HAMDEN, Conn. — Brown fought back in the final two minutes of regulation to force a 3-3 tie against No. 1 Quinnipiac.
The Bobcats held a 3-1 lead late in the third period until the Bears netted a pair just a minute apart near the end of regulation.
That said, Brown coach Brendan Whittet wasn’t in the mood for celebrating a tie against the nation’s top-ranked squad.
“Quite honestly, I didn’t think we had our ‘A’ game tonight,” Whittet said. “We are missing our best forward [Garnet] Hathaway and we got some guys with the flu that played. Still, we found a way to get the three points on the weekend and those are three big points.”
With just two games left in the regular season, every point is essential for a team like Brown that is fighting for a first-round home series. The Bears are currently sitting in eighth place with 18 points, just one point ahead of Princeton and Cornell.
Entering next week’s practices, Whittet admitted he wants to keep things simple.
“Just trying to get better and not worrying about where we end up in the standings, but the process and how we have to go about it to get to where we want to be,” Whittet said with a smile. “It’s coach talk, but it’s the truth.”
As the clock ticked down to the final two minutes, Jeff Ryan willed his team to within a goal. Ryan came off the near-side half boards and drove through the right circle. As he muscled through the Bobcats’ defense, he wrestled a shot behind Quinnipiac goalie Eric Hartzell to bring the score to 3-2.
Brown tied it up a minute later on Chris Zaires’ sixth goal of the season. Brown pulled goaltender Anthony Borelli with just over a minute left in regulation after the Brunos dumped the puck into the QU end. The Bears raced to the loose puck and gained possession in the near corner. After Hartzell turned away a shot at the circle, the Bears attacked the net. Zaires joined the effort and poked the loose puck past Hartzell for the equalizer.
“[Zaires has] been great,” Whittet said. “He’s a senior, a leader and he’s got great stick skills. He plays in all situations and he wears a letter for a reason.”
The Bobcats entered the game with the No. 1-rated team defense in the nation, but as Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold explained, they certainly did not play like a top-rated defense, especially in the final minutes.
“I am certainly disappointed in the outcome,” Pecknold said. “We struggled buying into the little things tonight. It was just sloppy. I think in the last month, we haven’t played our best hockey and Hartzell has been bailing us out. The guys just aren’t buying in like they did earlier in the year and we need to find a way to get them to recommit if we want to advance in the playoffs. The way we are playing right now, we are going to have a tough time getting out of the round after the bye.”
The Bobcats jumped out to an early 1-0 lead just 2:32 into the first period, but the Bears held their ground for the rest of the period and knotted the score 7:29 into the second period.
Four minutes later, the Bobcats regained the lead on a Jordan Samuels-Thomas power-play goal. Zach Davies wristed shot on net from the left point that Samuels-Thomas tipped at the goal line. The puck finally sneaked under Borelli to give Quinnipiac the 2-1 lead.
Quinnipiac extended its lead 29 seconds into the third period on Russell Goodman’s sixth goal of the season. Once again, Davies was the catalyst at the point as he sent a soft wrister on net from blue line. The puck bounced through the slot and eventually deflected off of Goodman at the top of the crease and under Borelli for the 3-1 lead.
Brown did its part in the third staying out of the penalty box and limiting Quinnipiac to nine shots.
“It was just a really gritty effort to come back in that game against a team that is No. 1 in team defense,” Whittet said. “They don’t give up those goals easily. For our guys to come up with a point and to score those two goals at the end, I think it is a really good point on the road, a really good point.”