- Arts & Life
Photo credits: Andrew Vazzano
The term rollercoaster ride is thrown around a lot in sports to describe the fashion in which a season plays out for a team. Rarely does the phrase fit as well as it has with Quinnipiac’s men’s ice hockey team this year.
The Bobcats look to be on their way up. For now, at least.
Led by two goals from their captain, Jean-Marc Beaudoin, the Quinnipiac Bobcats took down their rival Yale Bulldogs 4-3 on Saturday night at the TD Bank Sports Center. The win rounds out the Bobcats’ regular season record at 17-15-2, and evens them at 11-11-0 in ECAC Hockey. Yale had already clinched its second consecutive ECAC title prior to the game, but the atmosphere was raucous with 4,267 fans on hand.
The win also allowed Quinnipiac to retain the Heroes Hat, which honors those who were lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Ultimately, we needed a big win going into the playoffs,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “We’re playing the No. 1 team in the league, No. 5 in the nation. I thought my guys played hard tonight, and we were resilient and opportunistic. I don’t know if it was our best game, but we found a way to win, so I’m proud of them.”
Despite the pro-Quinnipiac crowd, it was Yale who struck first. Broc Little gained control of the puck in the corner and centered it to Denny Kearney. Kearney’s first attempt was initially stopped by Quinnipiac goalie Dan Clarke, but he slid the second effort between Clarke’s left pad and the goal post to put Yale up 1-0 midway through the first period.
Yale controlled the play for most of the first stanza, but the Bobcats tied it up late in the first while shorthanded. Brandon Wong carried the puck into the zone against two Yale defenders and had the puck initially knocked away from him into corner. Beaudoin found it and passed quickly to Wong, who found a streaking Zach Hansen in the slot. Hansen’s one-timer beat Yale netminder Nick Maricic glove-side, and Quinnipiac evened the score at 1-1.
“I thought that was the pivotal play of the game,” Pecknold said. “Beaudoin, instead of throwing the puck away, gets it to Wong. He didn’t panic, and Hansen jumped in. That was a huge goal, probably the turning point of the game. I know it was early, but it was big.”
Early in the second, the advantage was a 5-on-4, and Yale retook the lead. It was Kearney once more, this time skating in from the left faceoff circle to take a sharp angled shot that went off of Clarke’s shoulder into the net to make the score 2-1.
Quinnipiac drew even with a Greg Holt wraparound goal at 8:22 of the second, and took the lead for good just a few minutes later. Just as an Antoine Laganiere penalty expired, Eric Lampe skated in with the puck along the far side of Yale’s zone. He carried the puck below the goal line, and sent the puck in front to Beaudoin, who deflected the puck past Maricic. It was Beaudoin’s 11th goal of the season, and it gave the Bobcats a 3-2 lead.
A little more than seven minutes into the third period, the Bobcats replicated what they had done to take the lead. Quinnipiac was on the power play, and Lampe skated in on the left side. He centered the puck to Beaudoin, who needed a couple whacks at the puck this time, but managed to sneak it past Maricic to give the Bobcats a two-goal advantage.
The score stayed that way until 4:47 left in the third period. Yale’s Brendan Mason took a one-timer from below the left faceoff circle that beat Clarke to make it a one-goal game, but the Bulldogs couldn’t draw even and Quinnipiac escaped with the 4-3 win.
The Bobcats started the season on a tear, winning 12 of 13 and sending waves throughout the national college hockey scene. But as hot as they started, they cooled off dramatically in the second half. Quinnipiac closed the regular season seventh out of the 12 team conference, and coach Pecknold understands that their season can be viewed in different ways.
“It all depends on your perspective,” Pecknold said. “We were picked to finish 11th, and finished 7th. We got out of the gates so hard, and we completely overachieved. Then we struggled late and we underachieved. Certainly, I’m disappointed we struggled as much as we did. We’re we really the number four team in the nation in late November? No, we weren’t. That was our ranking, but we really weren’t that good. It’s just really all about how you want to look at it.”
If you ask people if a rivalry has formed between Quinnipiac and Yale over the last few seasons, your answer might depend on which side you asked.
“I think you’re crazy to not think there’s a rivalry,” Pecknold said. “It is. Both the first game at Yale and this game were fantastic hockey games. I think both teams get fired up for it and it’s what kids come to college for, they want to play in this environment.”
Yale head coach Keith Allain has a different viewpoint.
“For us, it’s just two points in the standings,” he said.
Regardless of your perspective, it’s hard to ignore how important this win was for a Bobcats team looking to regain its swagger.
“With a win tonight, we can go into the playoffs with a ton of confidence, and that’s exactly what we need right now,” Beaudoin said. “You want to get hot at the right time. We peaked early and stumbled midseason, but right now I think we’re flying.”
Quinnipiac will start the postseason next weekend when it hosts the Dartmouth Big Green in a best-of-three series. Game 1 is scheduled for Friday night at 7 p.m.