HAMDEN, Conn. — The Quinnipiac Bobcats took a 4-3 decision over the Mercyhurst Lakers in front of 1,065, at the Northford Ice Pavilion on Friday night.
Friday nights contest was the first of a two-game homestand for the Bobcats. Mercyhurst took the first contests between these two clubs, Jan. 5, prevailing with a 3-1 win. The Lakers hold the all-time series; playoffs included, in Atlantic Hockey and the MAAC, 9-6-3.
The Bobcats (11-10-3, 8-4-2 AHA), coming into the contest were one point behind both Mercyhurst (8-13-4, 7-5-3) and Sacred Heart, and currently riding a four-game winning streak and looking to move up in the stands in the final full month of the season. The Lakers, the best offensive scoring team in Atlantic hockey, spilt last weekend with Bentley.
“Winning is contagious,” said Quinnipiac defensemen Reid Cashman. “We weren’t getting the bounces earlier in the season, and now we are.”
Both teams were mentally focused, knowing that this weekend could make or break either teams chances of having a home playoff game and moving up in the league standings.
Mercyhurst got on the board at 2:46 of the 1st on a goal by Mike Pochatek. Quinnipiac failed to clear the puck of the defensive zone where Denis Kirstein picked off the pass and fed Pochatek for the one timer goal, his first of the season.
Quinnipiac was able to notch the score at one on a Ben Nelson goal. Just as Quinnipiac had done, the Lakers failed clearing the puck. The Bobcats were able to capitalize on the turnover, where Chris White picked off the pass and fed Nelson for his sixth of the season. Tom Watkins was also credited with an assist.
At the three minute mark of the second, the Lakers took a 2-1 lead on a Matt Warren. David Wrigley sent a pass to Scott Champagne at center ice, where he and Warren went in on a 2-on-2. Warren passed to Champagne, who sent it back, where Warren put the puck past Bobcat net minder Jamie Holden.
Quinnipiac scored what seemed to be the game-tying goal one minute later but was waived off by an early whistle.
Quinnipiac prevailed through off the next faceoff draw, when Nelson won the faceoff back to Tom Watkins who passed to Ty Deinema, who saw Nelson wide open again and shelved it top right corner past a sprawling Andy Franck to tie the game at 2. The goal was his fifth in three games and his second two goal night in three games.
“We competed for 60 minutes tonight, and possibly the best game so far,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold.
The Bobcats sustained the pressure throughout the period, but Mercyhurst took advantage of the mistakes by the Bobcats, but only managed one goal, but had many man advantage rushes and rebounds.
Quinnipiac registered 24 shots in the second period, the highest shot total in one period all season.
The Bobcats, as they have all season on the faceoff, won the draw to the right of Franck, where Matt Craig won the faceoff back to Matt Sorteberg, who cycled the puck to Reid Cashman who snapped the puck at Franck. Mark Van Vliet deflected the puck through the 5-hole of Franck to make it 3-2.
With 6:24 left in the third period the Lakers had a 4 on 3 power play and head coach Rick Gotkin called a timeout.
Mercyhurst was able to get the Quinnipiac penalty killers out of position as Champagne put the puck in the net.
“After they tied it at three everyone on the bench still felt we were going to take the win,” said Pecknold.
The Bobcats responded like they have at every opportunity possible with a goal. This time it was Craig Falite. Rob Hammel fed Aaron Ludwig who shot the puck. The puck bounced off Franck’s chest to the stick of Falite who put it 5-hole through to take a 4-3 lead. This goal proved to the game winner.
“The whole line made things happen tonight,” said Quinnipiac forward Falite. “All three of us touched the puck and we made things happen on the ice all night.”
With 55 seconds remaining the Bobcats took a checking penalty by Sorteberg, and put Mercyhurst on the power play. Franck was also pulled to make it 6 on 4. The Lakers refused to lose the game without a fight and sustained the pressure blasting shot after shot at Holden.
The Bobcats were able to hang on for the win, but there was a battle in front after the final horn with words being exchanged between both teams and coaches pitting a great match up tomorrow night between both clubs.
The Bobcats move above the .500 mark for the first time since beating Dartmouth on October 30.
Ben Cottreau, leading freshmen scorer in AHA with 15 points in 14 games played, was held pointless on the night.
The second game of the two game series will take place tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at the Northford Ice Pavilion.