One coach said his team hadn't played any better all season. The other said his team hadn't played any worse.
"As complete a game as we played," Brown coach Brendan Whittet said.
"We stunk," Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said after his team was waxed by Brown 4-0 in the ECAC Hockey semifinals. "Worst game we played all year."
The Bobcats arrived at Boardwalk Hall ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation in one poll and No. 2 in the other. They'll leave, floored by a 1-2 punch, wondering what the heck happened Friday night.
The Bobcats showed up in AC for the ECAC and rolled snake eyes. No. 7 seed Brown will face Union Saturday night for the tournament title. Quinnipiac will try to pick up the pieces against Yale in a third-place game.
"It's almost inexplicable how badly we played," Pecknold said. "Ultimately it's my job to get these guys ready and we weren't ready to play. I'll take full blame for it."
Wait. There's more.
"I don't know if we would have beaten anybody today," Pecknold said. "We were God-awful. There was nothing that was good out of the whole game."
Brown had the sharpest sniper in Matt Lorito.
From discipline to physicality, Brown demonstrated a much more complete game.
And here's the part that may hurt worst. On this night, Brown had the better goaltending with Anthony Borelli. And if you wonder what Pecknold thinks of his goalie Eric Hartzell, well, we'll let him say it.
"He's the best player in the country," Pecknold said.
Only he wasn't Friday.
It's wrong to say Hartzell was flat-out lousy on any of the goals. Lorito beat him on a one-timer from the right circle on a feed from behind the net by Milford's Mark Naclerio. Yeah, Brown even had the best player from Connecticut. On the second goal, Garnet Hathaway beat defenseman Zach Tolkinen on the outside before knifing the puck under Hartzell. Quinnipiac carried a 15-8 shot advantage through the first period, but found itself down 2-0.
"We have been an extremely positive team all year and we tried to keep the mood light [during the first intermission]," captain Zack Currie said. "Try not to panic."
Panic would settle in soon enough. By the time every Brown player outmuscled his opponent one-on-one during a shift culminating with Francis Drolet overpowering Currie and lifting the third goal over Hartzell, it was bad. It only got worse when Connor Jones and Bryce Van Brabant took what Pecknold called "selfish" back-to-back penalties that resulted in Lorito's second goal, on a 5-on-3.
"We thought we'd be ready and we clearly weren't," Currie said.
So much of Quinnipiac's success rests with Hartzell. One of the 10 Hobey Baker finalists, he was the catalyst for the Bobcats' 21-game unbeaten streak. What happened in games such as these during that streak was Hartzell would be incredible until his team found its legs and ultimately found a way to win. Not Friday. When Brown took a 3-0 lead, Pecknold pulled Hartzell in favor of Michael Garteig for 14 seconds and talked to his star in the tunnel area near the bench.
"I didn't think he was maybe being aggressive enough in the net for the first three goals, even non-goals." Pecknold said. "I thought he was passive. I thought he was timid. I wanted to get him out and have a conversation with him. Get him challenged to be aggressive. He didn't have a chance on the 5-on-3 goal. We got sloppy at times in the third and I thought he played much better."
Lorito and Borelli, who stopped all 29 shots he faced, pointed to the fact that the Bears hadn't lost to Quinnipiac this season. While the Bobcats ran away with the regular season conference title at 17-2-3 and Brown had dawdled to a 7-9-6 finish, the Bears had managed a pair of ties against them.