Coyotes prospect Connor Clifton and his Quinnipiac University teammates will play for the NCAA championship on Saturday in a game that will be nationally televised on ESPN2 starting at 5 p.m. (Arizona time).
Top-seeded Quinnipiac (32-3-7) of Hamden, Conn., will battle third-seeded North Dakota (33-6-4) for the title at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Clifton, a 20-year-old defenseman whom the Coyotes selected 133rd overall at the 2013 NHL Draft, has had a sensational junior season for Quinnipiac with seven goals and 19 assists in 42 games. His 26 points are 21 more than he posted last season when he notched just five assists in 38 games.
A big hitter majoring in engineering, Clifton is peaking at the perfect time. He recently was named the ECAC Hockey Championship tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and his nine assists and 10 points rank second and tied for fourth, respectively, in NCAA Division I hockey for the 2016 postseason. He also leads the nation in plus/minus (+15) in the postseason.
“Connor has been making plays, offensively, in the playoffs,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold told College Hockey News. “He has had an outstanding season for us and you are just seeing him emerge, mature into an elite player at this level.”
Clifton, whose roommate and teammate at Quinnipiac is his older brother Tim, a forward, is enjoying playing deep into the postseason with his sibling at his side.
“It has been special having my brother on this team,” Connor told College Hockey News. “We are best friends… We don't really get sick of each other. Well, sometimes, of course, but it is fun knowing he is out there on the ice and in the gym with me, doing homework even. It is a great feeling.”
Clifton recently earned the No. 2 spot on a recent ESPN SportsCenter’s Top Plays segment with an eye-popping assist in Quinnipiac’s win over RIT in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
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