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Quinnipiac’s Sam Anas and Boston College’s Ryan Fitzgerald lead their teams in scoring heading into the Frozen Four (photos: Omar Phillips, Melissa Wade).

When top-seeded Quinnipiac takes on sixth-seeded Boston College on Thursday night in the first semifinal of the NCAA Frozen Four at Amalie Arena, it will be the battle of two similar teams where the biggest difference between the pair is the two hours of distance between the two campuses.

The Eagles feature the deepest offense among the remaining four teams thanks to having nine players with 10 or more goals. They are certainly built with a national championship in mind.

2016 Frozen Four

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“They just have a program that expects to be at the Frozen Four every year and that is half the battle,” said one opposing head coach. “That, coupled with a very, very talented team. When you look up and down that lineup, you have eight guys with double-digit goals. That is a lot of balanced scoring.”

Junior Ryan Fitzgerald leads the way with 23 goals and 46 points. Youngsters Colin White (19-23–42), a freshman, and sophomore Zach Sanford (13-26–39) have also contributed heavily.

With so many players having the ability to score, teams cannot single out the Fitzgerald line or sophomore Alex Tuch’s line or junior Austin Cangelosi’s line. Throw in junior Adam Gilmour’s line, and there is almost no breaks for opponents as the Eagles can attack in waves.

“You have White and Fitzgerald on one line, Sanford and Tuch on another, Cangelosi and [Miles] Wood on another,” said an opposing head coach. “You throw in Gilmour and [Teddy] Doherty. It’s hard to match up against them.”

Behind that deep offensive group is a talented, relatively young defensive corps that features mainly juniors and freshmen, a couple of whom are likely NHL-bound in juniors Ian McCoshen and Steve Santini.

Doherty, a senior, freshman Casey Fitzgerald and junior Scott Savage give the Eagles an impressive top five. All three have at least 14 assists.

“They are really talented back there on defense as well,” said an opposing head coach. “They are deep up front and deep on defense.”

Waiting between the pipes is arguably the most experienced goaltender in the tournament, junior Thatcher Demko. The third-year starter has set career highs in games played (38), wins (27), GAA (1.85) and save percentage (.936).

The San Diego native has lost just three times since the start of 2016, but they have all come over the last seven starts.

“They have a very talented team that expects to be there,” said an opposing head coach. “They don’t have many weaknesses.”

This year’s senior class for the Bobcats has been to the NCAA tournament every year, and this is their second trip to the Frozen Four, where they finished as the runner-up in 2013. For players like Travis St. Denis and Soren Jonzzon, this is their last chance at redemption.

The Bobcats are balanced offensively, with five double-digit goal-scorers and one more, freshman Scott Davidson (9), within a goal of reaching that plateau.

Where the Bobcats really shine, however, is on the power play, which hums at 27.4 percent thanks a 45-for-164 success rate. Leading scorer junior Sam Anas has 10 power-play goals. St. Denis has 10 as well. Junior Tim Clifton has nine.

Most teams in the country have fewer than 29 power-play goals total.

“They have a power play that I think is outstanding,” said an opposing head coach. “They’ve scored 45 power-play goals. That is an awful lot of power-play goals. You cannot take penalties against them, because they will really make you pay on the power play.”

While their defensive corps may not look intimidating at first glance, three of them are extremely dangerous pushing the puck up the ice. Junior Devon Toews (7-23–30), junior Connor Clifton (7-20–27) and freshman Chase Priskie (4-22–26) are all good off the rush, helping the Bobcats play a high-tempo game.

“Toews is good, Clifton is good,” said an opposing head coach. “Priskie has had a great year as a freshman. They have a lot of talent and they really are confident when they play.”

Behind that group is the steady hand of senior Michael Garteig. A backup that first Frozen Four go-round in 2013, Garteig has carried the mail the last three seasons and has done a solid job throughout. This season, he has gone 31-3-7, setting a career high for wins, with a 1.83 GAA and a .926 save percentage, both career highs as well.

The Bobcats are comfortable trailing early in games.

“They are a team that has a lot of confidence that no matter what the score is in the game, they can come back,” said an opposing head coach. “Just look at how many times they came back, tied games late, and then won them in overtime.”

With two deep squads coming in, there is very little that separates these two teams. Even their coaches, Jerry York at Boston College and Rand Pecknold at Quinnipiac, each have 22 years of experience with their teams.

At the end of the day, it may come down to special teams; if so, the Bobcats seem to have the edge. We will find out at 5 p.m. EDT on Thursday.

  • antioch1098

    Go Bobcats!! Beat BC!!

  • antioch1098

    Quinnipiac seems to have more balanced scoring than Boston College. The Bobcats scored 159 total goals with more skaters contributing while BC scored 154 total goals with fewer contributors.

  • IsThereADog

    “Waiting between the pipes is arguably the most experienced goaltender in the tournament, junior Thatcher Demko.”
    I’d argue that this is not the case as Garteig has 25 more career starts and 15 more career wins than Demko. Both winners though.

  • Fred Arbanus

    Daver – you have not done your homework and you do not know Quinnipiac very well.

  • Mike P

    The “even their coaches…” as an example of very little separating the teams is a little misleading. They may both have 22 years with their teams, but that’s pretty much it as far as comparisons. Mrs. Pecknold wouldn’t even say Rand is in Jerry’s league.

    • antioch1098

      Would Jerry have had Pecknold’s success if he had started his coaching career at Quinnipiac 22 years ago instead of at BC?

      • Mike P

        He started his career at Clarkson (much more similar to Quinnipiac than BC) and had a pretty high winning percentage, then coached at Bowling Green where he won a national championship (heard much from Bowling Green before or since?). Also, BC was a pretty low program when he took over, and he is responsible for 4 out of 5 of their titles (the only other one coming in 1947). So I would say yes.

        • antioch1098

          Your response is dumb.

          • maxpercy

            Well argued. I am sure Quinnipiac is pleased to have you representing them on the interweb.

          • parkes

            LOL, I guess every fan base has their troll. QU has found theirs. Thanks for the good laugh this morning.

        • Shanahan

          Yes, BC was in poor shape when York took over in 1994. He almost single-handedly resurrected that program and made it into what it is today.

  • Alec

    A nit pick perhaps, but what’s with the “according to an opposing head coach” stuff? What’s the big deal if they’re named? It’s not like they’re disclosing nuclear secrets.

    • Scott Stone

      It would make more sense if there were negative comments. Same thing was done in the UND/DU preview. Thought it was odd.

  • parkes

    Further nit picking

    “it will be the battle of two similar teams where the biggest difference between the pair is the two hours of distance between the two campuses.”

    … so the difference is the distance between each school? Does Boston transcend space and/or time somehow? I know what he’s trying to say, but wow, that was painful. Plus, it’s pretty lame that the physical location of the teams is the biggest difference uncovered by Daver while researching this piece.

    • Scott Stone

      Oh, come on. He’s making the point that the two teams are very similar. Looking at the stats, he’s very much right…

      • parkes

        First, I know they are similar on the surface… a lot of wins, they made the frozen 4, have good team depth, and a good coach. That’s why it’s nit picking. My point is, the writer is lazy saying geography is their biggest difference. He might as well have said the team colors were the biggest difference… it’s irrelevant information. To me, the biggest difference is team composition: A roster with many pro level talents vs. a “system fit” team. This would have been more interesting to discuss because clearly both approaches have worked thus far. But which will prevail? Other topics worth discussing would include each team’s style of play, special teams matchups (BC takes a lot of penalties and QU is a strong PP team), team record vs. common opponents or record against each other’s conference, just to name a few ideas.

      • maxpercy

        Regrettably Mr. Karnosky appears to have attended the Dan Shaughnessy school of “journalism”. In addition to the distance observation he might have added that Quinnipiac drinks soda, while BC drinks tonic, etc…

  • sparta

    how come everyone assumes that Q is so good? stats are thrown around like the playing field is comparable. I would be embarrassed to be ranked 1 with a schedule like theirs. maybe the ncaa will figure it out some day. BC should give them a pounding

    • parkes

      But that’s why they play the game. Good luck next year.