This weekend is the NCAA Frozen Four in Pittsburgh. Leading up to this weekend's events, we're chatting with one player from each of the teams involved. Look for interviews through Thursday. Today, it's Matt Peca from Quinnipiac.
Quinnipiac sophomore forward Matt Peca needed just 3:12 to set an NCAA record.
In the East Regional against Union, Peca (no relation to former NHLer Michael) scored a natural hat trick. It was his first ever multi-goal game in college and also the fastest hat trick ever in an NCAA game by over a minute. The previous feat was accomplished by Warren Miller of Minnesota in 1975, who did it in 4:20.
Peca's three-goal afternoon powered Quinnipiac into the Frozen Four for the first time in school history. They'll face St. Cloud State on Thursday afternoon.
Before that victory over Union, Quinnipiac dispatched Canisius 4-3, thanks to a three-goal third period by the Bobcats, which started with Peca's top-shelf goal:
"I knew [Canisius goaltender Tony Capobianco] takes the bottom of the net away, so I just did my best to try and get it over his shoulder," said Peca during a phone interview last week.
As they prepare to face St. Cloud State, Peca, a 2011 7th-round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning, said the Bobcats' confidence surged after their come-from-behind win over Canisius. "During that game we were confident that were going to win," he said. "When you come back from a deficit it gives the team a boost and it certainly carried over into the next game."
"We expected to make it this far," Peca said. "We were a confident team going into the regionals."
Before the NCAA regionals, confidence in the Quinnipiac squad took some time to settle in at the beginning of the season. As the calendar turned to November, Quinnipiac was 3-3-1, then things changed. From November through the start of the ECAC playoffs on March 15, the Bobcats went 21-3-4 and vaulted into the No. 1 ranking in the country.
"It starts in practice," said Peca. "How hard we work and the details that we focus on. That really translated on to our game. That's a big reason for the success we had."
Running those practices is head coach Rand Pecknold, who trekked to Peca's hometown of Petawawa, ON -- a 10-hour drive from Quinnipiac -- to recruit him. The effort Pecknold made to speak with Peca played a big role in his decision to play for him.
"He sat down with me and my family and told me about the school," said Peca. "Just having the idea that you're wanted at a school is good and it certainly made me feel comfortable here."
On Thursday, Peca and Quinnipiac will face a St. Cloud State team who is second in the nation in scoring.
"We do know that they're a very good offensive team," said Peca. "They have a Hobey Baker candidate [forward Drew LeBlanc] who's been playing well this season.
"It'll be a good test for our defense."
Tomorrow: Riley Wetmore of UMass Lowell
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy