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Freshmen fuel Tiger victory over Bobcats
For the past two years Quinnipiac freshmen have taken center stage in the ECAC. On Saturday afternoon, that distinction belonged to a group of Princeton freshmen.
Matt Godlewski and Cam Ritchie scored their first collegiate goals and junior Brett Wilson provided the game winner to help to the Tigers defeat the Bobcats 4-2 at the TD Banknorth Sports Center and also prevented Quinnipiac from sweeping Princeton in the season series. Ritchie also added an empty netter to cap his landmark evening.
“Princeton was grittier and hungrier than us, which you can expect after us beating them twice,” Bobcat Head coach Rand Pecknold said.
Despite the Saturday’s loss, the Bobcats (5-4-2 overall, 2-2-2 ECAC) won the unusual three game regular season series with their conference opponent. However, being that last Saturday’s tilt with the Tigers (4-4-0 overall, 3-3-0 ECAC) was classified as a non-conference game, only one of the Quinnipiac’s wins counted towards their conference point totals.
Quinnipiac’s top line of Jamie Bates, Bryan Leitch and Ben Nelson were on target again for the Bobcats. Both Bates (2 assists) and Leitch (goal and an assist) had two points and Nelson scored the second goal, but could not find the same chemistry that lead to Wednesday night’s 11-point combined explosion from the trio.
“It looked like we had it turned on for the last two games,” Bates said, “But tonight was disappointing to say the least.”
Fellow Tiger freshman Alan Reynolds quieted the potent Bobcat offense by stopping 16 of 18 shots. For the Bobcats Peter Vetri made his seventh start of the season in net and turned away 21 shots in the losing effort.
After a strong first period where they fired off 11 shots, the Bobcats would only get seven more in the rest of the game. The Bobcats were out-shot 22-8 in the final two periods.
“We had a decent first period and I think we really struggled the rest of the game,” Pecknold said. “Our intensity wasn’t good.”
Leitch tallied his team-high sixth of the year at 12:15 in the first period to give the Bobcats an early lead. A rebound off a shot by Brendan Wong fell onto the stick of Bates who faked a shot to make Reynolds commit and slid a cross-crease pass to a wide open Leitch who found the open net.
“We’re starting to get a rhythm of things together,” Leitch said of the play of the top line, “But not well enough tonight.”
Just over a minute and a half later Princeton scored the equalizer when Godlewski scored off assists from Matt Arhontas and Kevin Kaiser. Godlewski found himself open in front of goal and launched a fierce snap shot from five feet in front of the blue line that beat a screened Vetri and started a flurry of three unanswered Tiger goals.
The Bobcats missed a golden opportunity halfway through the second period when Greg Holt got open in front of the Tiger net. Holt gathered a pass from Wong but his quick wrist shot rang off the crossbar.
The Tigers would take their first lead of the game only 33 seconds into the third when Ritchie opened his collegiate account. Ritchie’s effort came courtesy of passes from Kyle Hagel and Kaiser.
“Their first two goals they scored we failed to block shots,” Pecknold said, “We were in the lane and we just didn’t want to do it.”
“It’s tough to win games when you just don’t have that desire and commitment to make sacrifices,” he said. “It’s something we’re usually good at.”
Princeton would get its third goal when Brett Wilson scored on a two-man advantage midway through the third. The Tigers won the face-off and worked the puck to Wilson who beat a screened Vetri for what would prove to be the game winner.
Quinnipiac’s top line would help the Bobcats come within a goal at the 11:36 mark. Nelson took a pass from Bates and muscled his way towards goal and flipped a backhand shot that trickled past Reynolds. Leitch picked up his second point of the night on the playing, assisting on the goal.
The Tiger victory moved the New Jersey squad into a tie for fourth place in the ECAC with the Bobcats after seven conference games played.
“We had a chance to move into second place tonight with two points and we just didn’t seem to have the heart to do it tonight,” Bates said. “To beat Princeton all you have to do is work hard. That should be something pretty easy when you’re at home, in front of your fans. For some reason we couldn’t do that tonight.”
The Bobcats will look to get back on track in the conference with a pair of ECAC games at home next weekend. Friday the Bobcats welcome Union to Hamden in a re-match of last year’s first round conference playoff series which the Bobcats swept, and Saturday the team plays host to No. 16 ranked RPI.