Quinnipiac, which has been the top-ranked team in the nation the majority of the season, heads into Saturday afternoon’s East Regional semifinal against Canisius in Providence as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bobcats were 3-3-1 in the opening seven games, but from Nov. 9 to Feb. 9 were 18-0-3.
In the last 11 games, Quinnipiac is 6-4-1. The Bobcats lost the first game of a best-of-three series to Cornell in the first round of the ECAC tournament, but won the next two, with the third going to double overtime.
Brown shocked Quinnipiac, 4-0, in the ECAC semifinals. Quinnipiac shut down Yale in the consolation game, 3-0. It was goaltender Eric Hartzell’s 10th career shutout, a school record.
“[The loss to Brown] was a statement for ECAC hockey,’’ said Quinnipiac athletic director Jack McDonald. “We tied Brown at Brown [in the regular season] and they scored two late ones to tie us at Quinnipiac, so we know they’re a great program with a great coach, so maybe it shocked the fans but it didn’t shock the coaches. We knew if we didn’t play well, we were going to have a tough time.’’
McDonald said Quinnipiac and Canisius have a kinship dating to their days in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
“We started the MAAC hockey league with Canisius back in 1998,’’ he said. “We’ve always been cheering them on. [Coach Dave Smith] has done a great job. They’re probably the hottest team in the country right now. I think the wake-up call we had with Brown last Friday, we’re going to be ready to go.’’
Quinnipiac is tested, having faced a lot of adversity this postseason.
“Brown got us in the semifinals and Cornell took us to two overtimes in the third game of the quarterfinals,’’ said McDonald. “You saw what happened in Hockey East, there was no favorite in either of those two tournaments. That’s what is so exciting about this year’s games. Whoever gets hot the next four games is going to be national champion.’’
McDonald is a graduate of Boston College, and from 1990-95 was the AD at Denver, which lost to New Hampshire, 5-2, Friday night in the Northeast Regional.
“I get a little bit of a tingle when I think about possibly playing BC, but that’s for Sunday morning talk,’’ said McDonald. “To be in a bracket with my alma mater and one of the most renowned dynasties in college hockey, it’s a goose bump. I spent a big part of my life there.’’
Canisius is a veritable Cinderella. The Golden Griffins (19-18-5) earned the first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in school history. After a five-game losing streak, the Griffs have won eight in a row.
They were the No. 7 seed in the Atlantic Hockey, but were undeterred. They swept Bentley and Air Force in two games, then ousted Niagara before crushing Mercyhurst, 7-2. Canisius is the first seventh seed to win the crown.
Even though they have never faced each other, BC and Union have common ties. For example, BC junior center Bill Arnold is the younger brother of former Union women’s lacrosse captain Tory Arnold (Class of 2012). Tim Boyle, a freshman forward with the Dutchmen, is the younger brother of former BC captain Brian Boyle, now a member of the New York Rangers. And finally, Union sophomore defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere was a teammate of BC sophomore left wing Johnny Gaudreau on Team USA, which captured the gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Championship. Gostisbehere had a goal and an assist in six tournament games. Gaudreau was the leading goal scorer with seven goals in seven games.