NORTHFORD, Conn. — Through the first five games of the 2000-01 season, Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold had yet to witness the explosive offensive production that the Braves had been accustomed to putting up on the board in years past.
Nevertheless, QU had managed to remain unbeaten during that span, posting a 4-0-1 mark to open the year. Even so, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before the Braves returned to the same form as a season ago, when they were the highest scoring team in the Division I ranks.
Saturday night at the Northford Ice Pavilion, the American International Yellow Jackets were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Quinnipiac erupted for a season-high 10 goals en route to a 10-3 win over the visitors.
“You can’t be too disappointed whenever you score 10 goals in a hockey game,” Pecknold said. “It was nice to see that some of the guys who haven’t stepped up play well tonight. It was a good win and we’ll take it.”
Junior assistant captain Ryan Olson netted his third goal of the season a mere 10 seconds into the game, and it was all downhill from there for the Yellow Jackets. Neil Breen and Terry Harris would also dent the twine in the first period, allowing the Braves to jump out to a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
“It was good to get a goal right off the bat,” Olson said. “They were coming in as the underdog, so they wanted to get off to a good start. But a goal by us shuts them down, and it’s hard to get up from that. If they can’t get it going early, then they’re probably not going to get it going in the second or third period if they are down 2-0 or 3-0.”
For a team that came into the game with a 1-3 record, AIC’s game plan didn’t call for facing a three-goal deficit after the first period. However, Quinnipiac came out with a vengeance and was able to dictate the play of the game right from the opening faceoff.
“I think that those first-period goals certainly put us in a little bit of a hole,” AIC coach Gary Wright said. “That’s a hole that you can’t be in against a team of that caliber. Whenever you come and play a team that’s one of top teams in the league, there’s a certain amount of anticipation. But it was like the bubble burst for us really quickly.”
From there, the two teams became engaged in a shootout during the middle frame. The Braves and Yellow Jackets combined for eight goals — five of which were scored by the home team, three by AIC.
Olson recorded his second score of the night with a power play marker two minutes into the second period. Chad Poliquin and Dean Blais assisted on the goal.
AIC put a goal on the board just under three minutes later when left wing Olivier Gagnon beat QU goalie J.C. Wells to cut the lead to 4-1.
But all night long, the Braves had an answer for every Yellow Jackets goal. Ryan Morton scored a mere 35 seconds after AIC’s first goal, tipping home a shot from defenseman Matt Erhart. Gagnon notched his second score of the evening just over a minute later, but Neil Breen countered that score only eight seconds after Gagnon’s second goal when he knocked home a rebound to make it 6-2.
Then, for good measure, senior captain Shawn Mansoff and freshman Kevin Murray lit the lamp prior to the end of the second period. Aaron Rufrano scored for AIC to trim the QU lead to 8-3 after two frames.
Brian Herbert and Chris Maniatis closed out the scoring with third-period tallies to make it a 10-3 final.
All in all, 16 different players got in the scoring act for the Braves on Saturday night. Half of those players finished with multiple-point games, led by three-point efforts from Herbert (one goal, two assists), Mansoff (one goal, two assists) and Olson (two goals, one assist).
“We’ve had some problems with them the last couple of years, so coach told us to jump on them right from the start,” Mansoff said. “But the fact that we had lots of different goal scorers gives us confidence for next week [in non-conference games against St. Lawrence and Clarkson].”
Wells made 21 saves between the pipes to earn his second win of the season for Quinnipiac. Tom Patty stopped 24 shots before he was pulled in favor of Chance Thede midway through the second period. Thede recorded 13 saves in just under a period and a half of work.