TROY, N.Y. — Give some people an inch and they take a mile. Given a few square feet in front of the net, the Quinnipiac Bobcats took a one-game lead in their playoff series on Friday.
Tenth-seeded Quinnipiac got a pair of goals in the game’s first 4:24 and never looked back. They rode the lead and hot goaltending by Bud Fisher to a 2-1 upset win over seventh-seeded RPI in the series opener of their first-round playoff tilt.
“The first goal was huge, and the first game is even bigger,” said Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold. “That first goal gave us a ton of confidence. We have a ton of freshmen that play a lot. I think that gave us energy on the bench and the confidence we needed.”
Just 3:09 in, a pair of Quinnipiac sophomores hooked up and delivered the lead. After Ben Nelson’s one-timer from the slot deflected wide, Jamie Bates picked it up and circled back in front. He snapped a quick wrist shot from in close that beat goaltender Mathias Lange.
David Marshall, the Bobcats’ goal-scoring leader, doubled it at 4:24, just seven seconds into a power play. Mark Agnew won the offensive-zone faceoff back to conference assist leader Reid Cashman. Cashman took a few strides from the right point into the high slot and centered it for Marshall. Marshall’s one-timer, his 22nd goal of the season, beat a sliding Lange over the right shoulder.
“We’re at home, it’s the playoffs, and there’s no excuse for that,” said RPI head coach Dan Fridgen. “We didn’t even get going and we were behind 2-0. In playoff games, you can’t have that happen. There’s no excuse for it.”
“I think we obviously weren’t prepared enough for the first period,” added Engineer captain Brad Farynuk. “You could tell we were a quarter-step behind. We were chasing the puck around in our own zone.”
Even with the two-goal lead, the Bobcats were still able to generate offensive chances right in front of the net. Nelson was denied by Lange on several one-timers, and Marshall whiffed on a centering pass that could have given his team a three-goal lead later in the game.
The teams played fairly evenly in a scoreless second period, but the Engineers came on strong in the third. Early on in that period, just as a Bobcat penalty ended, Engineer Kevin Croxton fought for the puck in the left-wing corner.
The puck popped free to Kurt Colling; though he couldn’t get a clean shot off, he knocked the puck forward to Oren Eizenman. Eizenman flipped it toward the net and beat Fisher at 2:58 of the third.
RPI had other chances to tie the game up in the late stages, but couldn’t find the equalizer. Fisher made a sprawling save to his left on a Chris Hussey shot in the third. He also denied Croxton on a breakaway that developed when Cashman got crossed up in the defensive end, just inside the blue line, and fell down.
“I thought Bud Fisher was one of the keys to the game tonight,” said Pecknold. “He was real composed, real confident. He did a great job the whole night.”
Lange was pulled with 1:05 left but the Engineers couldn’t get set up with the extra attacker. When the final horn sounded, the Bobcats won their first-ever ECACHL playoff game on their first try. The two goals were enough to seal the win.
“I don’t know what we were thinking to start the game off, but they came out and just outworked us,” said Eizenman. “You really shoot yourselves in the foot coming out the way we did.”
Fisher stopped 28 of 29 shots in the win, and Lange saved 21 of 23. The Engineers were 0-for-5 on the power play, and the Bobcats were 1-for-4. Marshall’s goal was the sixth power-play goal scored by Quinnipiac against RPI this season.
With the win, Quinnipiac takes the 1-0 edge in the best-of-three series. Their overall record improves to 18-16-1 overall, and the Engineers’ record drops to 14-16-6.