NIAGARA, N.Y. — Quinnipiac and Niagara battled in a seesaw contest that saw the Bobcats surrender a comfortable 4-2 midway through the third period yet still endure to earn a 6-4 victory at Dwyer Arena.
After controlling the middle of the ice for most of the game, Quinnipiac came unglued in the third period while the Purple Eagles clawed their way back into contention on consecutive goals from Brian Haczyk and Travis Anderson.
But the Achilles heel of Niagara hockey this year has been the power play.
Niagara found the net twice on the man advantage tonight but yielded the decisive tie-breaking goal shorthanded, after failing to convert on a late power-play opportunity of their own.
Quinnipiacs most valuable player (and buzzed about Hobey Baker candidate) Bryan Leitch transitioned out of his zone and threaded a pass to a streaking Zach Hansen with little over a 1:38 remaining in the game. Hansen beat Niagara goalie Juliano Pagliero to cement the game for the Bobcats.
Their power play outplayed our power play, Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. Ball game.
Indeed, Quinnipiac made the most of its special teams play, tallying a total of four times. It was even up where the Bobcats struggled and Niagara gained ground until finally tying things up at the 15:03 of the third period on Andersons clutch goal. Burkholder credited his senior defenseman for having one of his finest games in a Purple Eagle uniform.
Travis played a great game…Weve got some other seniors who, on some nights, are squeezing it hard, Burkholder said. We have to hope they loosen up at some point. I couldnt ask for a better effort from the team. It seemed like on their first three goals, they caught some great bounces. On the first one, the puck hits our goalie in the mask, goes straight up in the air, then trickles off his back into the net.
Burkholder was quick to credit the Bobcats offensive prowess.
Theyre one of the most gifted teams offensively in the country, he said. Leitch is such a big body. He just knows how to make plays.
It isnt coaching, Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said, in attempt to explain his teams good fortune on the man advantage. Ive got good players. On both units tonight we did a good jobOur D is committed to blocking shots. So are the forwards. Thats something we stress and tonight I feel it paid off. This was not, by far, our best effort of the season.
David Marshall chipped in two of the Bobcats goals, the second of which was an empty netter. Egor Mironov and Ted Cook factored on the score sheet for Niagara.
The teams meet again Saturday night to conclude the series.