STORRS, Conn. — Behind Brandon Wong’s overtime goal at the 1:42 mark, the Quinnipiac University Bobcats took a 4-3 victory over the Merrimack Warriors in the opening game of the 16th annual UCONN Hockey Classic at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
The game winning goal came when David Marshall carried the puck in to the offensive zone and wrapped the puck around. Bryan Leitch picked the puck up and carried it into the slot. Wong picked up the drop pass and beat Merrimack’s Andrew Braithwaite.
“Marshall and Leitch have done a great job offensively for us all season,” Quinnipiac Head Coach Rand Pecknold said. “Wong finished off a great play. That goal is a product of how well they’ve been playing so far.”
The Bobcats (8-6-1) scored two goals in the third period to send the game in overtime before the game winner in overtime.
Merrimack (4-9-3) opened up the scoring with goals from as Joe Cucci and Fraser Allan.
With two minutes remaining in the first period, Jeff Velleca carried the puck into the zone and faked a shot, left the puck for Francois Ouimet, who slid the puck across the slot for a one-timer backdoor goal for Cucci.
Merrimack extended the lead to two when Allan blasted a shot from the point past Quinnipiac’s Bud Fisher. Bobby Kramer passed to Chris Barton for a one-timer shot from the left circle that was blocked. Allan corralled the puck and beat Fisher through traffic at 4:34.
Quinnipiac cut the deficit in half when Greg Holt carried the puck into the Warriors zone on a two on one with Eric Lampe. Holt beat the defender and passed to Lampe who went on his backhand to beat Braithwaite’s stick side.
Three goals were scored in a span of 1:13 early in the third period.
“We came out slow,” said Pecknold. “Our guys really played better as the game progressed.”
Yuri Bouharevich tied it at two goals a piece for Quinnipiac on a misplayed puck by Braithwaite. Sami Liimatainen dumped the puck into the Merrimack zone. One official called an icing, where another waived him off as Braithwaite came out to stop the puck as it crossed the red line. It popped out into the crease and an alert Bouharevich pounced on the puck and into the empty net.
Merrimack responded quickly when Velleca beat Fisher short side under the bar on a blast from the right circle.
David Marshall tallied his eighth goal of the year when he went in on a breakaway, sprung from Leitch. Marshall came in between the circles and beat Braithwaite through the five hole at 4:04 of the third.
“Our players kept their composure over the course of the game,” said Pecknold. “We kept grinding it out and it paid off in the end.”
After a 24 day break the Bobcats returned to the ice after a 5-2 victory over Providence, while Merrimack dropped a 3-2 decision to Maine on December 7.
It is the Bobcats first appearance in the UCONN Hockey Classic, while Merrimack first appeared in 2004 finishing in third place.
Fisher made 28 saves in the contest to improve his record to 2-4-0, while Braithwaite stopped 22 shots in the loss to drop to 2-8-0.
The Bobcats will play in the championship game at 7:15 p.m. tomorrow, while Merrimack will play in the consolation game at 4:05 p.m.