For the first time in program history, the Quinnipiac University Bobcats are the NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey national champions after upsetting top-ranked University of Minnesota Golden Gophers 3-2 just 10 seconds into overtime when second-year forward Jacob Quillan scored off the puck drop for a thrilling ending to an all-time great game.
The Golden Gophers entered the championship as the favorites finishing the regular season 29-10-1 with very little issue getting to the championship coming off of a 6-2 victory over the Boston University Terriers.
The Bobcats finished the regular season with a 34-3-3. While they were not the top seed, the Bobcats sure played like it in the Frozen Four, knocking off the team who upset Minnesota in the Big 10 championship 6-2.
It was the Golden Gophers who struck first six minutes into the first when first-year forward Connor Kurth stole the puck on a clearing attempt from Quinnipiac and circled back behind the net, where he found fellow first-year forward John Mittelstadt, whose shot while falling down got in the net for the 1-0 lead entering the second.
Less than five minutes gone in the second, the Golden Gophers struck once more. After winning the face-off, third-year defenseman Brock Faber shot from just inside the blue line and was off, but fourth-year forward Jaxon Nelson was right there to put the puck in, extending the lead to two.
While it seemed like Minnesota might run away with it, Quinnipiac was not about to go down without a fight. Just three minutes after Nelson’s goal, the Bobcats answered back when grad student defenseman Zach Metsa found second-year forward Christophe Tellier low for the chip shot goal making the score 2-1 entering the third period.
In the third, the Golden Gophers held strong defensively throughout almost the whole quarter. Still, with just under three minutes left, the worst-case scenario happened for Minnesota as with no goalie in the goal, Minnesota would get called for a controversial penalty giving the Bobcats a 6-4 numbers advantage that they took advantage of when Metsa found second-year forward Collin Graf in the left face-off circle, tying the game at two and heading into overtime with Quinnipiac holding all the momentum and setting up the heartbreak that was about to ensue.
In overtime, Metsa won a faceoff and found first-year forward Sam Lipkin on a 2-1 advantage opportunity which they would capitalize on. Lipkin found Quillan, who juked out Minnesota’s fourth-year goalie Justen Close, sneaking the puck past him for a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss for the Golden Gophers. Quillan wound up winning the tournament MVP due to the goal.
Close played tremendously for Minnesota, saving many clutch shots while finishing the game and going 24-27 while coming up clutch for the Golden Gophers time and time again until unlucky circumstances made it all for nothing. Second-year goaltender Yaniv Perets was not great for the Bobcats as he saw just 13 shots all game surrendering two goals, though he clamped down in the second.
Where Quinnipiac really got the best of Minnesota was on faceoffs, completely owning them 34-23, where Quillan won, leading the team going 12-6, proving to be the difference in this one.
Next year, both teams figure to be top contenders once more, and this matchup is one we may see again potentially in the playoffs. But as hockey goes, expect the unexpected as with any team catching momentum at the right time, anyone can win.