March 29, 2013

Quinnipiac looks to get back on track in NCAA tournament

ByDan Guttenplan

Rand Pecknold's Bobcats are just 3-3-1 in their last seven games. (Getty Images)

Quinnipiac hockey coach Rand Pecknold used a bit of an unusual motivational technique this week in the leadup to the program's second appearance in the NCAA tournament in school history. He showed the players video of themselves.

After his Bobcats (27-7-5) stumbled a bit in the closing month of the season, Pecknold decided to remind his players how they earned the top seed in the NCAA tournament. He referenced video of game tape during the team's 21-game unbeaten stretch, which spanned from Nov. 9 to Feb. 15 and earned the Bobcats the top seed in the Pairwise rankings from early January through the end of the season.

“We need to get back on track with our confidence and our level of play,” Pecknold said, “so that we can win a game in the NCAA tournament.”

The top-seeded Bobcats, one of three ECAC Hockey teams to earn invites to the NCAA tournament along with Yale and Union, will open against Canisius Saturday, March 30 at 5:30 p.m. in Providence. Union, the ECAC Hockey tournament champion looking to return to the Frozen Four for the second consecutive year, will open against defending national champion Boston College Saturday, March 30 at 9 p.m. in Providence. Yale faces top-seed Minnesota in the West Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich., Friday, March 29 at 2 p.m.

Pecknold hopes that his players, when given the chance to study their play from midseason, will identify the cause for a slight decline in play at the end of the season. Although the Bobcats still boast the nation's top defensive system wtih Hobey Baker finalist Eric Hartzell (1.52 GAA) in net, they went 4-3 in March. The low point came in a 4-0 loss to Brown in the ECAC semifinals last weekend, when the Bobcats were blanked for the first time since Oct. 12, 2012.

“It’s not at all like the basketball tournament,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “It’s not like one vs. 64. One vs. 16 is a big difference and I think in the game of hockey, with the way goaltending is, anybody can beat anybody.”

Canisius comes into the matchup with the NCAA’s longest active winning streak, eight, including a 7-2 win over Mercyhurst to take the Atlantic Hockey title. Quinnipiac is not the only conference champion to fall in the postseason tournament.

St. Cloud State (WCHA), Miami (Ohio) (CCHA), and Niagara (AHA), like Quinnipiac, all won a conference regular-season titles this season, but fell in league tournaments.

Games notes

East Regional (Providence, R.I.)

Saturday, March 30 (5:30 p.m.)
No. 1 Quinnipiac vs. No. 4 Canisius

The Bobcats feature the nation's top defensive unit, allowing just 1.52 goals per game, and the top penalty kill at 91.0 percent. Former Atlantic Hockey rivals, the Griffs and Bobcats have played 28 total times. Quinnipiac owns a 17-7-4 all-time advantage against Canisius. The Bobcats are 3-0-1 against the Griffs since the school joined ECAC Hockey prior to the 2005-06 season. Canisius finished the regular-season in seventh place in the Atlantic Hockey standings with a 12-13-2 mark. The Griffs are now 19-18-5 overall after winning a program-record eight-straight games en route to the Atlantic Hockey Championship.

East Regional (Providence, R.I.)

Saturday, March 30 (9 p.m.)
No. 3 Union vs. No. 2 Boston College

The Dutchmen will be making their first trip to the Dunkin Donuts Center since the 2004-05 season, when Union patriciated in the Dunkin Donuts Coffee Pot on Nov. 27-28, 2004. Union junior goaltender Troy Grosenick has been at his best during Union's six game winning streak, allowing just five goals in five starts during that span. Grosenick is 5-0-0 with a 1.04 goals-against average and .966 save percentage in his last five games. Boston College is one of seven current Division 1 teams that Union has never played entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Union played three games against Hockey East opponents this season, and had a record of 1-2-0 in those contests. Boston College is 45-38 in the national tournament, including a 32-9 mark under the direction of Jerry York.

West Regional (Grand Rapids, Mich.)

Friday, March 29 (2 p.m.)
No. 1 Minnesota vs. No. 4 Yale

Yale has won three of its eight NCAA Tournament games. The Bulldogs last played an NCAA Tournament game in Michigan in 1998 at Yost Arena on the University of Michigan campus. Yale has played 11 games (6-3-2) against teams ranked at the time in one of the national polls. Yale is 1-4-2 against teams currently in the top 20. This weekend's matchups marks the first-ever NCAA postseason meeting between Minnesota and Yale while the Gophers boast a 13-6-0 overall record against the Bulldogs in a series history that dates back to Dec. 21, 1934. Minnesota, which has gone 7-0-0 after a loss this season, has not lost back-to-back games all season.

Twitter: @Dan_Guttenplan