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Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey drops second in a row to Maine
The Bobcats collapse late in the third, lose 5-3 to the Black Bears at home
While sophomore goalie Andrew Shortridge made 21 saves and the Bobcats posted 48 shots on goal, led by senior forward Tanner MacMaster’s two third period tallies, the ability to close out and play a full 60 minutes was once again lacking.
“There’s just so many issues,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “Our forwards don’t defend well and it’s just the buy-in. We’ve got to figure out a way.”
Like most games have gone this season, the Bobcats started out hot. They threw 20 shots on net in the first period alone and capitalized 8:32 into the frame.
After junior forward Scott Davidson won a faceoff back, sophomore forward Logan Mick took a wrist shot from the top of the slot and scored his third goal of the season to make it a 1-0 game.
About halfway through the period, senior defenseman Kevin McKernan jumped up into the Quinnipiac rush, but when an odd-man opportunity came the other way, Maine capitalized. Black Bears forward Emil Westerlund followed up on his team’s 2-on-1 opportunity and tucked a quick shot over Shortridge, and a sliding freshman forward Odeen Tufto, to tie the game at one.
While there was physical, back-and-forth play in the middle of the second, Maine struck again at the 15:55 mark to take the lead. After possessing the puck in Quinnipiac’s zone, Maine forward Cedric Lacroix shot a puck on net that was deflected in front by forward Ryan Smith.
In the ensuing shift, sophomore defenseman Karlis Cukste and Maine’s Patrick Shea (Florida’s 2015 seventh-round pick) got into a scrap. While both were assessed penalties, Shea’s actions received a double-minor, putting the Bobcats on the power play.
While a late Quinnipiac man-advantage gave fans hope, the energy was sucked out of the building when Maine scored on the kill. Lackadaisical play in the neutral zone led to another Maine odd-man rush and again the Black Bears capitalized on a 2-on-1.
This time, the duo of forwards Brendan Robbins and Tim Doherty connected on a crisp passing play to put their team up 3-1 going into the third period.
“[On the] third goal, we have a forward back, he doesn’t cover, so we gotta be better on the buy-in,” Pecknold said. “Our forwards got to defend, our (defensemen) got to defend and we’ve got to get some timely saves too, so it’s been frustrating.”
Then, while it seemed as though the game was going nowhere for the Bobcats in the following 10 minutes, MacMaster scored again on a rare play in which puck luck was on Quinnipiac’s side.
Sophomore defenseman Brogan Rafferty fired a puck on net from a bad angle, but it somehow found its way to MacMaster’s stick, who made no mistake tapping home the puck on a near empty net.
The short-lived comeback bid was something that hasn’t been seen from this group. Pecknold was briefly pleased with his team’s resiliency, being one of the few positive takeaways over the course of the weekend.
“I did like tonight, that we were down 3-1, — which we shouldn’t have been, but we were — but we battled back to make it 3-3,” Pecknold said.
However, after all seemed to be restored within Quinnipiac’s typical style of play, it was quickly flipped back upside down with 24 seconds left.
Maine forward Nolan Vesey (Toronto’s 2014 sixth-round pick) took, what looked to be a harmless shot from the top of the circle, but the combination of a juicy rebound and lack of coverage in the defensive zone led to Shea’s third goal of the season and a late 4-3 lead.
About 20 seconds later, Lacroix buried an empty-netter with less than a second to play to secure Maine’s 5-3 win.
Quinnipiac’s second late breakdown in a row is inexcusable on Pecknold’s watch and he feels as though his team is better than that.
“Two of our better players are out there, we have an hour-and-a-half to make a play, a turnover and bang, there’s the hockey game,” Rand Pecknold said on the play. “It shouldn’t happen. They’re too good of players to let that happen.”
While Quinnipiac University goes on break for the holidays following exams, the Bobcats also receive a much-needed break as they play next on Jan. 2 at the XL Center in Hartford against UConn.
“Right now it’s tough, but we can’t cry over spilled milk now,” MacMaster said. “All we can do is regroup and refocus for the second half.”