HANOVER, N.H. — Quinnipiac hockey is coming home for the holidays so long as you consider the end of daylight savings time worthy of a celebration.
If not, Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold will be happy with several developments that came as a result of Saturday nights 4-1 ECAC Hockey win over Dartmouth at Thompson Arena. The big one: the victory clinched a home date in the conference tournament first round next week against Colgate, where a loss would have sent the Bobcats (16-15-3 overall, 9-10-3 league) packing for the road.
Among the others: a superior performance in goal from Bud Fisher (42 saves) and a rare win without injured forward Brandon Wong, just the third in 11 contests since Wong left the lineup. Bryan Leitch had a goal and three assists to key the victory over the Big Green (14-12-3, 11-9-2), which saw its hopes for a first round bye evaporate with the loss.
We needed a win or a tie for home ice, and obviously that was on the line, but weve been struggling here since Brandon went down, Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. We needed a win. We needed to go into the playoffs on a positive note.
The Bobcats never trailed, using two Dartmouth errors to pot two important goals.
The first came at 3:34 of the first period, when Big Green defenseman Evan Stephens coughed up the puck at the side of his own goal while defending a Quinnipiac power play. David Marshall jumped on the miscue and pushed it past Dartmouth netminder Jody ONeill (27 saves) for the first of his two goals on the night.
Matt Sortebergs 4-on-4 drive stretched the visitors lead to 2-0 early in the second period, a goal Dartmouth answered when Kyle Schussler banked a centering feed off the skate of linemate Connor Shields and into the Bobcats net at 14:22.
The Big Green pounded Fisher with 21 shots in the third period without success. Leitch then burned Darrtmouth for another defensive-zone giveaway with a 30-foot laser over ONeills left shoulder with 2:54 to play to put the game away. Marshall converted into an empty net at 19:19 for the clincher.
While disappointed in the defeat, especially after a rousing 2-0 blanking of Princeton on Friday night, Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet chose to look at the bright side. The Big Green, which dropped from fourth to sixth with its loss along with St. Lawrence and Harvard victories, will still be at home to open the conference tournament on Friday, with Rensselaer paying the visit.
The experts picked us way down in the league, and what they dont understand is the amount of heart and determination these guys had, Gaudet said. “You see the product on the ice, but I see the product starting two weeks after last season in the weight room, in the shooting range, doing strength work.
Its pretty incredible what these guys sacrifice in order to develop.
Marshalls goals give him 20 on the season, while Leitch passed the 50-point plateau with his four point night.
Greg Fennell covers Dartmouth hockey for the Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H.