Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey moves on to NCAA Tournament regional finals

The Bobcats stifle the comeback by Arizona State to win 2-1 and advance to play Minnesota-Duluth

By on March 31, 2019

Sometimes in order to exorcise your demons, you have to make a date with the devil.

That certainly was the case for the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team on Saturday night.

Quinnipiac (26-9-2, 14-6-2 ECAC Hockey) was able to hang on to a 2-1 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils (21-13-1) in the Midwest regional semifinals at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Sophomore forward Joe O’Connor and freshman forward William Fallstrom scored the two goals for Quinnipiac, while junior goaltender Andrew Shortridge made 20 saves in the win.

Morgan Tencza
This comes after blowing two, third-period leads against Brown just a couple weekends ago and getting knocked out of the ECAC Hockey playoffs. The Bobcats would not face the same fate as they locked down and maintained their third-period lead to advance to the regional finals where they’ll face defending national champ Minnesota Duluth.

“I thought it was a hard game to manage for both teams,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “I thought we really came in the second, had some good energy… ASU to their credit put a really good surge late in the game.

“We’re excited to move on. I give a lot of credit to [Arizona State head coach Greg] Powers and his staff and Arizona State. It’s phenomenal to be in your fourth year and to be in the NCAA Tournament.”

O’Connor opened the scoring for Quinnipiac when he spun then fired a shot that went straight through the legs of Arizona State’s Joey Daccord less than four minutes into the game.

“I think we’re just ready,” O’Connor said in regards to the team’s quick start. “We were hungry tonight and that showed early on.”

In the second, Quinnipiac was by far the superior team for most of the middle frame. After a few close chances, Fallstrom finally was able to crack Daccord again, as he collected a rebound and roofed it bar down to extend Quinnipiac’s lead to 2-0.

Arizona State made a late push in the second, thanks to Quinnipiac’s turnover trouble. But the Bobcats would hold onto the two-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

That push continued on for the third period and the Sun Devils were finally able to break the shutout. Junior defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk walked the blue line and ripped one over the shoulder of Shortridge to bring the game to within one.

For a split second it appeared as though it could be a deja vu moment for the Bobcats. But the team locked down, and thanks in part to a late five-minute major assessed to Arizona State freshman defenseman Jarrod Gourley that put the Sun Devils on the penalty kill for the rest of the game, Quinnipiac was able to come out victorious with the 2-1 win.

“I feel like we learned from our mistakes from the last game against Brown,” Fallstrom said. “I think we were a bit more ready, little more calm on the bench. They were coming hard, but we weathered the storm and played to our identity.”

For Quinnipiac, one of the challenges was facing Daccord, a Mike Richter finalist for goaltender of the year. Getting shots on net and creating second-chance opportunities was part of the game plan going into the game.

Morgan Tencza
“We really felt that we needed to score some rebounds on [Daccord],” Pecknold said. “We were trying to just get pucks on net. I think we watched every goal he gave up this year and there was a lot of that were off back-door situations and rebound situations. He’s just so good, and so quick and athletic. That’s how you’ve got to score on goalies like that.”

While Arizona State’s season comes to a close, Quinnipiac now will face Minnesota-Duluth, who defeated Bowling Green 2-1 in overtime earlier in the day, on Sunday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m. back at the PPL Center for a chance to go to the Frozen Four.

“[Minnesota-Duluth] is good, they’ve got some pretty talented [defensemen],” Pecknold said. “[Goaltender] Hunter Shepard in net, his compete level is off the charts. He really battles and tracks the puck well. And then they come with four lines of forwards. It seems like [the forward lines] are all interchangeable. We’re going to have to play better tomorrow night than we did tonight.”

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