HAMILTON, N.Y. — “They’re never easy,” said Raider 13-year veteran head coach Don Vaughan after a sigh of relief as his team narrowly defeated Quinnipiac 4-3. The lead exchanged hands four times before the end of regulation.
On Friday evening the Quinnipiac Bobcats (9-7, 3-5) traveled to Starr Rink for its first-ever meeting with No. 13 Colgate. The Bobcats, newcomers to the ECACHL, faced the daunting task of overcoming Colgate’s 4-0-2 home record this season and four-game undefeated streak. Quinnipiac posted an impressive start to the season, coming back from two straight losses to gain eight straight wins, including a 5-2 victory over No. 15 Harvard. That game marked its only win this season against a ranked opponent in four attempts.
The Bobcats have now dropped six of their last seven, while Colgate plows on, now tied for first with 12 points in the ECACHL standings.
Quinnipiac came out of the gates rather flat, not tallying a shot on goal until nearly five minutes into the game. However, with the help of rookie goaltender Wes Russell, the Bobcats were able to weather the storm and thunder back with some offense on their second power play. While Raider Eric Main served two minutes for kneeing, the Bobcats worked the puck down low, as their assistant coaches kept instructing them to do. Eventually the puck was won back to David Marshall standing in the lower circle. Marshall wristed a shot to the far side that went off Raider netminder Mark Dekanich’s glove and into the goal for Marshall’s 12th of the season. Though the Bobcat offense started to click, the team was not able to cash in.
The Raiders took their between-period rest to gather their thoughts and wind, and subsequently flew out of the locker room to take the lead less than four minutes into the second. Mike Campaner pinched at the blue line to intercept a clearing attempt and gathered the puck to lead a three-on-two the other way. Campaner held the puck until the Quinnipiac defender tried to poke check it loose, and then dropped a pass to Jesse Winchester, who was at the top of the triangle formation. Winchester made a nice backhand-to-forehand deke around Russell to score his 10th.
“Honestly, I wanted to hit the guy [at the blue line],” said Campaner after the game about the play, “I couldn’t believe it wasn’t off-sides.”
Quinnipiac’s Brian Leitch took a quick slashing penalty after the goal, and just after the power play expired, the Raiders’ unit worked a nice tic-tac-toe play, passing the puck around the perimeter, that eventually went to the hot hand Tyler Burton, who just had his career-long eight-game point-scoring streak snapped last week, over which he had accumulated 10 goals and 5 helpers.
Quinnipiac then regained the lead. After a hard-working goal half-way through the second, Quinnipiac, again moving the puck down low and then out to the slot, scored from Peter Alden.
Brian Leitch tallied 40 seconds into the third. Bobcat Ben Nelson went hard to the net one-on-one against Raider Eric Main and got stood up and knocked down. Colgate’s Nick St. Pierre fell down and could not cover the trailing Leitch, who picked up the loose puck and threaded the needle top-glove side past Dekanich.
Kyle Wilson roared to life to single-handedly give Colgate its lead back. Just as a Quinnipiac penalty expired, Campaner held strong at his point to keep the puck in the zone and then sent a low-shot towards the goal. The puck deflected off a Bobcat defenseman in front of the net, and all Wilson had to do was tap it in for his 12th of the season.
Wilson struck again less than two minutes later. Ryan Smyth picked off a clearing attempt at the offensive blue line while acrobatically staying on-side. He skated the puck in himself, then crossed a pass over to Wilson who picked his spot and put home his 13th.
The battle came down to the wire, as Ryan Smyth took a cross-checking penalty behind the play that afforded Quinnipiac a chance to tie the game with less than five minutes to go in the period. Bobcat forwards ripped shots off three posts in the waning minutes, to which Quinnipiac’s Alden responded as he headed for the locker-room after the game that he could not believe in his team’s misfortune.
“Those were a scary last couple of minutes,” commented Raider captain Jon Smyth.
Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold, now in his 12th season behind the bench with the Bobcats, said that it was quite frustrating to hit so many pipes late in the game. In his post-game chewing-out of his team, Pecknold constantly repeated that his players needed to play the full 60 minutes.
“We played a 48-, 49-minute game…We need to dig down, play defense, and do everything right. When we came out with some fire, they scored two goals like [snap] that.”
He ended his speech by telling the team to “reload” because Cornell will be an even tougher battle on Saturday.
“I have a lot of respect for that team,” coach Vaughan remarked about the night’s opponents. “They’re well coached and they’re gonna win a lot of games in this league.”
For Saturday’s game against Princeton, the Raider coach felt his team needs to be more “consistent in its efforts–three, four, or five consecutive shifts going over the wall.”
Quinnipiac travels to Ithaca to take on the No. 11 Big Red at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, while Colgate hosts Princeton at 7:00 p.m. on the same day. The Bobcats hope to improve their record against ranked teams to 2-4, and the Raiders will try to solidify their position at the top of the ECACHL.