HAMDEN, Conn. — The U.S. National Under-18 team made its way to Hamden on Saturday night for their 13th NCAA matchup this season and the final tuneup for Quinnipiac before finishing off the season with nine straight conference games. The Bobcats came away with a 4-2 win, thanks to solid play from senior goaltender Pat McGann. McGann made 23 saves for the Bobcats, while John Gibson made 26 for the U.S.
McGann hadn’t started in a game in three years and did not play at all during his sophomore season. “Patty was great. I think he was our best player out there tonight.” said coach Rand Pecknold. “He is such a great kid and an excellent leader in our locker room. It was great to see him get a chance to play.”
Quinnipiac got on the board first just over halfway through the first period on their second power-play opportunity of the night.
On the Bobcats’ first power play, they had great puck control, but couldn’t get a solid scoring opportunity. It was a different story on their second chance. After some time off from playing with each other, captain Scott Zurevinski and freshman twins Connor and Kellen Jones were back at it on the first power-play line.
After Zurevinski took control of the puck in the far side corner, he immediately looked up to center the puck in front of Gibson. Connor Jones was parked at the top of the crease and tipped the pass to beat Gibson five-hole. Kellen was also credited with an assist on his brother’s goal.
Quinnipiac extended its lead to 2-0 with 3:44 left in the first period on Mike Dalhuisen’s second goal of the season. Dalhuisen rushed into the U.S. zone on a penalty kill, thanks to a hitting after the whistle call on Zurevinski. As Zurevinski’s penalty expired, Dalhuisen entered the high slot and had his first wrister blocked by a U.S. defender. Dalhuisen collected his own rebound and wristed it into the back of the net.
With 15 seconds left on the clock in the first period, McGann went to work. As Adam Reid found himself open in front of McGann, he took a centering pass and tipped it on net. McGann went right to left to make the split save, preserving the 2-0 lead.
Midway through the second period, McGann was at it again, this time denying Cole Bardreau on the doorstep. McGann saw Bardreau on his right side and dropped to the ground on his side and raised his glove blocking the shot and then promptly covered the rebound.
“I think I might have blacked out; I mean I haven’t made a save like that in years.” McGann said with a big happy grin on his face.
The U.S was not rattled by McGann’s play and continued to pepper the QU goaltender for the remainder of the period. With 4:47 left on the clock, Jake McCabe sent a shot from the point on net. The shot made a number of deflections after finally tipping off the stick of J.T Miller and past McGann.
“We wanted to keep our offensive game simple, just get pucks on the net and manufacture goals anyway that we can,” U.S. coach Ron Rolston said.
Quinnipiac answered back just 1:20 later on a three-on-one breakout. Yuri Bouharevich led the charge on the far side with John Dunbar in the center and Russell Goodman on the near side. Bouharevich’s shot was kicked away by Gibson and the rebound came right to Dunbar. The puck hopped over his stick and onto the tape of Goodman, who rang it off the left post and into the net.
The U-18 team would not be deterred, as they got back within one with just 3.2 seconds left on the clock in the second frame. On a screened wrist shot from the far point, Zac Larraza went top shelf to beat McGann who looked as though he never saw the puck.
With just a one goal lead entering the third period, the Bobcats sure didn’t make it an easier throughout the period. Quinnipiac combined for four minor penalties in the final frame.
“It’s not something that we really want being up 3-2, but overall on the year we have been good taking penalties.” Pecknold said.
Yet the U.S could not score.
“They were really aggressive and we had some cross-seam chances, but they controlled our down-low game and they did a great job covering our guys; we just need to do a better job spreading our crown out.” said Rolston
The Bobcats added one for insurance late in the third period with 2:25 left on the clock with yet another tipped shot. This time, Zach Currie took the initial shot from the point and allowed a streaking Dunbar to get a stick on it to tip it five-hole on Gibson.
Despite the four goals, it was McGann’s play that inspired the victory.
“Coach told me a while ago that I was going to be getting this start, so I had awhile to prepare for it.” McGann said, “Guys in the locker room were great; they kept saying ‘Let’s get this one for Patty and Cough.’ To have that support in and out every day is amazing.”
The Bobcats will head to Clarkson and St. Lawrence next week and will return home on February 4 against Union.