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April 2, 2013

Zack Currie

Rand Pecknold


MODERATOR:  We have Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold and Zack Currie.
Opening statement, Coach.
COACH PECKNOLD:  We're extremely proud of our players and how hard they've competed throughout the season and very excited to move on to the Frozen Four.  It's a great accomplishment.  And we're looking forward to competing against St. Cloud.
MODERATOR:  Questions?

Q.  The conversation with the team, maybe it's that third period against Canisius and how you turn it around and turn it around significantly against Union less than 24 hours later.
COACH PECKNOLD:  Yeah, I was aggressive in between periods.  I think I've only probably yelled at this team I think three times all year.
That was probably the third time.  They've been great all year at responding.  And to when we haven't been playing well and been resilient.
But I guess sometimes as a head coach you try to save the amount that you yell at them so you know it's going to hit home hard when you do.
Again, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary but I was just aggressive in my tone and thought, hey, we've got a great opportunity here and we need to take advantage of it.  And just so proud of how the guys responded.  We had a great third period and had a great 60 minutes against Union.

Q.  Secondly, for those who are looking from the outside or maybe even watching the game against Union, the final score was if not lopsided, it looked like a convincing win.  But those of us who know hockey know that it could have been a much different game if Hartzell had not made that save early on in the break‑away.  Could you talk about that save?  Is it indicative of Eric's play over the course of the year?
COACH PECKNOLD:  Yeah, I think Eric Hartzell is the best player in college hockey.  Dominant all year.  Certainly there's a lot of great players.  Drew LeBlanc at St. Cloud, Czarnik at Miami, and on and on.  There's a lot of great players.
But I just think from a standpoint of what Hartzell does for us, my leading scorer is 99th in the country in scoring, and yet we're ranked No. 1 in the country.
So what Hartzy has done for us is carried us on his back all year long.  He's been great.  Whenever we've struggled, he's been there to bail us out.  Even that 21‑game unbeaten streak.  We probably had I would say five games we should have lost in that span that he won for us.  But I think that save‑‑ it was early in the game.  It's hard to say it was the pivotal moment in the game, but it was certainly a big part of the game.  We made that save and Peca scores the goal in three minutes 12seconds, and we were off to the races after that.
Just so you know, Zack Currie is in the room now.  He's in here from class.

Q.  A lot has been said about like Matthew Peca and the Jones twins, but I want to talk about some of the lesser known guys on your team who have played such integral parts throughout the season, guys like Russell Goodman and Kevin Bui and Cory Hibbeler, could you talk about how their contributions have been so crucial in the team's success not only throughout the season but also to get to the Frozen Four?
COACH PECKNOLD:  Yeah, we definitely‑‑ we're a good definition of team.  We're well‑rounded.  We're deep.  Like I just said, we barely have a score in the top hundred in the country.  But we have four lines, they all contribute.  Kevin Bui has contributed with some big goals here in the playoff run.  Russ Goodman had a big one in the Canisius game to tie it up.
We've been by committee all year, and certainly you can't go past my four senior defensemen, Currie and Loren Barron and Zach Davies and Mike Dalhuisen, they've been awesome back there.  They've been really good along with Federico and Tolkinen.  So it's been a fun year.  11 seniors.  All playing well.  They're all buying in.  Great group of guys from a character standpoint.
And I think you saw that resiliency in the Canisius win.  We had that great first period and really struggled in the second and came out and were dominant in the third and found a way to get it done.

Q.  Zack, we couldn't help but notice after the Union game you guys clinched the first Frozen Four ever for the school, and yet there wasn't a ton of celebration on the ice, it was just skating down going to see Hartzy and all the pleasantries afterwards.  Why was the celebration so muted for you guys?
ZACK CURRIE:  I think a big part of it was that we're not done.  We realize that it's a huge accomplishment to get to the Frozen Four, and we're ecstatic about reaching that.  But we're going for the national championship.
And it's another huge win for our program, a huge win for us.  But I think part of it was just that we know we're not done.  And I think the other part of it was just that we weren't‑‑ we've never won that game before.  So I don't think we were 100percent sure how to react in that situation until after it kind of sunk in what we had actually accomplished.

Q.  Everyone's talking about Eric because of his numbers, and obviously he's been fantastic for you guys, but just looking at the way your season's evolved, there's been a lot of games where you guys have kind of made it easy on him, just the amount of shots that you guys allow, it's far lower than it is for most teams in the country.  Can you just talk about the team defense element of it and how you guys are able to make sure teams don't have that many quality scoring chances?
COACH PECKNOLD:  Yeah, it's clear we're the No. 1 defensive team in the country.  It's a team game.  Hartzy is our stud, but we certainly play well in front of him.  There's games where you don't get a lot of shots.  I think it's tougher on a goalie where you only see 14, 15 shots and you get kind of cold.  I think goalies get more in a rhythm when they see 35 or 40.  And it's a team game for us.  It's been funny, I feel all year long the members of the media keep thinking we play like this prevent defense thing, and it really couldn't be further from the truth.
We're aggressive.  We attack.  We don't know the word trap, and there's certainly teams in hockey that trap now in NHL.  We want to go and we want to possess the puck.  And that's how we play defense, with a good offense and a good forecheck.

Q.  Zack, I wanted to ask you, when you chose Quinnipiac way back when as a freshman heading into college, did you ever think this might be on the horizon?  Was it something that crossed your mind that early?
ZACK CURRIE:  I think right off the bat, it's not something that crossed your mind right away.
You know, you have to get yourself situated in the college game and see where your team lands, and obviously my freshman year we started off 12‑0 there and it seemed pretty easy.  And we kind of had a reality check.  It's something that I definitely not necessarily expected, but it was something that I think as a group we've been working for every single year.  And as we went along, it became more and more apparent that it was definitely a possibility.
So I'd say right off the bat it wasn't something that crossed my mind.  But it was definitely something that we wouldn't really know?

Q.  What in your mind does this say about your sport?  I mean, we don't see a more unknown, relatively smaller program make the finals in a lot of other college sports.  I guess how would you speak to that?
ZACK CURRIE:  I mean, it's the programs that are arising and moving up the ranks just have a lot of commitment from their schools and backing from their schools.  Just the parity in our league.  You see teams making the tournament, two Atlantic hockey teams make the tournament.  Canisius gave us a tough game in our first one, and they came seventh in the regular season in their league.
So it just shows that any team, when they show up on that night, can take out any other team.  And it's nice to see that any team can take on anybody.

Q.  If I could just build off the last question.  In the late '80s and early '90s we saw a lot of teams win a championship for the first time.  I think since'93 we've only had one.  Could you talk about that idea of parity, and was it always as strong as people thought it was and how have you seen the change in the last three, four, five years where we're seeing Duluth win a national title and using Union going to the Frozen Four and this year we have three first‑time Frozen Four teams?
COACH PECKNOLD:  I think the first thing, to go back to the previous question, the first thing you can't really compare hockey to basketball or women's basketball or football or some of the other big sports.  And the reason why is hockey is‑‑ goaltending is such an equalizer.  It changes everything.  And goalies are so hard to recruit and so hard to judge how good they're going to be at the college level from where they are in high school and juniors.
And you see over and over again some of the bigger schools will make mistakes on goalies and it could cost them their season.  And you see over and over again where some of the mid‑tier programs hit home runs with bringing in phenomenal goaltending, and there's certainly luck involved, but it's also‑‑ I think it's up to those schools to develop those goalies, and I think it's something we've done a great job here at Quinnipiac with developing Eric Hartzell and didn't play a lot as a freshman.  Won the job as a sophomore.  Junior was really good.  He's just gotten better and better.
And our goalie coaches over the timeframe have done a phenomenal job of making him better, Dan Meyers, our current goalie coach, and Steve Valiquette had Hartzy in the past, and then Justin Eddy had him for his freshman‑sophomore year.
I think goaltending is a big issue, from the recruiting standpoint and creating parity in college hockey and playing individual games.  You can outshoot a team 65‑8 and lose that hockey game.  And the game of basketball, if you're that dominant, you're going to win.  And I think that's sometimes we try to draw comparisons to other sports.  And I don't know if that's really the right move is.

Q.  The Jones‑Peca line were just incredible, probably as good as they were all season.  They finished last season really hot, especially Peca.  To have them heating up especially this time, what's that mean for you guys?
COACH PECKNOLD:  They've been good all year, and their numbers are significantly down from last year.  It's not for lack of chances.  They generated the same amount of chances this year and they've been a little bit snakebit for most of the season, hitting some posts, hitting a lot of posts, and missing some empty nets.
Some of the defensemen that will play with them have missed scoring chances, and it's nice to finally see the puck going in for them like it should, like it did last year.  And I think it's a credit to our team, when those three were slumping a little bit early in the year, that's when Jeremy Langlois carried our team in the first half of the year with scoring, and Ben Arnt and Jordan Samuels got hot for a while there, and then we had the fourth line and Bui were contributing.
So it's been a great year from that.  We've got a lot of good depth, and it just always seems that it's a different line every game that seems to win the hockey game for us.

Q.  Zack, watching you guys all season, the defensive core and Eric have had such a great relationship, can you talk a little bit about that and how the way Eric has played all year has made your job a lot easier?
ZACK CURRIE:  Well, I think part of it is obviously we have the four senior defensemen and Eric as a senior.  And along with the junior in Zach Tolkinen and sophomore in Dan Federico, I think a big part of it is it goes both ways that obviously we're able to play comfortably and relaxed when we know we have Hartzell back there behind us.
At the same time, we do a lot of stuff, not even just as a defensive player but as a team that makes Eric's job easier.  I think it goes both ways that we work together, and obviously we've put a lot of work in for the four years to build that relationship.

Q.  Coach, first of all, congratulations.  When you look at St. Cloud State, you guys played against them a couple seasons ago.  Obviously most of the first ‑‑ some of the older kids played against them, but what jumps out against you about St. Cloud and what will be the challenges for you guys?
COACH PECKNOLD:  The first thing that always jumps out at me is Coach Motzko.  I think he's a phenomenal coach.  And he's one of the great people in the game of hockey.  I've always really‑‑ I've liked him.  I've always been impressed with him.  How he handles himself.  He's sincere.
And I like the way his teams play.  They score goals.  They recruit highly skilled players.  I like the way they compete.  I haven't seen them a ton this year.  Certainly we have a history of playing them in the past, and I'll pull up my notes that I keep on every team we play, so I have to pull those up.  Haven't got to that yet.  But we'll certainly be prepared when it comes time to play them.
But they're a fun team to watch and we're going to have our hands full with them on next Thursday.
But like I said, with St. Cloud, they've always got good power plays and they always find ways to score goals and compete hard.  We'll have to find a way to shut that down.

Q.  I know that you've been with your program a long time.  And I had heard that you said that you kind of wanted to pattern yourself actually with how St. Cloud State kind of built the program, could you talk a little bit about that?
COACH PECKNOLD:  Yeah, I've been here 19 years.  St. Cloud is a good model of how they built up.  I think Miami is a great model of how they've built up.
I think for us we've been successful for three reasons.  One is we've always had great assistant coaches.  And I've been really fortunate to hire well over the years, and those great assistants have gone out and done a great job recruiting.  And number two is getting great players.  And the third thing is the resources that Quinnipiac University provides us with.
We built one of the best rinks in the country.  Opened in '07.  That helped in recruiting.  And President Lahey and Jack McDonald and Mark Thompson give us everything we need for us to be successful.  I think there's a lot of things, and St. Cloud has certainly done a nice job when they moved up, and Miami has been another one that's done a great job and dominated the landscape of college hockey in the recent years.

Q.  Zack, just looking at obviously there's going to be big crowds in Pittsburgh for the Frozen Four, just describe a little bit about maybe the challenge of playing in front of probably the biggest crowds you guys have played in front of?
ZACK CURRIE:  I mean, yeah, it certainly will be the biggest crowd, I'm sure.  But I guess the challenge in that is just making sure we stay grounded and that we don't let ourselves get caught up in it.  We've done a really good job all year as a team focusing on what we can control and taking every game in stride.
So I think just as a team we have to make sure we stay grounded and realize that it doesn't change anything as far as what we can control and that's all that matters.

Q.  Coach, I'll ask you the question, but, Zack, if you could weigh in on it.  In a previous conversation we were talking about Eric being a great example why college is a great fit for some players seeing how he's come on in the last two years.  So with a senior‑laden team, 11, I believe, can you talk about the importance of these guys developing into their early 20s?
COACH PECKNOLD:  One of the nice things about college hockey is we get these kids for four years.  And unlike major junior where you can trade kids and dump kids and cut kids, we have them for four years.  We can develop them.
And I think in Hartzell's case, he came in as a freshman and had a talent and size and athleticism but kind of needed to learn the position better.  And he didn't play a lot his freshman year.  We were patient with him.  And let him kind of evolve slowly.  One of his big wins as sophomore year he beat St. Cloud at St. Cloud, and we split them on the weekend, we played Danny Clark the other game, and then Hartzy won.  After that win is when Hartzy took the job in his sophomore year.  That win over St. Cloud was a big moment in his history.
I think we can be patient with our guys and realize that there are kids that could be solid players for three years and be a superstar their senior year or be great in other areas or kids will evolve into penalty killing.  That comment of Hartzell being great to college hockey, that compares us to major junior.  Major junior route, 21 years old, you have to turn pro.  Hartzy probably wasn't ready to do that at 21, and now he's had the extra two years.  Now at 23 he's NHL‑ready.
And that was my comment that time about I just think college is the best route to develop these kids because we'll be patient with them, have them for four years and let them be a little bit older.
ZACK CURRIE:  It's almost the same thing.  But it just gives you‑‑ for those guys that aren't ready to jump to pro at 21, you have things to work on and college gives you that opportunity, whether it may be a mental side of the game or your skill set or whatever it may be.
Players that may turn into one day being pro players, that may never have gotten the chance if they had gone the major junior route because they just weren't ready at that time and you get pushed to the back of the pile, whereas if you go the college route, you have those extra four years or however long that may take you to get yourself ready and then you can make your run at it if that's what you choose.
So I think it just gives that extra little bit of time to whoever may need it.

Q.  Maybe a couple of comments about interesting and unique Frozen Four in that all four teams have basically never been there.  Yale's was about a half century ago.  You guys are kind of on the same playing field coming in.  Could you take us behind Rand Pecknold's scene and talk about how and from whom or where you're developing some sense of what this is is all going to be for you?
COACH PECKNOLD:  Well, I was real fortunate I'm on the NCAA committee.  I've actually stepped off for this run.  So I won't be on it for this Frozen Four.  But I was on it last year.  I was down there on Tuesday when all the teams arrived.  I kind of‑‑ not as a coach but more as like an administrator, but I saw a lot what went on, so I think that's going to help me a little bit in preparing our team for this run.
But in the end, the one thing about our team the whole year, is I haven't had to use any gimmicks or any tricks to get them motivated, like it's just an awesome group of guys.  Great character.  They come to the rink every day.
To me, probably the main reason we've been good this year is our practice habits.  Like the kids just come, it's a war every day in practice.  They compete.  They battle.  And I just‑‑ I expect us to be good when we get there.  And I don't really need to do anything different.
We're just going to stay the course.  I'll maybe talk briefly with them about five minutes, hey, let's not get caught up in all the media stuff.  It's no different than what we said a couple times this year already with No. 1 ranking and the coverage we've gotten.
So the guys have done a good job being grounded.  And I think we'll stay the course with that.

Q.  Question for Zack.  Zack, two parts.  First off, did you guys get the sense the beginning of the year that this team could achieve something special?  And as the season progressed you've accomplished more, has it been more difficult or challenging for the guys to stay grounded and not get too kind of carried away with what you're doing?
ZACK CURRIE:  I think to start off, even at the end of last year, we realized with the group that we had coming back and the kids we had coming in that we had that opportunity.
And at the start of this year, we certainly‑‑ we knew we had a chance to do something, and we addressed that and we set goals as a team.  And those were step‑by‑step goals all the way up to winning the national championship.  We believe we had the team and opportunity to do it.
And as far as the second part, when it comes to staying grounded, I mean, it is an aspect we had to deal with the accolades and the little things that came along with the No.1 ranking and all that, but I think it just goes to show how good of a character we have and the leadership we have throughout our team that we're able to enjoy those things that came along with the season but at the same time stay grounded and realize that the next game counted just as much as the last.

Q.  Coach and Zack, for both of you guys, I know you can't help but look at the other side of the bracket and see Yale there from the conference and from right down the road and obviously the big rival.  So just to have them in the Frozen Four, what's that like, not only as a conference team, but being Yale and just the possibility that you might see them on Saturday night, next Saturday night?
COACH PECKNOLD:  I mean, honestly, we're just focused on St. Cloud.  I have a word about‑‑ Lowell and Yale are great teams.  I'll tell you what:  I'll be happy to play either one on Saturday.  But we'll have our hands full with St. Cloud.  You could have picked any three teams in the country, we'd be happy to be there.
I haven't put a lot of thought into it, it's great for Yale and Lowell and St. Cloud and Quinnipiac, for all of us to be there, whether they're from our state or somewhere else.
ZACK CURRIE:  I'd have to say the same thing.  It's funny how many times I've been asked that question already.  And like I said, it doesn't matter who I play or who we play.  We want to win that national championship.  That's a huge goal we have here.
And whoever gets put in front of us, that's who we're going to focus on and that's who we're going to have to deal with.  It may be good for EUCAC, definitely good for EUCAC to have the two teams there, but we're focused on our first game here against St. Cloud and whoever is in that second game, hopefully we can meet them there.
MODERATOR:  Thank you.

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