HAMDEN, CT — During Quinnipiac’s unprecedented fall from grace, it has not been the play on the defensive side that has hurt them; it has been its inability to find the back of the net, something they did with reckless abandon until December. In tonight’s matchup with visiting Colgate before 2,687 fans at the TD Bank Sports Center, neither team had an easy time hitting the mesh.
“No, I think they just played better than we did tonight,” said Colgate coach Don Vaughn, who was not worried that Quinnipiac’s awful puck luck of late might have been contagious. “They had more energy. I thought they skated and battled a little harder. And for whatever reason, we didn’t seem to have our legs tonight and they did.”
It was a defensive battle all night in this contest between two teams that had been going in different directions. Quinnipiac had three shots on goal through the first fourteen minutes, while Colgate had but one.
The Bobcats were much more effective on offense early on however, as they generated the only legitimate chances, but just could not get the puck on net. Raiders’ defenseman Mike Leidl made a great defensive play to break up a two-on-one when he put his stick and body on Russell Goodman just as he was about to one-time a pass from Greg Holt with the goalie out of position. Eventually though, the Bobcats cashed in.
The first goal, which turned out to be the game-winner, came at 14:16 of the first when Mike Glaicar skated in front of his own net and fed a pass from the defensive zone to a streaking Holt, who got out ahead of the defense in transition for a breakaway. As he skated in on goal, he faked a shot on the forehand before switching to the backhand and roofing it over the stick of Alex Evin to make the water bottle dance.
Holt has been one of the more consistent performers for the blue-and-gold during their skid, scoring 11 of his 20 points during the last 15 games.
“He’s having a really good senior year and has definitely emerged as one of our leaders,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “I mean that was a great, big time goal with a couple dipsy-dos before he ripped it under the bar. It was a huge goal for us because early in the year, we could play from behind, play from in front, and were great no matter what was going on. Lately, we’ve been struggling when we get behind. We just don’t have that confidence that we can come back, so it was really important that we scored that first goal.
Play opened up after that first goal, but solid play by both goaltenders kept this a 1-0 game most of the way. Alex Evin made his seventh straight start in net for the Raiders, a streak that began after he relieved Charles Long late in a 4-0 loss at St. Lawrence on January 15. Colgate has lost just once, and that was in overtime, over that span, during which Evin is averaging under two goals allowed per game. He performed spectacularly again tonight and was the only reason his team was able to stay in the game, making 16 of his 34 saves in the third period to give his team a chance.
Freshman Christian Long, brother of Charles, commented that he takes the competition between the two goalies with a grain of salt.
“Obviously, I like to see my brother succeed and do well, but as a team we have to look at the big picture and if we’re winning with Al in net and he’s playing great, then that’s what we have to keep on doing. My brother has a few difficulties and maybe he’s a little bit inconsistent at times, but I know if he gets his shot he’s going to do very well. Right now, Al is playing great, so we have to keep doing what is best for the team.”
There was a delay near the end of the first when the Colgate bench thought that a shot had ripped through the net and out the back of the goal, but referee Scott Whittemore went to video review and said no.
One minute into the second, Nick Prockow had a great chance to tie the game from right next to the net, but Dan Clarke came up big with the glove. Clarke made it look easy all game, even when screened, by staying in proper position which allowed him to take a lot of shots right in the chest. The Bobcats killed all five Colgate power plays in dominant fashion, and Clarke made 26 saves to earn his second career shutout.
“I thought it was a good hockey game; both teams played hard,” said Pecknold. “I thought Dan Clarke was excellent in net. (Both teams) could have scored a couple more. In the end for us, we battled and competed hard and it was one of our better games in awhile. It’s a lot of relief. We have been playing pretty well and just not getting the results, so we are happy to get the monkey off our back.”
Top defenseman Zach Hansen was out most of the second period for Quinnipiac after he took a slapper off the wrist, forcing a ‘D’ with four freshman on it to step it up even more. Hansen came back in the third though and it paid dividends, as he was able to add an insurance goal with two seconds remaining on a QU five-on-three. Brandon Wong fed the puck back up top to him at the blue line and his wrister found its way through traffic to beat a screened Evin.
The win was only the second for Quinnipiac since it ended the month of November with a record of 12-1-0 and a No. 3 national ranking. It also snapped an eight-game conference losing streak and gave them confidence that they still have a chance to turn things around and earn home-ice despite the teams right behind them like Harvard, Princeton, and Brown gaining momentum.
Right now the Bobcats sit alone in seventh place with only three points separating them from both fourth place and a first-round bye, as well as 10th place and a first-round road trip. Colgate sits a point ahead of them in sixth place.
“I think we needed a greasy win,” commented captain Jean-Marc Beaudoin. “We worked hard for that. We’ve been outshooting teams the last couple games and I think this win will carry over to next weekend and hopefully through the playoffs. (Evin) made some big saves tonight when we had key opportunities and you have to give him a lot of credit. Unfortunately for him, his team couldn’t score kind of like we haven’t been able to help Clarke out.”
Colgate hosts Yale and Brown in Hamilton next weekend, while Quinnipiac makes the long trip to the North Country to take on St. Lawrence and Clarkson.