OMAHA, Neb. — In blowing a 4-0 lead to Union on Friday night, Quinnipiac’s 12 freshmen learned the hard way a valuable lesson about college hockey: No lead is safe.
Trust me, they got that message loud and clear.
It wasn’t end-to-end action like Friday night’s first game, but QU again jumped to an early 4-0 lead and only a small defensive lapse in the second period ruined a potential shutout as the Bobcats (1-1-0, 0-0-0 ECAC Hockey) cast aside American International (0-2-0, 0-0-0 Atlantic Hockey) 4-1 in Saturday’s third-place game in the Mutual of Omaha Stampede at Qwest Center Omaha.
The game started off largely in the same way that QU’s matchup with Union had on Friday, with the Bobcats scoring four times in the first period.
What didn’t carry over from Friday night, though, was AIC’s ability to start off strong — the Yellow Jackets took an early lead against Nebraska-Omaha before eventually losing 4-1 — as David Marshall, Spencer Heichman, David Arduin and Zach Hansen all beat Yellow Jacket goaltender Tom Fenton for their first goals of the season in the opening twenty minutes.
“Clearly, we were outplayed in the first period, and we dug ourselves into an enormous hole,” AIC head coach Gary Wright said. “It didn’t look too promising. We’re disappointed with the game in general, but we’re particularly disappointed with our start.”
AIC pulled a goal closer at 7:08 of the second period when Yellow Jacket defenseman Matt Woodard telegraphed a give-and-go pass to Chris Campanale, who beat QU netminder Nick Pisellini glove-side on a breakaway, but any momentum that the Jackets had amassed was washed away when the Bobcats killed a vital five-on-three AIC power play midway through the period.
“I thought it was a great kill. We had two defensemen in the box and two forwards, which we usually don’t do, but they definitely did a great job,” Bobcat head coach Rand Pecknold said. “They (AIC) score there, and it’s a different game.”
Wright obviously took a different approach to the blown opportunity. “You have to take advantage of that, and we have to get that straightened out,” he said. “When it’s 4-0 but you’re starting to play better and you get it to 4-1 and you have an opportunity like that, you’ve got to get it done.”
Quinnipiac killed off another five-on-three AIC power play in the third period, but the game was essentially all but over by that point, and Quinnipiac, initially one of the favorites to win the Stampede, had bounced back from a disappointing 6-5 overtime loss to league rival Union on Friday to secure third place in the tournament.
“I think we learned some things here,” he said. “We learned what we need to do to be successful, and that’s to compete and do some little things well like gap up, stay up on the play, and show face-off intensity.
“We harp on those things all the time, but we just didn’t do those things on Friday night, and we saw the result of that, so in that way, for as hard as it is to say it, sometimes a loss can be a good thing.”
Both teams now head home to New England, with Quinnipiac facing an away date at UMass-Lowell next weekend, and AIC preparing for five straight Atlantic Hockey league games at home.
Notes: For the second night in a row, the attendance for the first game was disappointing. Granted, putting together two teams 1,000-plus miles away from either’s home ice isn’t a good way of filling seats, but it was still unfortunate considering that most other major sporting events in the Omaha area were over and done with by the time this game started … Brandon Wong made the Stampede All-Tournament team with three goals in Friday night’s game and an assist on Saturday.