipiac goal late in the third period sent the game into overtime, following one of Pecknold’s gutsy practice decisions of the contest.

With Quinnipiac trailing 2-1, Minnesota star Logan Cooley was whistled for high sticking with 4:52 left. The Bobcats pressured the Golden Gophers net but couldn’t convert. Pechnold called a timeout and chose to pull his goalie Yaniv Peretz with 3:28 left in regulation to give the Bobcats a 6-on-4 power play.

Five seconds into the power play, Quinnipiac forward Colin Graf squeezed a shot from the left side past Klose’s pads to tie the score, 2-2.

The Gophers outscored their previous three opponents 19-5 in what was arguably the tightest game of the tournament.

When they took an early lead less than five minutes into the game, it looked like it might be another Gophers night.

Minnesota took a 1-0 lead on an outlet pass by Quinnipiac. Defenseman Jayden Lee pounced on the puck from behind his own net. Freshman forward Connor Kurth intercepted the pass just outside the blue line and skated around the Bobcats’ net to force Perez out of his crease. Kurd, 2022 draft exam Tampa Bay Lightning (192nd overall), forward John Mittelstadt put it into the net at 14:25 of the first period.

The Gophers added to their lead five minutes into the second period. Center Jackson Nelson won a faceoff against defenseman Brock Faber and then skated in front of the Quinnipiac net. Faber shot the puck off the end boards. It was back to Nelson, who resisted a check from Quinnipiac forward Jacob Quillen and got past Perrett at 15:36.

The Bobcats finally answered at 12:19 of the second period to cut the Minnesota advantage in half. Sophomore forward Christoph Dellier started the play by sliding into the Gophers’ zone. Defenseman Zach Metza made a terrific play to keep the puck in the zone on a Minnesota clear, eventually sliding down the wing to find Delaire driving to the net and past the puck. It was Delier’s third goal of the tournament.

In the third period, the Bobcats made a spirited effort to outscore Minnesota 26-6 with shot attempts. They finally overcame a high-sticking penalty on Cooley with 4:52 to go, which led to a Graf goal that tied the game at 2-2.

Although Quinnipiac took the game in their march to the title, Motzko defended his coaching tactics after the game.

“We changed our neutral zone in the second period and it worked. We stopped their zone entry. They were pressing,” he said. “Hats off to Quinnipiac. They’re tough. But we were in the right spot. Turn the page for one (goal). The second one should never have gone in. That was an unfortunate situation there.”

The title game is a matchup between a team built for playoffs in Quinnipiac and a team loaded with NHL prospects in Minnesota.

The Gophers’ dominant lineup featured Cooley, who was drafted third overall last summer by the Arizona Coyotes; Matthew Niese, a lefty taken No. 57 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2021; and righty Jimmy Snagerud, taken 23rd overall by the St. Louis Blues last summer. Faber was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, who traded him to the Minnesota Wild last offseason. Defensemen Jackson Lacombe (Anaheim Ducks), Ryan Johnson (Buffalo Sabres) and Ryan Chesley (Washington Capitals) were among the NHL draftees at the Gophers.

“I’m crushing on them,” Motzko said. “When you’re in this business, you’re so close to your players. This team is special. We’ve had no hiccups all year. Not one. You always have a little bit of adversity, but I don’t think we’ve had any. Doesn’t happen often.”

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