ALBANY, N.Y. — Tight-checking, shot-blocking, disciplined play. That’s the style St. Lawrence plays.
Friday night in the ECACHL tournament semifinal, the Saints were beaten at their own game by Quinnipiac.
Learning a lesson from their meeting three weeks ago, the fifth-seeded Bobcats neutralized the top-seeded Saints’ attack. Ben Nelson scored twice, and goalie Bud Fisher made 23 saves as the Bobcats stunned the Saints, 4-0, at the Times Union Center.
The 18th-ranked Bobcats (21-15-3), who have won five straight, advanced to the championship game in just their second year in the ECACHL. They will take on second-seeded Clarkson or third-seeded Dartmouth Saturday at 8.
Quinnipiac lost the two regular-season meetings with No. 11 St. Lawrence (22-13-2). In the 4-1 loss Feb. 23 at Quinnipiac, the Saints frustrated the Bobcats by limiting their offensive chances.
That is what Quinnipiac did to St. Lawrence on Friday.
“We had to do certain things to beat St. Lawrence,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “They swept us during the regular season, and we struggled both games with them. We put in some systems in this week, and they really bought in.
“I think we played well. I think we worked hard, and found a way to beat their forecheck, which we hadn’t done earlier in the season.”
Quinnipiac was tenacious blocking shots, especially during the first two periods. Sixteen of its 17 blocked shots came in the first 40 minutes.
“Guys were getting in lanes,” said Fisher, who tied the tournament career shutout record with his third. “They were doing a great job of getting in that lane, and blocking that shot. It’s something that we worked on all year. Coach has made it an important thing for us to block those shots. Obviously, I really appreciate that.”
The normally disciplined Saints lost their composure, taking 10 penalties. The Bobcats had nine power plays.
St. Lawrence just couldn’t find any answers to solve Quinnipiac.
“They played with a lot of energy, and great poise,” St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh said. “You can certainly tell they’re a well-coached team.”
The Bobcats, which eliminated Union and Cornell in the first two rounds, scored the game’s first goal a little over five minutes into the first period. Nelson had his right-point shot blocked by Sean Flanagan. The puck came right back to Nelson as Flanagan’s momentum carried him past Nelson.
That gave Nelson an open lane. He skated to the left circle, and blasted a shot past goalie Alex Petizian’s left side.
“I didn’t want to get that first one blocked,” Nelson said. “He moved up on me quick. Then I happen to sneak on through, and I was all alone. Their other guy came out, and I knew if I missed him, the goalie wasn’t going to it. All I had to do was miss him, which I did.”
Brandon Wong scored a power-play goal less than seven minutes into the second period. He was left alone at the right of the net when Reid Cashman sent him the puck. Wong slid it past a diving Petizian.
David Marshall scored the back-breaking goal with 34.5 seconds left in the second. Shortly after serving a slashing penalty, Marshall carried the puck into the St. Lawrence zone. He cut to the net, and his shot was stopped. But the rebound caromed off a Saints defender and into the net.
Nelson got his second goal late in the game.
“I never would’ve thought we’d be in the ECAC finals, but we deserve it,” Wong said.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.