PRINCETON, N.J. — Princeton and No. 16 Quinnipiac battled though almost 45 minutes of scoreless hockey in an ECAC Hockey League tussle on Saturday night before junior right wing Jamie Bates tallied the game’s only two goals to lift the visiting Bobcats to a 2-0 decision before 1,817 on-lookers at Hobey Baker Rink. The game-winner came from a sharp angle in the Princeton zone in the first five minutes of the third period, while the insurance marker went into an empty net in the final minute of play.
“We tried to stay positive and keep getting pucks on net,” said Bates following the game.
Quinnipiac Head Coach Rand Pecknold told his team to concentrate on getting goals that weren’t exactly of the highlight-reel variety as the scoreless deadlock wore on.
“Between the second and third periods, I told them to try and get ugly goals,” said Pecknold, now in his 13th year at the Bobcat helm. “It (the game-winning goal) wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t picture perfect.
“I thought we weren’t getting to the net enough (early on).”
“They’re a very good team, and they showed it,” said third-year Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky, who was pleased with his own team’s effort on the night. “I give them (Quinnipiac) a lot of credit, and they showed why they’re in first place.”
Freshman goaltender Zane Kalemba stopped 28 shots for the host Tigers (7-8-2, 4-6-1 ECACHL), while sophomore netminder Bud Fisher made 23 saves and picked up his first shutout of the season for the visiting Bobcats (9-5-4, 6-2-3 ECACHL), who were playing in just their second game since Dec. 9. Princeton, winner of four straight contests entering the game, finished 0-for-2 on the power play, while Quinnipiac went 0-for-5 with the extra man and outshot the Tigers, 30-23. Princeton experienced a 4-2 setback to the U.S. Under-18 Team in an exhibition match at Baker Rink on Friday night, but that game will not count in its final record or statistics.
The teams traded even-strength chances in the opening 20 minutes, but neither squad was able to break through for the opening tally. Several first-period pucks came loose in front of the Princeton net, but each time they were just out of reach of a Quinnipiac player before they were cleared away. Princeton rookie winger Cam MacIntyre was penalized for interference at 5:57 to give the Bobcats the first power play of the evening, and they swarmed about the Tiger net looking for an opening. Quinnipiac junior center Ben Nelson had two tries from deep in the left circle, the second after knocking down his own rebound, but Kalemba denied him both times.
Freshman winger and New Jersey native Mike Atkinson, playing in his second game for the Bobcats after transferring from Vermont, almost split the Princeton defense for a breakaway chance on a home run pass from just outside the Quinnipiac blueline with 11:20 left, but the puck went too far out of his reach. Princeton senior left wing Kevin Westgarth hit the left post on a one-timer from the left circle with 10:45 remaining, and junior Kyle Hagel’s wrister off a rush from the right side a minute later was snuffed by Fisher.
Quinnipiac got the only other power play of the opening period when Princeton senior defenseman Brett Westgarth was sent off for holding a Quinnipiac player’s stick at 11:51. Sophomore winger Bryan Leitch got off the best chance of the man advantage for the Bobcats, but his wrister from the left circle was stopped by Kalemba.
Quinnipiac senior captain Reid Cashman weaved his way up ice and deep into the Princeton zone with 90 seconds left to get off a backhander from the goal line to Kalemba’s left that was stopped by the rookie netminder. Princeton freshman forward Kevin Kaiser had two tries from in close that were turned aside with a minute remaining in the opening session, before sophomore center Brett Wilson’s slapper from the top of the left circle was knocked away by Fisher in the last 17 seconds.
The Bobcats went on their third power play when Princeton junior blueliner Mike Moore was whistled off for high-sticking/contact to the head at 7:11 of the second stanza. He was joined in the penalty box just 58 seconds later by senior captain Darroll Powe, who was charged with hitting from behind. Cashman’s diagonal feed from the right point on the two-man advantage found Bates alone at the left post, but Kalemba stretched across the net to make back-to-back saves before later denying shots from both the right and left goal lines as Princeton killed off the overlapping penalties.
The Tigers received their first power play at 10:48 when Quinnipiac sophomore defenseman Andrew Meyer went off for tripping. Princeton couldn’t get off a clean shot on the man advantage and had several attempts blocked, and a pass to freshman center Mark Magnowski, who was standing alone at the right post with time winding down, went through his skates. The Bobcats then went on their fourth extra-man opportunity when MacIntyre was tabbed for boarding with 4:19 left, and with just ten seconds left in the penalty, Leitch gunned one from the right circle that was gloved down by Kalemba. Quinnipiac freshman center Eric Lampe went down the left wing and cut to the net before pushing a backhander wide with 1:15 left in the period, and then Kevin Westgarth bumped a Quinnipiac defender off the puck in the right corner and tried to center a pass with six seconds left that didn’t get through before the horn sounded.
Quinnipiac junior right wing and Florida Panthers NHL draftee Dan Travis took a hard hit behind the Princeton net just 22 seconds into the third period, leaving some blood on the ice. He got up and skated off several minutes later with some assistance, holding a towel to his face. Atkinson was penalized at 2:21 for roughing/contact to the head, but the shorthanded Bobcats held on and then counterattacked just after the Princeton power play had expired.
Leitch raced away with the puck down the left side, with Brett Westgarth alongside him, and Westgarth knocked down Leitch in the left circle of the Princeton zone before Leitch could get a shot off. The Bobcats quickly regained possession, and then broke through on the scoreboard as Bates fired from along the goal line in the left corner. The puck went off Kalemba and in at 4:41 for the game’s opening goal. Freshman left wing Jean-Marc Beaudoin and Leitch assisted on the play, Bates’ sixth score of the season.
“The puck came to me in the corner and I shot it,” related Bates. “I didn’t think their goalie was ready for it.”
Kalemba gloved and held Leitch’s shot off a face-off to the Princeton goalie’s right with 12:16 left, before Quinnipiac junior center Ben Nelson was stopped at the left post on a backhand try less than a half-minute later. Princeton sophomore center Lee Jubinville powered out of the left corner and cut to the Quinnipiac net with 11:21 left, but his ensuing backhander was stopped by Fisher.
The teams then went back and forth before Kalemba was pulled with just over a minute remaining in regulation for an extra attacker, but the puck ultimately squirted off the end boards in the Princeton zone and into the high slot. Bates corralled it and then buried it on his backhand with 44 seconds left to cement the contest. It was the first time Princeton had been shut out this season, and the first time the Tigers had been blanked since a 5-0 defeat at Clarkson in their 2005-06 season finale in the first round of the ECACHL playoffs.
Quinnipiac now leads the all-time series with Princeton by a 2-1 count. The teams will meet again on Tuesday night in Connecticut to close out the season series, and Pecknold expects more of the same kind of game against a more-than-worthy opponent.
“They’re well-coached and work hard,” said Pecknold of Princeton. “They have a really nice team, and I was impressed. We’ll have our work cut out for us Tuesday night.”
“It was a very good hockey game, and our goaltender played great,” said Gadowsky. “I’m not disappointed in our effort, I’m disappointed in the loss.”
Tuesday’s meeting will be the next-to-last game the Bobcats will host at the venerable Northford Ice Pavilion before they move into a state-of-the-art on-campus home at the brand-new TD Banknorth Sports Center later this month.