The tournament semifinals saw the #1 ranked Quinnipiac Bobcats of the ECAC defeat the #4 Boston College Eagles of Hockey East by a score of 3-2.
The second semifinal had the #2 University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference taking on #5 ranked Denver University Pioneers, also of the powerful NCHC. The After a scoreless first period, the Fighting Hawks looked to be in command after a pair of second period goals.
The Pioneers were not finished however, getting back in the game with a goal less than 3 minutes into the third period. They tied the game at 10:51 and the battle was on. Just when everyone was preparing for overtime, Nick Schmaltz buried a rebound to give the Fighting Hawks a 3-2 lead with 57 seconds remaining. Rhett Garnder then scored the longest empty net goal in hockey history, shooting the puck from behind his own net off the boards to the left of his own net, which then deflected down the ice, crossing the goal line at an absolute crawl to make the final score 4-2 with just two clicks left on the clock to advance to face Quinnipiac in tonight's championship final
Quinnipiac will be making only their second appearance in the championship game, the first coming in 2013, an eventual 4-0 loss to rival Yale, located a mere 10 miles away in New Haven, Connecticut.
The Quinnipiac University Braves hockey program was elevated to varsity status for the 1975-76 season when they played first in Division II as an independent. They continued in Division II until 1998-99 when they moved up to Division I and joined the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Their move to the MAAC was immediately successful, as they won the conference regular season title their first time out in 1998-99 and again in 1999-00. They also won the MAAC conference tournament title in 2002 with a 6-4 win over Mercyhurst, earning them their first NCAA tournament appearance.
The MAAC evolved into the Atlantic Hockey conference in 2003-04 and Quinnipiac won the regular season title in 2004-05 and went on to win the conference tournament championship as well.
Changes were in store for the 2005-06 season when the Braves changed their name to the Quinnipiac Bobcats and moved to the ECAC to replace the departed Vermont, where they found the going rough for their first seven seasons until winning the conference regular season title in 2012-13 followed by the tournament championship that same season, which earned them the first of now four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. That season also earned the Bobcats their first ever number one ranking in the country on February 11, 2013 in both the USCHO.com and USA Today polls. They entered the 2013 playoffs as the number one seed overall and won the East Regional to advance to their first Frozen Four, where they defeated St. Cloud State 4-1 to earn their spot in the final against Yale.
They repeated the double of winning the regular season title and conference tournament in 2014-15 and again this season with a 16-1-5 conference record and a 32-3-7 mark overall to earn the number one overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Bobcats won the East Regional in Albany, New York, where they shut out #16 seed RochesterInstitue of Technology 4-0 and then defeated UMass Lowell 4-1 to advance to this year's Frozen Four, where they eliminated the Boston College Eagles 3-2 to earn place in today's national championship game against North Dakota, where they will seek their first title.
To date, Bryce Van Brabant is the only Bobcat to ever play in the NHL when he played six games for the Calgary Flames during the 2013-14 season.
The Bobcats have won the MAAC regular season title twice, the MAAC tournament championship once, the Atlantic Hockey regular season title and the Atlantic Hockey tournament once each and, since changing leagues, the ECAC regular season and tournament championship both in the same season three times as well as having made five NCAA tournaments and two four Frozen Four appearances to date.
Leitch was the NCAA leading scorer in 2008-09 with 12 goals and 47 assists for 59 points in 39 games and is third all-time in career scoring for the Bobcats.
Today's video section is a look at the excitement on campus caused by the Bobcats making it to this year's Frozen Four.