NORTHFORD, Conn. — Quinnipiac’s Matt Froehlich netted two goals and defenseman Reid Cashman collected two assists as a two-goal second period allowed the Bobcats to advance past Bentley 4-1 Friday afternoon in the first semifinal of the Atlantic Hockey tournament at the Northford Ice Pavilion.
“We’re very excited as a team to advance to the championship game here tomorrow night,” said Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold. “I’m proud of my guys; we’ve had a great second half to the season. Maybe we didn’t play our best game of the season tonight, but we played pretty well. It was a gritty game, and the guys did what they needed to do to win.”
The Bobcats (21-12-3) looked to gain the advantage over their guests, pressuring Bentley goaltender Simon St. Pierre early and often. Chris White of Quinnipiac had the best opportunity of the opening moments of the contest at 4:33, parked at the left side of the crease with an open net. Linemate Jamie Bates’ feed from the right side found its target in White, but White’s shot floated wide.
Bentley’s Ryan Lessnau looked to give his club the advantage moments later. All by himself in the slot, the puck found its way out of a scrum in the left corner to Lessnau. Lessnau made Quinnipiac netminder Jamie Holden commit low, but held the puck too long and was unable to score in the gaping net.
Quinnipiac broke the scoreless tie at 11:00 even. On the only power play of the first frame for the Bobcats, Matt Craig collected the rebound of a rookie Matt Sorteberg shot and slid the puck behind St. Pierre from the right side low, making it 1-0 Quinnipiac.
The Falcons stepped up the intensity after the Quinnipiac marker, boxing the Bobcats in their own end and disrupting flow through neutral ice. Bentley’s efforts paid off at 17:16 when senior Bryan Goodwin collected his sixth goal of the season on a rebound as the Falcon forwards crashed the net, knotting the contest at 1. The two teams skated into the locker room with the Bobcats outshooting the Falcons 12-10.
An opportunistic Bates gave Quinnipiac the lead once again at 3:42 of the second period. Stealing the puck off the blade of Bentley defenseman Jaye Judd in the Falcon zone, Bates drove to the net unobstructed, beating St. Pierre high glove side to make it 2-1 Bobcats.
Matt Froehlich made it 3-1 Quinnipiac at 8:22, capitalizing on great puck movement low in the Bentley zone and scoring from the right side face off circle. Craig and Cashman assisted on the tally.
The third period saw an abundance of physical play, while scoring chances were few and far between. Froehlich netted his second goal of the game at 19:29 of the third, picking up a loose puck in the Bentley zone and burying it into the empty net.
“We were pretty satisfied with the way we played today,” said Bentley head coach Ryan Soderquist. “There were a few breakdowns and turnovers in the second period that ended up costing us the game. I was still satisfied with the way we played, the effort that we put into tonight’s game. We had strong play from our goaltender, and all 18 skaters contributed for us tonight.”
Goaltender Jamie Holden tied J.C. Wells for wins all-time at Quinnipiac with his 59th career victory, making 24 saves on the evening, while St. Pierre stopped 29 shots for the Falcons. Bentley went 0-for-5 on the power play during the game, while Quinnipiac was 1-for-3 on the man-up.
“I thought Bentley played a great game tonight, St. Pierre played exceptionally well in net for them,” said Pecknold. “He made some big saves early in the game to keep Bentley in the game. It may not have been our best game, but Jamie Holden made some big saves early on to keep us in the game.”
Saturday the Bobcats will play in the Atlantic Hockey championship game, slated for a 7 p.m. start against either Holy Cross or Mercyhurst, the teams competing in the second semifinal Friday. Bentley finishes the season with an 8-20-6 record.