Duel in the desert

Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey goes 1-0-1 in its first weekend series at Arizona State

By on January 23, 2018

John Mendoza | Blaze Sports
It wasn’t all too long ago that Quinnipiac was new to Division I ice hockey.

When the then-Quinnipiac Braves joined the MAAC and became a Division I program in the 1999-00 season, they played out of the Northford Ice Pavilion, a local rink in North Branford that seats an estimated 1,200 people at best.

After years of building the program from the ground up, the now-Bobcats have been established as a perennial powerhouse within college hockey.

On Jan. 20-21, Quinnipiac wrote another page in its relatively young program’s history when the Bobcats made their first trip to the Grand Canyon State to face Arizona State’s (ASU) three-year-old Division I Independent hockey program.

The first contest of the two-game weekend series was played at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, Arizona, the Sun Devils’ home ‘arena.’ It’s a rink that is close enough to ASU’s Tempe campus — the largest of its six campuses, populated by 42,477 students, according to USNews.com — to get some fans interested in watching hockey in the desert.

It brought back some old memories for Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold, who has been in Hamden since the Division II Independent days at Northford Ice Pavilion.

“[ASU] is fine, they’re doing a great job right now. [Sun Devils head] coach Greg Powers is making due with what he has,” Pecknold said. “We had to make due with what we had for a long time before we got our rink. But we’re happy to be out here.”

Used to the luxury of the Frank Perrotti, Jr. Arena at the TD Bank Sports Center, the Bobcats were flat in their game at Oceanside, ‘losing’ 3-2 in the second frame of 3-on-3 overtime — but tied 2-2 in the scorebooks after the first 5-on-5 overtime period — to the chippy Sun Devils.

After a first period that saw 11 shots for Quinnipiac and six shots for ASU, but no goals for either side, Quinnipiac senior forward Kevin Duane opened the floodgates early in the second period of play.

Just 1:33 in, Quinnipiac took a too many men on the ice penalty, but Duane turned the tables on the Sun Devils by scoring his first of the season, first since Jan. 7, 2017 and Quinnipiac’s first shorthanded goal of the season to put the Bobcats up 1-0.

Subsequently, ASU scored two consecutive goals, including a morale-dropping tally from forward Steenn Pasichnuk with nine seconds left, to head into the third with a 2-1 lead.

The Bobcats came into the third period trailing for the 12th time this season and lost nine of those coming into tonight’s contest. But on Friday the Bobcats clawed back.

Late in the third, senior forward Tanner MacMaster and junior forward Craig Martin set up a wide open sophomore forward Alex Whelan on the power play for his 10th goal of the season.

Shortly afterwards, Martin scored a goal that was eventually called back for goaltender interference and the game went into overtime.

After the official overtime was played to a scoreless tie, a second frame of 3-on-3 overtime ended when ASU forward Louie Rowe blasted a slapshot by freshman goalie Keith Petruzzelli to ‘win’ the game 3-2.

John Mendoza | Blaze Sports
Heading into the second game of the weekend series, Pecknold kept his expectations short and to the point.

“I think we need to play better. Plain and simple.”

And that they did on Saturday.

Quinnipiac rebounded from the disappointing performance by beating the Sun Devils 5–3 in a more spacious Gila River Arena, home of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

The Bobcats had five players with two-point nights  — freshman forward Odeen Tufto, junior defenseman captain Chase Priskie, senior forward Bo Pieper Whelan and MacMaster,  — and recorded three power play goals for the first time this season, while sophomore goalie Andrew Shortridge made 20 saves on 23 shots in his return to the crease.

After going pointless since Nov. 25 against Princeton, Martin added his second assist in two nights on Whelan’s 11th goal of the season and the Bobcats’ first marker of the night.

It seems as though Martin, and a handful of other Quinnipiac forwards, are catching hot streaks at a crucial point of the season.

“I feel like we’re playing well and we should be getting wins here,” Martin added. “As long as we keep playing, keep hunting and sticking to our identity it’ll be good here down the stretch and hopefully we’ll set ourselves up for a good spot in the playoffs.”

While the Bobcats were unable to find the back of the net again in the first, they picked up right where they left off in the second period,  starting with MacMaster’s curl-and-drag tally to tie Whelan for the team-lead in goals.

John Mendoza | Blaze Sports
After ASU forward Anthony Croston narrowed Quinnipiac’s lead to 2-1 less than a minute later, Bo Pieper and Chase Priskie added power play goals to make the game 4-1 midway through the second period.

Priskie scored the game-winner on a power play one-timer from what has become his signature spot, just above the top of the left circle.

Pieper and Sun Devils forward Dominic Garcia traded goals eight seconds apart to end the second period with the score at 5-2 in favor of the Bobcats.

While holding leads in the third period have been this team’s kryptonite as of late, led by Shortridge, the Bobcats were able to hold off ASU from coming back, but not without giving up 11 shots on net and a power play marker to bring the game to 5-3.

Quinnipiac held on to its cushioned lead and pulled through for a much-needed win before heading back home to start a stretch of nine ECAC games to close out the regular season.

“So we got a win and a tie on the weekend,” head coach Rand Pecknold said. “We would’ve liked a little more than that, but it’s a good trip, nice place to visit, but we’re ready to go home.”

Quinnipiac returns home for the first time in 59 days when it takes on Princeton on Jan. 30.

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About Justin Cait

Justin joined The Chronicle in 2015. He is a former Quinnipiac men's ice hockey writer, former Sports Editor and former Web Director of the newspaper.

Journalism major / Sports Studies minor
Junior, Class of 2019
Twitter: @justin_cait
justincait.com