Quinnipiac made a bold statement to the college hockey world Thursday night that its regular season performance was no fluke. The Bobcats jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first period and never looked back en route to dispatching St. Cloud 4-1 in the second semifinal of the night at the Frozen Four.
The win for the Bobcats assures an ECAC team will win the national championship for the first time since Harvard won in 1989. It will also be an all-Connecticut final. The two schools are the second closest in proximity of location in NCAA Finals history, only Boston University and Boston College in 1978 was closer.
It took 11 minutes of the first period for Quinnipiac to build its 3-0 lead over St. Cloud. "Those 11 minutes weren't very good for us. We'd do anything to have those first 11 minutes back," said a disappointed Bob Motzko, St. Cloud's coach.
Junior Jordan Samuels-Thomas started the scoring for Quinnipiac just 1:49 into the game when he slammed a wraparound past St. Cloud goalie Ryan Faragher. The goal was the 17th of the season for the Bowling Green transfer.
Less than five minutes later, the Bobcats increased their lead to two when Ben Arnt, in traffic, snuck the puck past Faragher. Samuels-Thomas assisted on the goal, his second point of the night.
Samuels-Thomas played a significant role in the game. Obviously, he had a hand in the first two goals, but he was all over the ice all night. "He was dominant even outside the goals. I thought Jordan was a pivotal player in the game," said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold.
Immediately following a tremendous opportunity for St. Cloud when it hit the post, Quinnipiac senior Jeremy Langlois extended the lead to three. At the 11:19 mark, the Tempe, Ariz. native notched his 100th career point.
St. Cloud freshman Joey Benik gave the Huskies some hope with a goal at the 6:25 mark of the second period. The Andover, Minn. native has struggled with injuries in his first year, but had a very good NCAA Tournament. Motzko is excited for Benik's future. "The best point is Joey's future. I think it tells the story of what he's going to be in the future," said Motzko.
Kellen Jones regained the three-goal lead for the Bobcats when he struck for his 13th of the season at the 14:31 mark of the second period. Senior defenseman Zack Davies picked up his second assist of the night on the tally.
The rest of the game would be scoreless, in large part to Quinnipiac senior goaltender Eric Hartzell who is one of three Hobey Hat Trick Finalists. The winner will be announced tomorrow night on the NHL Network at 6 p.m. ET. "Hartzell showed why he's up for the Hobey. He was outstanding. He got into a groove" said St. Cloud forward Ben Hanowski. Pecknold realizes how valuable his goaltender is. “He’s been our best player all year,” said the coach.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation for continuing coverage of the 2013 Frozen Four at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh.