CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold left the Bright Hockey Center on Friday night as the embodiment of his team’s play that evening: well put-together, but sporting six stitches and a black eye nonetheless. Pecknold’s first-place Bobcats were out-done, out-run and out-gunned by the host Harvard Crimson in the 4-2 Harvard win.
Alex Biega scored in his second straight game, and with two assists to boot, extended his point streak to four games. Mike Taylor also had a goal and an assist on five shots, and had a team-best +3 rating.
“Harvard definitely was prepared to play tonight,” said Pecknold, who is recovering from a freak collision during practice earlier in the week.
“They had their backs against the wall… honestly, I think they were hungrier than us. They wanted it more.”
Harvard controlled the play most of the game, despite two early goals by QU. The Crimson clearly took the play to the visiting Bobcats, not allowing a shot on goal for almost eight minutes to open the game.
At the 7:44 mark, however, junior forward Mark Agnew ripped a one-timer from classmate Dan LeFort past Harvard netminder Justin Tobe. LeFort’s feed from the left-wing faceoff dot had enough sauce on it to beat Tobe side-to-side, and he never had a chance on Agnew’s near-side blast from the right-wing dot. It was the first scoring chance of the game for Quinnipiac, and their first shot on goal.
A little more than three minutes later, QU set up in the Crimson zone long enough to beat Tobe once more. Another junior, Matt Sorteberg, scored his first goal of the season on a long shot from a few feet inside the blueline, just to the right of center. Tobe lost sight of the disc through traffic, and the puck beat him cleanly through the five-hole for a surprising 2-0 Bobcat lead.
“I hate to say it, but there might have been some of that, ‘oh no, here we go again,’” said Donato of his struggling team’s mentality at that point.
But a fluky goal from the hard-working Taylor changed the Crimson’s fortune with 5:15 left in the first. The third-year forward took a play from behind sophomore Bobcat Bud Fisher’s net, and wheeled around low in the right-wing circle. He released a skittering shot that Fisher misplayed from his butterfly position, and it bounced off the inside of the goalie’s right pad and into the net.
Not 60 seconds later, the pendulum swung decidedly for the home team. Mark Nelson destroyed Crimson Alex Meintel behind the QU net, thereby following Dan Travis into the box to give Harvard a 1:40 five-on-three. Fisher made a spectacular right-to-left kick save to maintain the one-goal cushion 25 seconds into the two-man advantage, but with nine seconds left on the five-on-three, Jon Pelle banged home a Doug Rogers rebound to knot the score at two apiece. Harvard continued to harass Fisher and the ‘Cats as the period wound to a close. Fisher gloved down a Taylor shot with a minute-ten left, even as Rogers was falling over Fisher’s back.
“Some of the desperation we were looking for showed up in the second half [of the game],” said Harvard bench boss Ted Donato.
The Ivy Leaguers looked like they might let things slip from their grasp again in the second period, but unlike in previous games, the bounces… and the effort… were there for them.
Despite five straight defensive-zone faceoffs between the four- and five-minute marks, and a few quality scoring chances by QU’s Bryan Leitch, the score held 2-2 for 17 minutes of action. But at 17:33 of the second, it was Biega’s time to shine.
The big-name frosh took an offensive-zone pass from Taylor near the QU blueline, and weaved deftly, straight down Broadway, through the blue-and-gold defense. His quick release beat Fisher straight-up, sans screen or interference.
“I guess I’m on a little streak,” he said, “but all my goals have been off great passes, on the rush,” he generously deferred.
Harvard only registered three official shots on goal in the second period to Quinnipiac’s nine, a dramatic turnaround from the 16-5 home advantage after period one.
In the opening seconds of the third period, Harvard made a play for the insurance marker. Left-winger Tyler Magura sprung Steve Mandes on a clean breakaway at center-ice, but Fisher turned the high shot away with his left shoulder.
The Bobcats countered three minutes later, as a mad pile of bodies clogged the Harvard crease, resulting in numerous chaotic shots and shot opportunities. One way or another, the puck stayed out.
At 3:29, just as Sorteberg left the box after serving two minutes for a hit-from-behind penalty, Biega was denied second goal and fourth point on a miraculous stop by Fisher. The puck squirted out to Fisher’s right as the goalie was down, hugging his left-side post. Biega flew in and whistled a shot ticketed for the dead-center of the net, but Fisher sprung head-first across the net, and rejected the shot with the underside of his outstretched blocker. The formidable workhorse Fisher made 25 saves on the night. Harvard’s Jack Christian took a roughing penalty with only 2:21 to go in the 3-2 game, and Pecknold used his team’s timeout.
Fisher abandoned his crease as his team won the proceeding faceoff. However, QU continually failed to hold the offensive zone, as the puck found itself rolling slowly toward the yawning net time and time again. Harvard finally made them pay, as a result of an exceptional play by Magura. As Christian left the sin bin, Magura took his place on the ice. Flying off the bench, he upended the Bobcat puck-carrier at the Harvard blueline, blindsiding him on what was more slide-tackle than body-check. The puck popped loose, and Megura found Jimmy Fraser alone on the left wing. Fraser carried the puck swiftly inside Quinnipiac’s zone, and coolly buried the rubber for the insurmountable 4-2 lead with ten seconds to play.
“We had some good flurries,” Pecknold said of the late power-play, “but some of our forward made some bad decisions.”
Pecknold was assessed a ten-minute misconduct after the final horn. Neither coach was particularly pleased with the officiating, but both refrained from commenting.
Harvard hosts Princeton on Saturday night, hoping to climb out of a 2-6-0 ECACHL hole. The win kept the Crimson from matching their worst-ever start (2-8-0, 1940-41), and matched their season-high so far in goals (achieved three other times). The Cambridge club also hosts Vermont on Tuesday night, in a matchup between old ECACHL foes. (Vermont joined Hockey East last season.)
Quinnipiac lost for only the second time in ten games, as well as for the second time in league play this season. Pecknold & Co. are still without the services of senior forward Mike Bordieri for the near future; he remains unavailable after enduring a punctured lung, broken ribs and a ruptured spleen at Rensselaer in early November. The ‘Cats hit Dartmouth Saturday night in a battle for first place: each team has nine points, but QU has a game in hand on the Green.