Quinnipiac defeats AIC in season opener

By on October 12, 2019

With six graduated seniors, junior defenseman Brogan Rafferty, and junior goaltender Andrew Shortridge signed to NHL teams, one could say the 2019 Quinnipiac University men’s ice hockey team (1-0 overall, 0-0 ECAC Hockey) looks different.

American International College (0-1 overall, 0-0 AHA) looked to avenge a 9-2 loss from its last matchup on Oct. 27, 2018. On both teams’ season opener, they came up short in a much closer 3-2 loss to Quinnipiac on Friday.

Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold appreciated the win, but gave credit to the Yellow Jackets for bringing a 60-minute effort.

“Nice win tonight, but it wasn’t the prettiest,” Pecknold said. “I thought AIC was really good, I think coach (Eric) Lang and his staff are one of the best in college hockey. They do a good job preparing and they gave us all we can handle.”

Connor Lawless | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
Things got going in the first period, as Quinnipiac got the chance to debut its power play. It was freshman forward Ethan Leyh who made AIC pay for its mistake as he got control of the puck deep and slid it past AIC junior goaltender Zackarias Skog for a 1-0 lead.

That was Leyh’s first career collegiate goal, first on the power play, first at home and first Quinnipiac goal of the season. Still, he wanted to give credit to his team.

“We had a good transition and (Odeen) Tufto made a nice play at the blue line,” Leyh said. “He kind of passed it over to me and put it in a place where I could put it in or get a rebound. It ended up working out and it was a good start to the season.”

AIC responded, as sophomore center Elijah Barriga tipped a slapshot from the blue line past Quinnipiac junior goaltender Keith Petruzzelli to make it a 2-1 game.

Leyh’s goal wasn’t the only first for the Bobcats on Friday. Senior forward Nick Jermain was named captain in the 2019 offseason, and his first game as captain got to be on home ice.

“You want to win every game,” Jermain said. “Being a senior now and wearing the ‘C, I take things more personally. I want to win more and it’s my last chance to win trophies with this program.”

The Bobcats showed why you play until the final whistle. Sophomore defenseman Zach Metsa intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and found Jermain in the offensive zone.

Jermain settled the pass and put in the back of the net with 18 seconds left to make it a 2-1 game.

The second period began with Quinnipiac on its second power play. It was sophomore defenseman Peter DiLiberatore who “quarterbacked” it, and rifled a slap shot past Skog to make it a 3-1 lead.

AIC ended the period outshooting Quinnipiac 10-4, and Jermain discussed what happened mid-way through the period.

Connor Lawless | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
“Getting a lead like that, we kind of just sat back,” Jermain said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, it’s not easy closing teams out. We saw that against Brown last year, we couldn’t finish them off with a one-goal lead. We had a two-goal lead tonight and we started to back off.”

AIC came into the third period with momentum and looked to senior forward Blake Christensen to make a play. Christensen showed the Bobcats why he was the Yellow Jackets 2018 point leader (47), as he got a bounce off the boards and beat Petruzzelli to the opposite post to make it a 3-2 game.

It turned into a test for the Bobcats defense, especially when the Yellow Jackets pulled Skog in the final minute. AIC crashed the net but couldn’t put it past Petruzzelli, and both teams got into a scuffle after the final whistle.

The Bobcats outshot the Yellow Jackets 31-27, and Petruzzelli made 25 saves in his first game as the 2019 starting goaltender. The power play ended up scoring two goals in five chances, and the penalty kill didn’t allow a goal.

Both teams will play again on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m., but the Yellow Jackets will be home. Pecknold wants his team to improve on things for its second game.

“There’re a ton of things we need to clean up,” Pecknold said. “We can’t re-coach the boys and we can’t teach them 56 things. We will pick and choose the three or four key items we want to focus on and will go and play as hard as we can tomorrow.”

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