Quinnipiac won its first Division I men’s hockey national championship Saturday night, posting a 3-2 victory in overtime over Minnesota at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.
Sophomore forward Jacob Quillan scored 10 seconds into the extra session on a pass from Sam Lipkin to complete the Bobcats’ rally.
Quillan won the faceoff in overtime, defenseman Zach Metsa hit Lipkin with a long pass into the zone and Quillan crashed to the net on a set play, managing to handle it around Minnesota goaltender Justen to score the near-winner.
“That’s how we play,” Lipkin said. “That was a hell of a story there.”
Quillan, a 21-year-old native of Nova Scotia, said his team has practiced “100 times this year.” He worked twice in the national championship game, including the overtime winner.
“It’s a dream come true,” Quillan said. “These guys have worked so hard all year. We’re so close. We’re like a band of brothers.”
This was Quinnipiac’s third attempt to win a national title, having lost in 2013 and 2016.
“I’m just trying not to cry. Just proud. This is awesome,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. “Just an awesome group. Awesome culture. You can’t put a value on what we just did for Quinnipiac University. We’re going Natty.”
The Golden Gophers were the No. 1 team. 1 in the nation for the number of NHL-drafted players. They were seeking their first national title since 2003 and sixth in program history. Minnesota was left shaken by Quillan’s goal, some pushing the staff in anger and others sliding down the ice, emotionally drained.
“We did it. That’s going to sting. It’s crushing,” Minnesota coach Bob Motzko said.
The game was sent to overtime by the end of Quinnipiac’s third period, followed by one of the sharpest decisions of the tournament by the Pecknold coach.
With Quinnipiac trailing 2-1, Minnesota Star Logan Cooley whistled for the high-sticking with 4:52 left in regulation. The Bobcats pressured the Golden Gophers at the net but were unable to convert. Pecknold called a timeout and opted to pull his goalie Yaniv Perets with 3:28 left in regulation to give the Bobcats a 6-on-4 power play.
Five seconds after the power play ended, Quinnipiac forward Collin Graf hit a shot from the left sideline through the pads to tie the score, 2-2.
It was by far the closest game the Gophers played in the tournament, outscoring their previous three opponents 19-5.
It looked like another Gophers night more than five minutes into the game when they took their first lead.
Minnesota took a 1-0 lead leading to a blowout by Quinnipiac. Defenseman Jayden Lee sent the puck into his net. Freshman forward Connor Kurth intercepted a jump shot outside the blue line and skated around the Bobcats net to draw Perets from his own crease. Kurth, a 2022 draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning (192nd overall), threw the puck to the rim, where forward John Mittelstadt put it into the net at 14:25 of the first period.
The Gophers added to their lead less than five minutes into the second period. Center Jaxon Nelson elegantly won the faceoff back to Brock Faber and then skated to the front of the Quinnipiac net. Smith fires the puck at the end of the boards. It bounced on Nelson, who fought off a check from Quinnipiac forward Jacob Quillan and knocked it past Perets at 15:36.
The Bobcats finally answered at 12:19 of the second period to cut Minnesota’s advantage in half. Sophomore forward Cristophe Tellier started the play skating the puck into the Gophers’ zone. Defenseman Zach Metsa made a terrific play to keep the puck in Minnesota’s clearing zone, eventually finding a low winger to push Tellier to the net, nearly blocking the puck. The third goal was the Tellier tournament.
The third period saw the Bobcats make a spirited push to tie the game when they shot a 26-6 advantage over Minnesota. They finally broke through thanks to a high-ticking penalty by Cooley with 4:52 left in regulation, which led to Graf’s goal to knot the game at 2-2.
Motzko defended his coach after the game, even though Quinnipiac won the game in his league for the title.
“We changed our neutral zone in the second quarter and made it work. We stopped their zone entry. They were making tackles,” he said. “Tip your hat off to Quinnipiac.” It is very difficult. But we were in the right place. Put the puck for one (goal). The other never entered. The unfortunate thing is right there.”
The title game was a matchup between a team in Quinnipiac and an NHL team built in Minnesota for the tournament.
Led by the Gophers’ dominant top line, Cooley, the third-highest center this summer, was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes; Matthew Knies, left wing drafted 57th overall in 2021 by the Toronto Maple Leafs; and right wing Jimmy Snuggerud, drafted 23rd overall by the St. Louis Blues last summer. Smith 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 also among the Gophers’ NHL draft picks.
“I was just overwhelmed,” Motzko said. “When you’re in this profession, you get so close to your players. This group was special. We’ve had individuals all year. Not one. You always have a little adversity, but I don’t think we have. That doesn’t happen very often.”