Heading into his senior season, Eric Hartzell was 28-20-12 with a 2.24 goals against average and a .918 save percentage on his career. Certainly respectable numbers, but nothing worthy of receiving huge accolades.
His senior season at Quinnipiac has changed everything for the White Bear Lake, Minn. native. The Bobcats are going to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, and the 6-foot-4-inch netminder is a big reason why.
Hartzell is 29-6-5 with a 1.55 GAA and a .933 save percentage on the season. His strong performance throughout the entire season has brought many awards and accolades his way. Hartzell was named ECAC Player of the Year and ECAC Goaltender of the Year as well as being named to the All-ECAC First Team.
Just a day after the ECAC Awards Banquet in Atlantic City, Hartzell was also named one of the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award given each season to the top player in college hockey. Yesterday the news got even better as it was announced Hartzell was one of the three Hobey Award Hat Trick Finalists.
Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold believes all of the recognition Hartzell is receiving is well-deserved. "I think Eric Hartzell is the best player in college hockey. Dominant all year," said the 19th year coach of the Bobcats.
Hartzell will be in Pittsburgh with his team competing in the Frozen Four. The Bobcats were the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, advancing out of the East Regional.
Pecknold recognizes the value of Hartzel and how important his senior goaltender was in reaching the penultimate event of the college hockey season. "I just think from a standpoint of what Hartzell does for us, my leading scorer is 99th in the country in scoring, and yet we're ranked number 1 in the country. Hartz has carried us on his back all year long," said Pecknold.
Quinnipiac rallied from a 3-1 third period deficit to avoid an upset bid by the region's fourth seeded Canisius Golden Griffins in the Regional semifinals. Then In the Regional finals Hartzell made a huge breakaway stop on Union's Max Novak in the opening minutes of the first period. After that he watched as teammate Matthew Peca stole the show, recording a natural hat trick in a span of just three minutes, twelve seconds, the fasted hat trick in NCAA Tournament history.
"Whenever we've struggled, he's been there to bail us out. Even that 21-game unbeaten streak, we probably had, I would say, five games we should have in that span that he won for us," said Coach Pecknold. "That save was early in the game. It's hard to say it was a pivotal moment in the game, but it was certainly a big part," added Pecknold, a former player at Division III Connecticut College.
When Quinnipiac takes the ice in Pittsburgh against St. Cloud, the Bobcats will do so knowing they have a difference maker between the pipes.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.