NORTHFORD, Conn. — It was a very somber Senior Day for Quinnipiac, and not just because of the result of the Bobcats’ game against No. 7 Mercyhurst.
Early in the third period of the game, a cross-check from the Lakers’ Teresa Marchese sent Quinnipiac freshman defenseman Karrah Leigh Stephen down to the ice in a heap, resulting in a long delay while an ambulance was called. Stephen left the game with an undisclosed neck injury.
When the action on the ice resumed, the Lakers (24-6-2, 9-0-1 CHA) finished off a 5-0 win over the Bobcats (5-23-2, 0-10 CHA) and clinched the CHA regular season title.
“I guess she’s going to be okay,” Bobcats assistant coach Bruce Giovanelli said of Stephen. “It was more precautionary than anything. It was more of a protocol for neck injuries.”
As for the game, Giovanelli said, “I think in the first two periods, we were trying to play their game. [In the third,] we tried to work on more blocking shots, and working more in the defensive zone, and I think they really worked hard.”
Quinnpiac head coach Michael Barrett accompanied Stephen to the hospital and was unavailable for comment.
“My understanding is that Stephen will be okay, hopefully,” Mercyhurst coach Mike Sisti said, and it was mostly precautionary, but hopefully she’s fine.
“It was a weird weekend. Yesterday, unfortunately, we had the ref get hit in the eye with a stick, and the teams left the ice, and then today this, but stuff happens. It’s just part of the game. You’ve got highs and lows, you’ve got momentum swings, and when the puck’s dropped, you just have to get refocused and get back at it.
“Plus, with it being Quinnipiac’s senior night, their team played with great passion, great hunger, and they really played hard for a full game, and obviously we had to overcome that.”
The Lakers scored the game’s first goal on the power play at the 4:32 mark, when sophomore Stefanie Bourbeau wristed in a pass from Marchese. Senior Lindsay Dellow made it 2-0 at 8:01, when she picked up a loose puck in the Quinnipiac zone and fired a tough angle shot past Quinnipiac keeper Catharine LaPare for a shorthanded goal.
“They got the puck in deep,” Dellow said, “and Danielle Ayearst had a good chip off the wall, and it was just a footrace, I happened to beat the [Quinnipiac] girl to it, but it was close so I just one-timed it and caught the goalie off guard.”
The two-goal margin lasted into the first intermission, but grew to 3-0 early in the middle frame, when Julia Colizza connected from point-blank range. Freshman Sherilyn Fraser followed in short order, backhanding in a Colizza rebound during a four-on-four to make
it 4-0 in favor of the visitors.
The early minutes of the third period saw the injury to Stephen. When play resumed, the Bobcats showed greater energy on the ice, and were more effective at blocking shots and clearing rebounds, but could not find any success at the offensive end. Kazmaier Award candidate Desi Clark stopped eight shots in the final frame, giving her a game total of 18, and junior Samantha Shirley added a breakway goal in the final minute to give the Lakers the five-goal victory.
“It makes us better,” Clark said of having to maintain focus through the delay. “Staying focused through any kind of adversity, any kind of hurdles–it’s commitment. It’s character. Quinnipiac is a great team, they’ve done good things in our league, and they remained focused, too, through all of it, so it was a good game.”
Lapare had 33 saves for Quinnipiac.
The Bobcats finish out the regular season next weekend when they visit Niagara, while the Lakers return home to face Wayne State.
Elliot Olshansky is an assistant editor for CollegeSports.com.