Quinnipiac left wing Matthew Peca (20), left, celebrates with Quinnipiac center Connor Jones (10), center, as Union defensemen Shawn Stuart (28), right, skates away after Peca scored his third goal in the first period of their East Regional final in the NCAA college hockey tournament, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Matthew Peca recorded the fastest hat trick in NCAA tournament history, scoring three goals in a 3:12 span of the first period, leading top-seeded Quinnipiac to a 5-1 victory over Union in the East Regional final on Sunday night.
The Bobcats, who notched their first-ever tournament win by rallying past Canisius Saturday, will face Saint Cloud State April 11 in one of the two national semifinal games in Pittsburgh.
Quinnipiac (29-7-5), an upstart that rose to the No. 1 ranking this season for the first time, trailed Canisius, the No. 16 seed, 3-1, on Saturday before turning on the jets en route to a historic weekend in Rhode Island. Peca ignited a three-goal rally in the 4-3 win over the Golden Griffins, then had three more by the 12:58 mark Sunday. The Bobcats scored six goals in a span of 24:56 across two games.
Quinnipiac goalie Eric Hartzell lost a shutout bid when Daniel Ciampini scored 3:15 into the third for Union (22-13-5).
Warren Miller of Minnesota had the previous fastest hat trick, doing it in 4:20 March 17, 1975 against Harvard. The hat trick was the first in a tournament game since March 28, 2010, when Boston College's Ken Atkinson and Yale's Mark Arcobello did it in the same game.
Peca, recording the first multiple-game of his college career, beat Troy Grosenick with a backhander off a rebound scramble 9:46 in.
Peca, who now has 15 goals this season, then stole an errant pass at center ice, moved down the right side and beat Grosenick with a snap shot at 10:59. He then walked out all alone in front and scored on another backhander at 12:58. The rout was on as Quinnipiac easily beat its ECAC rival for the third time this season.
After Union's Matt Wilkins was hit with a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a hit from behind at 6:27 of the second, Jordan Samuel-Thomas, who scored the tying goal Saturday, scored at 7:22 and Peca assisted on a Kellen Jones goal at 11:42.
Grosenick, a Hobey Baker Award finalist last year, allowed six goals on the first 12 shots. Union was attempting to reach its second Frozen Four. Along the way, it saw its seven-game winning streak end.
Hartzell — a finalist for this year's Baker Award and the player and goalie of the year in the ECAC — made a big stop on Max Novak early but really had most of the rest of the night off. He has all 29 Quinnipiac wins on the season.
Saint Cloud State defeated Miami (Ohio) Sunday to ensure the matchup vs. the Bobcats. UMass Lowell and Yale will meet in the other national semifinal.