PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Powered by a natural hat trick from Matthew Peca, the nationally-ranked No. 1 Quinnipiac men's ice hockey team defeated No. 13 Union, 5-1, to advance to the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Bobcats improve to 29-7-5 overall and 14-0-0 against ranked opponents. Quinnipiac will face St. Cloud State on Thursday, Apr. 11 at 8 p.m.
Peca recorded the fastest hat trick in NCAA Tournament history with three goals in the span of three-minutes and 12-seconds. Peca's feat bests Minnesota's Warren Miller, who scored three goals in 4-minutes and 20-seconds against Harvard on Mar. 13, 1975. It was also the first hat trick in a NCAA Tournament game since Mar. 28, 2010 when Yale's Marc Arcobello and Boston College's Cam Atkinson both scored three times. Peca is also the 17th player to record a hat trick in a NCAA Tournament Regional game all-time.
Peca was named the East Regional's Most Valuable Player after totaling four goals and an assist in two games. Connor Jones and Eric Hartzell were also named to the All-Tournament Team.
Approaching the midway point of the first period, Connor Jones (Montrose, British Columbia) carried the puck across center ice and gave it to Peca in the neutral zone. Peca crossed over into the Union defensive zone and gave it back to Connor who pushed it over to Kellen Jones (Montrose, British Columbia). Kellen attempted to put a shot on goal, but was blocked, leaving the puck loose just above the crease. Peca maneuvered around a Union defenseman and poked the puck past Union goalie Troy Grosenick to give Quinnipiac a 1-0 lead.
A little more than a minute later, Peca scored his second goal of the game when he picked off a pass in the neutral zone, skated on goal and fired a shot from the left face-off circle past Grosenick to give Quinnipiac a two-goal lead. His third goal came three minutes later when he picked up the puck along the boards in the neutral zone, drove past a Union defensemen and finished with the backhand to give Quinnipiac a 3-0 lead.
Peca's three-goal night was the first hat trick at Quinnipiac since Jeremy Langlois did it against Canisius on Oct. 15, 2011 and the first postseason hat trick at Quinnipiac since Chris White did it against Iona on Mar. 9, 2002.
Almost midway through the second period, Jordan Samuels-Thomas (West Hartford, Conn.) gave Quinnipiac a 4-0 lead with his team-leading 16th goal of the season, this one coming on the power play. Russell Goodman (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) held the puck in the corner before the goal line and passed it up the boards to Travis St. Denis (Trail, British Columbia). St. Denis centered the puck in front of Grosenick where it found Samuels-Thomas' tape. His re-direct of St. Denis' pass put Quinnipiac on top, 4-0, with 12:28 to play in the period.
Kellen Jones found the back of the net at the 11:42 mark of the second period to increase Quinnipiac's lead to 5-0. Peca picked up the assist on the play for the four-point night. Union's Daniel Ciampini ended Hartzell's shutout bid with a power play goal just over three minutes into the third period with assists going to Greg Coburn and Wayne Simpson.