HAMDEN, Conn. — The second-seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats hosted the seventh-seeded Canisius Griffs Saturday evening at the Northford Ice Pavilion in the quarterfinals of the MAAC tournament. In a very close contest the Bobcats squeaked out a 3-2 victory to move on to the semifinals next weekend at West Point.
The Bobcats had to battle back in the game as they got down 2-0 early in the first and trailed 2-1 going into the third period. But Canisius could not hold back the Bobcats in the final frame.
“It is an Achilles heel that’s been with our team all year. It’s our inability to finish on our chances,” said Canisius coach Brian Cavanaugh. “We’ve had games where we’ve outshot our opponents in a period or two and have not come out and buried the chances. And when you play a good team and you don’t capitalize on your chances, you’re going to allow them to get back in the game and an example of that was tonight.”
Canisius started the game out flying as they looked like the more experienced and relaxed team. With just 4:30 played in the first, the Griffs put the first goal on the board as Robert Carroll banged in a rebound that Justin Eddy could not handle and it was 1-0 Griffs.
The flow of the first became stagnant after that first goal with a lot of neutral zone turnovers. Quinnipiac could not keep the puck for more than a few seconds before losing it to a Canisius player who would gain the red line and dump it in for the forecheck.
The Griffs capitalized again with 6:20 left to play in the period as Quinnipiac goaltender Justin Eddy lost sight of the puck and actually skated right by it as he left his crease, and also left the very important piece of rubber there — and Jeff Street of Canisius had the easy job of tapping the puck in to make the score 2-0. That score held as the buzzer sounded on the first 20 minutes.
The Bobcats were not only down on the scoreboard but also on the shot chart as they only recorded four shots to Canisius’ ten.
“Canisius worked hard and really dominated us in the first period,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “I thought we were flat and our guys were nervous. We had trouble crossing over at times.”
In the second period, Quinnipiac came out with a bit more emotion and finally got on the board a little more than six minutes Canisius goaltender Bryan Worosz made some brilliant saves before John Kelly put a rebound into the back of the net to give Quinnipiac some life, 2-1.
Canisius maintained its lead for the rest of the second, keeping the Bobcats from getting many quality scoring opportunities.
The Griffs were 9-0-1 when leading after two periods before Saturday’s game, and in the regular-season series between the two teams, all three games were tied after two. Even though Canisius had the lead in this playoff game, the third period again would become the deciding factor.
The Bobcats started the third by taking a good amount of shots from all angles on Worosz. At the 5:52 mark, one of the shots found the back of the net as Michael Bordieri made a great play to keep the puck in the Canisius zone and deked around two players before giving it to Craig Falite who put it home and tied the game up 2-2.
From that point on the Bobcats controlled the tempo. With 7:02 left to play in the third, a beautiful play by Quinnipiac found Aaron Ludwig open in front for the game-winning goal. The goal started on a nice cross-ice pass from Chris White to Tim Morrison to the left of the goal, and Morrison found Ludwig in front for the tally.
“It was a great play by my wingman. White passed it out from the boards to Morrison and he waited out the goaltender and waited on the left side and he fed it to me in the middle and I had a wide open net,” said Ludwig. “That was the biggest goal of my college career.”
It was a big goal for all the Quinnipiac players, who live to play another game this season.
“We’ll keep doing the same stuff we’ve been doing all year like trying to teach defense,” said Pecknold when asked about his plans for the team in practice this week. “Hopefully we’ll talk to the squad about why we were so nervous and come out more confident on Friday.”
Canisius ends the season 12-21-4 overall with a half dozen losses against the likes of North Dakota and Niagara.
“It’s been a growing season for us. Coming into the season people were going to question on whether we were going to the playoffs or not,” said Cavanaugh. “I think the kids have come to understand what it takes to play at this level and not only the sacrifices but the energy, effort, mental preparation, and discipline.”
Quinnipiac will play Friday at the Army campus in West Point, New York.