Monday, February 29, 2016

Garteig Carries Bobcats Trophy Dreams

Despite any protests from fans of traditional powers Boston College and North Dakota, the undisputed #1 team in the country is the school that no one can pronounce correctly, QUINN-i-piac. Over the past four years they have won 102 regular season hockey games, most in the land, and will undoubtedly be heading to the NCAA tourney for the 4th straight year. Over that span they have won the Cleary Cup as ECAC Hockey regular season champs three of the past four years, have won an NCAA regional and advanced to the 2013 NCAA championship game. Yet despite all that success, one prominent piece of hardware has eluded them, the Whitelaw Cup as ECAC tournament champs, and it sticks in their collective craw.

Man in the Middle: Michael Garteig
"The Whitelaw Cup is something that's very important to us, something we've never done," said Sam Anas, ECAC Hockey 2015-16 scoring champion. "This year we really have to prove to ourselves and the program that we're able to win that playoff cup, and go on further in the NCAA's." Fellow alternate captain and second leading scorer, senior Travis St. Denis, wants to clutch the precious metal before his college career wraps up this spring. "We haven't won any serious hardware," he said to the New Haven Register. St. Denis is the only current Bobcat who played in the 2013 NCAA title game. "That's our main goal as seniors, to walk out with whatever trophy it may be, the Whitelaw Cup (as ECAC tourney champs) or a national championship." Sophomore defenseman Kevin McKernan is fully aware of the 'Cats history of falling in the ECAC semifinals each of the last three seasons. "In the past we've made it there and then kind of faltered off, in the tournament as well. The ECAC Championship in Lake Placid is our first goal."

Pecknold denies that the wide sheet in Lake Placid has been the primary reason for his squad's demise the past two seasons. "I don't think it hinders us more than anybody else, everybody has to adapt and adjust. It's a tough trophy to win. Playoffs is a little bit about 'Did you get a bounce, or a bad call, and what about the goaltending? Did the kid get hot, did the kid not get hot?' When you get to the semis and finals, it's one and done."

 Pecknold Eyes Prize: Whitelaw Cup
Pecknold has not forgotten how two of his best goalies from his tenure at Quinnipiac, Eric Hartzell and current senior star Michael Garteig, both laid eggs in the ECAC semis of 2013 and 2015, respectively. If the Bobcats are going to finally break through in Lake Placid, senior Garteig will have play like he did in the regular season finale against Yale, when he stoned the NCAA's hottest team 4-1 at the TD Bank Sports Center. He could very well face the second seeded Elis again March 19 at Herb Brooks Arena. Their last game in Hamden was a goaltending duel of the highest order, as Garteig outplayed All-American Alex Lyon yet again. "I think Alex Lyon is one of the best, if not THE best in the country," said Garteig to the assembled post-game media. "But I don't think I've ever lost to Alex Lyon." (5-0-3 to be exact). Pecknold stated the obvious: "Gartsy was great. He was our best player tonight, he made some big-time saves to keep us in the game."

Garteig: On the Hot Seat
Despite maintaining their #1 ranking for most of 2016, the Bobcats have scrambled at times, forced into overtime nine times over that stretch, often needing furious comebacks to stay atop the hockey world, as they recorded an unremarkable 3-1-5 in those OT encounters. That is why the finale over Yale was such a powerful statement. "The second half has been a little bit of a struggle for myself and the team included, I just know I could play better," said Garteig. "This weekend was really really good for the team, and also myself." The weekend included photo ops on both Friday (Cleary Cup for regular season title) and Saturday (the annual Fireman's hat for conquering Yale).

Should the top-ranked Bobcats win their ECAC quarterfinal series, Garteig will have a chance to nail two major goals in Lake Placid: 1) to redeem himself for last year's stinker that saw him cough up three soft goals in the first period of the semifinal versus Harvard; and 2) to become the first of Quinnipiac's pantheon of excellent goalies to bring the Whitelaw Cup back to Hamden. The late Dave Peterson, USA veteran Olympic coach, said that one-and-done playoff hockey should be called "Goalie, not hockey," because of the heightened significance of that position. The Olympic Center spotlight will beam bright and hot, directly onto the gold and blue shoulders of Michael Garteig.

No comments:

Post a Comment