HAMDEN, Conn. — Quinnipiac couldn’t dent the Union defense through 40 minutes Saturday night.
The third period was a different story as the Bobcats scored three unanswered goals in the final period to beat Union 3-2 and extend their national-best unbeaten streak to 16 games.
Despite trailing by two goals for most of the game, Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold was more than pleased with his team’s play.
“I thought we were confident the whole game,” Pecknold said. “We did take some stupid penalties, but other than those stupid penalties, we played a great game.”
The Bobcats trailed 2-0 after a pair of power-play goals in the first period.
On the first goal, Quinnipiac tried to clear the puck, but Wayne Simpson intercepted it in the slot. Simpson picked his spot and wristed the puck in the top-right corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.
The Dutchmen added to their lead about five minutes later. Once again, Quinnipiac couldn’t clear the puck as it bounced to Greg Coburn on the left side of the net, where he knocked it past Eric Hartzell for the two-goal lead.
All hell broke loose in the final 30 seconds of the second period when Travis St. Denis and Connor Jones picked up five-minute majors just 30 seconds apart. First, St. Denis got whistled when he and Shayne Gostisbehere got tangled up. St. Denis threw an extra hit in open ice with a butt end that got him thrown out of the game. Gostisbehere earned a two-minute minor for his part.
Less than a minute later, Jones hit Daniel Carr at the blue line with an elbow. Jones was visibly shocked by the call when he was sent off on a major penalty for contact to the head-elbowing.
“I just said to them that whatever happens whether or not it’s 2-0 or 3-0, it doesn’t matter – we just need to get back to work,” Pecknold said. “We’ve controlled most of the game and we’ll get our goals.”
In all, Union ended up with a four-on-three for 1:22 and a five-on-three for three minutes, but the Bobcats never let Union set up in the early part of the third period. Union generated a handful of opportunities, but could not score.
“We have to have more urgency to put a team away and when you try to beat a great team, you have to put them away and you can’t let them back in the game and that is exactly what we did,” Union coach Rick Bennett said.
From that moment on, it was all Quinnipiac.
“We knew were going to kill it,” Quinnipiac defenseman Mike Dalhuisen said. “We knew that once we killed it that good things were going to happen.”
The Bobcats cut into Union’s lead 6:23 into the third period. Right off a faceoff win, Dalhuisen ripped a shot through traffic that beat Troy Grosenick to make it 2-1.
“We all knew that once we got the kill we could just get back to work and get pucks on net,” Kellen Jones said. “All we needed was that first goal and the crowd was into it.”
Quinnipiac tied it up on a Jordan Samuels-Thomas power-play goal. After Cole Ikkala was whistled for interference, the Bobcats went on the advantage. Grosenick made the initial save on a shot from Dalhuisen at the point. Samuels-Thomas crashed the net and tapped the rebound into the back of the net.
The Bobcats finally took the lead two minutes later on a similar goal from Kellen Jones, who stepped into the Union zone and left the puck for Cory Hibbeler.
Hibbeler wristed a soft shot on net that Grosenick stopped with his right toe. Jones swiped at the rebound and tipped it under Grosenick.
Following the loss, Bennett was quick to credit Quinnipiac with its stellar effort.
“They faced a little adversity, they had a couple of guys thrown out, but you know what? They battled hard and they showed heart,” Bennett said. “My hat’s off to them.”
After the game, Dalhuisen was asked if anything surprises the team.
“It was surprising that we tied last night,” Dalhuisen said with a serious tone. “We like to win. Sometimes, you need a wake-up call like that. I am confident that if we keep playing like this then nothing can go wrong.”