ALBANY, N.Y. — As Quinnipiac may recall from its regular-season finale against Clarkson, the Golden Knights can turn it on in a hurry.
In that February 24 game at QU’s TD Banknorth Sports Center, the Golden Knights rolled off four third-period goals to better the Bobcats. And it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same: Saturday night, Clarkson left the Times-Union Center 4-2 victors, and ECACHL tournament champs, after scoring four unanswered.
Quinnipiac didn’t go easy on the league’s top offensive and defensive squad. The Bobcats, in their second year in the ECACHL, scored in the first and last minutes of the first period to take a startling 2-0 lead into the locker room.
Just 32 seconds into the game, Jean-Marc Beaudoin slipped a shot through Goaltender of the Year David Leggio’s five-hole from in close on a delayed penalty. The Bobcats launched a persistent and aggressive assault on the off-balance Knights, outshooting the second seed 10-2 through the first 10 minutes of the game. The teams traded penalties throughout the initial frame, with Clarkson taking three minors to QU’s four.
The Knights enjoyed a 40-second five-on-three with about five minutes left in the first, but only one of their four attempted shots got through to sophomore goalie Bud Fisher, who started his 10th straight game.
With 8.5 ticks left on the board, big sophomore Bryan Leitch whipped a shot that beat Leggio, giving the Q-Cats the two-goal advantage. The first session went into the books with Quinnipiac outshooting Clarkson 11-6.
The second period was more even, as the Bobcats began to experience fatigue related to the loss of defenseman Matt Sorteberg last weekend, and having to kill frequent penalties.
“We won two games without [Sorteberg], it’s tough to win a third,” said QU coach Rand Pecknold after the game. “Our guys were banged up, beat up.”
Right off the drop, Clarkson had three excellent scoring opportunities in a row off a two-on-one. Fisher saved the first shot from ten feet out, stopped a close-range rebound bid from the left edge of his crease, and a follow-up chance from right in the middle of the slot blew wide right.
The teams traded quick penalties on either side of the seven-minute mark, and Clarkson’s Steve Zalewski was whistled with 11 minutes left for a trip on Beaudoin, who took a seat next to the trainer after being flipped on the play.
The period was defined by strong defensive play and neutral-zone battles, as referee Peter Feola permitted a moderate amount of shifty stickwork by both sides.
With 1:12 left in the second, Knights senior Mike Sullivan had a truly Golden opportunity in front of Fisher. Dug in at the edge of the crease and even with Fisher’s blocker, big-time scorer David Cayer fed Sullivan a pass from behind the net, but Sullivan ripped the puck straight into the prepared Fisher’s chest.
“We were chasing ‘em all night,” said Bobcat captain Reid Cashman of the quick and agile Knights.
“They’re a tough team to get ready for,” agreed Pecknold. “There are not a lot of things you can do. We had to expend a lot of energy; we felt [the fatigue] in the third.”
Clarkson, however, felt differently at the end of 40 minutes of play.
“David [Leggio] kept us in the game,” said CU coach George Roll. “[I was] not happy at all. We were getting caught down low, not getting the puck up ice,” he said.
The coach was prepared to dig into his players a bit during the break, and hopefully set things straight for the third. But captain Nick Dodge — only a junior — had other ideas.
“Dodge came into the coaches’ office, and said, ‘Coach, unless you have something to talk about Xs-and-Os-wise, there’s no reason to come into the locker room.’”
“The captains told us to have fun,” said sophomore Chris D’Alvise, named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, “and in the third period, we had a lot of fun.”
A minute and 37 seconds into the final frame, Clarkson put the pedal to the metal. Fisher had occasion to positively rob Cayer, who came right-to-left across Fisher’s face with the goalie on his knees. Cayer tried to slide the puck into what was momentarily a yawning net, but Fisher denied him by fully extending his left arm and blocking the shot with his glove flat on the ice.
The effort, while remarkable, was rendered for naught only six seconds later, as the Golden Goal Machine came to life.
D’Alvise found a lonely puck to the side of the net immediately following a scramble, and put it into the twine before Fisher could find it. Moments later, the Knights had overtaken the gasping Bobcats in shots.
“For only being a sophomore and weighing 150 [pounds], he’s a great player,” Roll said in the postgame interview, grinning at D’Alvise.
D’Alvise fought hard through traffic to put a difficult deke on Fisher with 8:40 gone in the third, but the ‘keeper smothered it to deny the Ontario product his 17th goal of the season. Quinnipiac freshman Eric Lampe made a similar effort at Leggio’s end a minute later, but with the same result.
With 7:30 to go in the game and the majority of the 5,565 in attendance colored green, gold and restless, second-year Knight Philippe Paquet brought the constituents to their feet.
The defenseman jumped into the fray on the left-wing side, and knocked home a puck that ricocheted off the kickplate behind the Bobcat net.
“Down 2-0, we wanted to get D up to the net, get more offense. All of a sudden, I got the puck right on my stick and just put it right in there.”
Clarkson struck a powerful blow only 50 seconds later, as Fisher couldn’t corral a D’Alvise shot from down low to his right. The puck squirted through the butterflied goalie, and senior winger Brodie Rutherglen poked it home.
The dwindling time and sudden deficit gave Quinnipiac an extra burst of desperate energy, and the game opened up wide for the last six minutes. Fisher made three shorthanded saves during a Leitch roughing minor, and Pecknold called the team’s timeout with 2:03 on the clock.
Fisher officially abandoned his crease with 1:07 to play and QU doing all it could to maintain possession. However, with 56 seconds remaining, Shawn Weller secured the puck in space at the Bobcat blueline, and breezed it into the goal to clinch the title.
“I think we just ran out of gas,” said Pecknold. “There’s not a lot you could do.”
The Bobcats took the hard-luck loss in what was their fifth championship game in seven years, dating back to Atlantic Hockey and MAAC title games. The loss ended their season, when only 20 minutes before they had been in line for their second-ever NCAA tournament berth.
The Knights, meanwhile, claimed their first ECACHL championship since 1999 and will likely be a number-one seed in nearby Rochester in the East Regional. It is also the program’s first NCAA appearance since the spring of ’99, and their 18th overall.