Matthew Peca scored a natural hat trick to lead #1 Quinnipiac to a 5-1 victory over #13 Union in the NCAA Division I Hockey East Regional Final Sunday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center. With the victory, the Bobcats (29-7-5) advance to the Frozen Four April 11-13 in Pittsburgh. Union, which had a seven game winning streak snapped, finished the season 22-13-5.

Union was looking for a second straight Frozen Four appearance. The Dutchmen were competing in their third straight NCAA playoffs and second straight East Regional Final. This season featured a second consecutive Whitelaw Cup for winning the ECAC Hockey tournament championship.

Peca also had an assist and Kellen Jones had a goal and an assist for the Bobcats. Eric Hartzell made 18 saves for Quinnipiac while Troy Grosenick stopped 21 for Union.

Looking to jump out to a great start again, the Dutchmen had a glistening chance early on in this one. Just 1:55 in, Kevin Sullivan pushed up a pass from the left boards in the Quinnipiac zone to an open Max Novak in the slot. Novak came in and tried to go low left of goalie Eric Hartzell, but the senior made a quick left pad save.

The Bobcats got first blood with a busy rush in traffic capped with 9:46 left in the first period. Kellen Jones passed between the circles to Connor Jones, who dished an open Matthew Peca to the left of the Union net. Peca got off an off balance backhander into the net for the 1-0 lead. It was his 14th of the season.

Peca made it 2-0 at 10:59 on an unassisted tally. He intercepted a pass at center ice and came in alone on the right side, firing a wrist shot from the top of the right circle. He then earned a natural hat trick with his third goal of the contest just 38 seconds later. The sophomore worked the puck out from a crowd in front and backhanded in his #16 for the 3-0 Bobcat lead.

Union had a very late flurry that ended with 0.7 seconds left when a Greg Coburn drive from the right point was gloved by Hartzell. Quinnipiac, which was held outshot 4-1 through the first five-plus minutes, outshot the Dutchmen, 7-5 for the first period.

Like the previous night’s game against BC, the Dutchmen came out strong to start the second, outshooting Quinnipiac 3-0 in the first 2:24, including a tip from a Shayne Gostisbehere left point drive by Matt Hatch. Union continued the aggressive play without allowing a shot but Matt Wilkins got called at 6:27 for a hit from behind, a five minute major and a game misconduct. During that man up, 55 seconds in, the Bobcats made it 4-0 when Jordan Samuels-Thomas backhanded in a close pass from Travis St. Denis at 7:22. Russell Goodman also assisted on Samuels-Thomas’ 16th score.

Mat Bodie had a drive from inside the left point that gave Union a 12-11 shot advantage with 8:31 left. But the Bobcats opened up a five goal lead when Peca passed at the Union blue line rush to Kellen Jones, who broke through two defenders and backhanded in his 12th of the year at 11:42.

With 16:34 left a Gotisbehere shot from the left point was stopped. The Bobcats had four shots in close in the final two minutes. Union had a 12-8 shot advantage in the second.

Union opened up the third with a goal at 3:15 on the power play. Daniel Ciampini tallied his 11th of the season at 3:15 when he caught a pass and snapped in the tally with assists to Coburn and Simpson.

Quinnipiac will join Yale to represent ECAC Hockey as the first pair of Frozen Four teams from the league since 1983.

The preceding information was provided by Jeffrey Weinstein, the Assistant Sports Information Director at Union College.

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