NORTHFORD, Conn. — After two tough weekends at Michigan and Wisconsin without a victory, the Quinnipiac Bobcats ended their four-game losing streak and finally came out on the winning end, as Matt Craig scored twice and the Bobcats got great goaltending again to sneak past Connecticut, 4-2.
Connecticut opened the scoring in the first period at 7:19 on a quirky play out of the left-hand corner. The puck was tied up between a cluster of Bobcats and Huskies until Eric Helstedt eventually directed the puck toward the Quinnipiac net. Quinnipiac goaltender Jamie Holden was caught off guard, and off the post, and as a result the puck redirected off of Holden’s skate and into the net giving the Connecticut the 1-0 lead.
Quinnipiac responded at the 8:31 mark on the power play. Defenseman Reid Cashman set up along the far side boards and dished the puck to the top of the slot to Matt Craig who wristed a shot on goal. The puck popped up in the air and fell back behind Husky goaltender Scott Tomes and into the back of the net tying the game at one goal a piece. Craig, who had struggled earlier in the season with a groin injury, broke out tonight with two goals.
“We want Matt to dominate game at both ends of the ice, he definitely played better,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “I thought he had some good shifts late in the game when we got the lead. I thought he was really smart so I was happy with that but I just want him to compete harder than he is right now and have that rub off on the other guys.”
Despite being outshot in the first period 14-7, the Bobcats took the lead with 8:55 left in the first period. The Bobcats took advantage of a miscue on the Huskies power play when Aaron Ludwig broke up the UConn breakout in the neutral zone. Ludwig hit a streaking Chris White coming across the blue line. White let the pass come through his legs and then made a terrific stick handling move to gain control of the puck and then shoot the puck up to the top shelf and which gave the Bobcats a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.
Early in the second, Quinnipiac’s Tim Morrison was called for hooking and the Huskies would use the power play to their advantage for the first time this season. The Huskies had been 0-20 before Morrison went to the box just 2:12 into the second period. The Huskies capitalized at the 3:30 mark when Cole Koidahl’s shot from the top of the left faceoff circle tied the game. Koidahl’s wrist shot was quick enough to beat Jamie Holden over his right shoulder.
The Bobcats would get the lead back with 2:48 to go in the second period on the power play. The play developed quickly in the Quinnipiac end as goalie Jamie Holden hit defenseman Reid Cashman with a pass. He then fed the puck to Matt Craig, who was off to the races. Craig used his lightning fast speed and stickhandling skills on the breakaway and backhanded the puck past Tomes giving the Bobcats the 3-2 advantage.
In the third period, the Huskies outshot the Bobcats 10-7 and had a shot ring off the post but failed to find a way to beat Holden.
“We had some point blank chances, we did hit two posts there that could have done something a little different, but he made the saves when he had to because we were pressing at the end, but unfortunately it didn’t come our way,” said Connecticut head coach Bruce Marshall.
With 50 seconds left the Huskies called a timeout to try to set up a play in the offensive zone, but lost the draw and Quinnipiac eventually cleared the puck. The Bobcats were able to add another goal with six seconds left when Joe Testa picked up the lose puck in the neutral zone and put the puck in the empty net to give the Bobcats the 4-2 win.
“I just think with all the kids we lost to injury this year, we’re not that good. We have great goaltending, and at Michigan and Wisconsin our goalies were by far our best players. We’re struggling right now and relying too much on our goalies,” said Pecknold.
The win gives Quinnipiac the 1-0 lead in the three-game series the two teams will play this year, and the winner of the series is awarded the “Heroes Hat”, which was established two years ago to remember all those who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001. Quinnipiac has won the series the last two years to retain the “Heroes Hat.”
Quinnipiac will face Sacred Heart on back-to-back nights at the Northford Ice Pavilion next weekend. Connecticut will travel to Canisius next Friday take on Mercyhurst the next night.