2016 NCAA Tournament: Top-ranked Quinnipiac faces RIT, defensive battle between Yale and UML in the East Regional

By DJ Powers
Connor Clifton - Quinnipiac University

Photo: Quinnipiac University defenseman and Arizona Coyotes prospect Connor Clifton is a part of one of the stingiest defensive units in NCAA Hockey, with Clifton also having taken a leap ahead in his offensive game in 2015-16 (courtesy of John Crouch/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

The East Regional of the 2016 NCAA Hockey Tournament features the top-ranked team in all of NCAA Hockey, Quinnipiac University. The Bobcats have ridden a top college goaltender along with a stingy defense to the top of the college hockey ranks in 2015-16, but there is still work to do to advance to the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four.

The Bobcats opponent, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), competed in their first Frozen Four back in 2010, which featured a less-than memorable 8-1 loss to Wisconsin, but the Tigers have not made it that far since then. They are making a second straight appearance at the NCAA Tournament, however, so RIT will be looking to spring an upset in Albany.

The second game of the East Regional features two of the top defensive teams in college hockey, Yale and UMass-Lowell. Yale is now three years removed from a National Championship, while UMass-Lowell is looking to advance to their second Frozen Four appearance.

The East Regional of the 2016 NCAA Hockey Tournament begins on Saturday, Mar 26th and concludes on Sunday, Mar 27th. The winners of each regional will advance to the semi-finals of the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four on April 7th at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL.

Below is a preview of the East Regional of this year’s NCAA Hockey Tournament.  

East Regional

Venue: Times-Union Center, Albany, NY
Championship game: March 27 at 7:30 PM EDT on ESPNU

#4 Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) vs. #1 Quinnipiac University
TV: ESPNU at 4:00 PM EDT

 

There isn’t a lot of history between Quinnipiac and RIT. This year marks their first-ever meeting in the NCAA Tournament. The Bobcats and the Tigers last met on Jan. 4th, 2007.

Top overall seed Quinnipiac is making their fourth consecutive and fifth overall NCAA Tournament appearance. The Bobcats are coming off wins over Dartmouth and Harvard respectively to claim the ECAC Tournament championship. Quinnipiac also won the conference’s regular season title.

The most pressing issue facing Quinnipiac heading into the NCAA Tournament is the status of top scorer and All-ECAC First Team selection Sam Anas, who sustained an injury in the ECAC Tournament title game versus Harvard last weekend. The speedy Potomac, MD native has amassed 48 points (23 goals, 25 assists) in 39 games to date.

One of Quinnipiac’s strengths this season has been their stifling defense anchored by juniors Devon Toews (NYI) and Connor Clifton (ARI). Toews, an All-ECAC Second Team selection, currently leads all Bobcats defensemen with 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in 36 games. His 27 points also is tied for ninth nationally among all NCAA defensemen.

Clifton is in the midst of his best collegiate season so far. The rugged Matawan, NJ native has posted 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists) in 39 games. His 26 points are more than quintuple that of his sophomore campaign last season.

The backbone of Quinnipiac’s defense is senior goaltender Michael Garteig. The Prince George, BC native has posted some astounding numbers so far this season. He currently sports a 29-3-7 record that includes seven shutouts. Garteig leads the nation with an .833 winning percentage and 2341:24 minutes played. He also co-leads the nation in games played (39). Most recently, Garteig was named one of the finalists for the Mike Richter Award.

RIT will be making their second consecutive and third overall DI NCAA Tournament appearance. The team has also made NCAA Tournament appearances at both the DII and DIII levels. The Tigers successfully defended their Atlantic Hockey Tournament crown with victories over Air Force and Robert Morris respectively last weekend.

One of the keys to RIT’s success this season has been their ability to get scoring throughout their lineup. The Tigers scored more goals than any other team in Atlantic Hockey except Robert Morris and is averaging 3.11 goals per game.

Among those leading the Tigers offensive charge is sophomore Myles Powell. The Courtenay, BC native is coming off a terrific performance in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament where he posted five points (three goals, two assists) to earn MVP honors. Overall, Powell leads RIT with 15 goals and ranks second with 32 points playing in all 38 games to date.

The Tigers defensive corps have been key offensive contributors as well, accounting for 30 percent of the team’s points so far in 2015-16. Among the contributors is sophomore Chase Norrish. The Strong Field, SK native currently co-leads all RIT defensemen with 21 points (eight goals, 21 assists) in 33 games. He has been particularly good with the man advantage with three of Norrish’s eight goals having come on the power play. Most recently, Norrish was named to the All-Atlantic Hockey First Team.

Junior goaltender Mike Rotolo split time with freshman Christian Short during the regular season before earning the starting job in the postseason. Since then, the Rochester, NY native has been outstanding between the pipes, posting an 8-7-2 record that includes one shutout in 18 appearances to date.

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