HAMDEN, Conn. — Quinnipiac took the second game of a home and home series Saturday night against Sacred Heart. The game was intense, with tempers flaring throughout the second half of the contest but Quinnipiac, capitalizing on all three of its power plays, won the game 5-3 to split the weekend series.
Sacred Heart beat Quinnipiac the night before ending the Bobcats’ 16-game unbeaten streak against the Pioneers, and can’t be too disappointed about its efforts against the top team in the MAAC.
“We have a lot of positive things we can take out of this weekend. One is getting that win against Quinnipiac. We’ve been looking for it for along time,” said Sacred Heart coach Shaun Hannah about Friday. “Two is that our team is still learning how to play on the road the second night and finish with a win. We came close a couple times and we’re getting there. We made some strides tonight.”
The Pioneers looked good early, scoring just 21 seconds in as Chuck Metcalfe won a faceoff deep in the Bobcats zone to Bernie Chmiel who fired it past a screened goaltender Jamie Holden to make it 1-0.
Three minutes later, Holden misplayed a puck to the right of the net practically giving Sacred Heart a goal as Richard Naumann capitalized to make it 2-0. The mistake was a bit of deja vu for Holden; in Quinnipiac’s NCAA playoff match up against Cornell, a similar play occurred and gave Cornell an early lead from which it never looked back.
“Obviously he [Holden] made a mistake. He took his eye off the puck there for a second,” said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold. “He kind of lost his urgency but he’ll learn from that. I think he’s a much better puck handler this year than he was last year and I think he will continue to improve as the years go on.”
Despite being down two goals early, Quinnipiac’s offense was intense, pummeling goaltender Eddy Ferhi with 21 shots in the first frame but none saw the back of the net.
The second period saw players’ and coaches’ emotions getting to very high levels as individual battles ensued behind the play and pushing and shoving occurred after just about every whistle.
Nick Nutcher of Sacred Heart was sent to the box for high-sticking at 14:49 of the period and it took Quinnipiac all of four seconds of the power play to cash in as Chris White won the faceoff to Dan Ennis, who quickly passed it to defensive partner Matt Erhart for the one-timer, making it 2-1.
Less than three minutes later the Bobcats found themselves on the power play again and Craig Falite tipped in his ninth of the season to tie the game at 2.
The referee and two linesmen were happy to hear the buzzer sound on the second period as 22 penalty minutes were racked up for each team, and more could have been called.
“Things got pretty emotional for both teams in the second period,” said Hannah.
“Certainly I want my players to play with emotion. I think the rivalry [between Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac] has gotten to the point where you are going to see emotion like that,” said Pecknold. “I like the emotion but the pushing and shoving after the whistle is not good for the game but it’s the referees job to control that.”
The third period started out calm with both teams not wanting to make that big mistake to let up the go ahead goal but at the 4:39 mark Michael Bordieri jammed home the puck after about four whacks at it to put Quinnipiac up 3-2.
Sacred Heart answered quickly at the six minute mark as Barclay Folk was able to fight off a Quinnipiac defenseman and redirect a shot past Holden and deadlocked it at 3.
Quinnipiac star Matt Craig put the Bobcats up to stay at 10:23 during a 4-on-4 after teammate Ryan Morton made a great pass to Craig and he put the puck high glove side.
Morton would go on to score an insurance tally to finish with a goal and an assist.
“Ryan had a great weekend. Last night we struggled and he was by far our best player and tonight I thought he had another great game,” said Pecknold. “He really kind of has his confidence back and the key to his game is hard work and he’s been doing that.”
The final buzzer sounded on the Quinnipiac win, but before the teams both left the ice more words and pushes were exchanged between both sides.
Quinnipiac will now move on to play at home against Bentley next Saturday. Sacred Heart also heads home for a Friday night contest with Mercyhurst.