ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Quinnipiac opened the 2013-14 season with a lengthy scoring drought, but once the Bobcats located the net, they claimed a 3-1 win on the road at St. Cloud State.
The top line of Quinnipiac (1-0-1) did all of the damage; sophomore left wing Nicole Connery led the way with a goal and two assists, senior center Kelly Babstock had a pair of helpers and rookie Emma Woods scored twice.
“I was impressed,” said Bobcats’ coach Rick Seeley. “For a while, we were playing desperate and people were being individuals, trying to make it happen themselves. Then when we really got it together, they just went out and played hockey. I thought we won every shift in the last 10 minutes.”
On Friday night, goaltending dominated for all 65 minutes with the two teams skating to a scoreless overtime tie.
Saturday’s plot was only slightly altered early, as the Huskies (0-1-1) took a one-goal lead 9:01 in on a power-play goal by Vanessa Spataro, and the 1-0 lead held up for more than two periods.
With just over seven minutes remaining, Babstock turned the game when she forced a turnover and slid the puck to Connery, who snapped a shot that beat Katie Fitzgerald’s blocker.
“Maybe we got lulled to sleep by [Babstock], too,” SCSU coach Jeff Giesen said. “I think the [Olympic-sized] rink was an advantage for us and being able to skate with them. As the game wore on, we kind of worried less about her, and then all of a sudden, she showed up again. She’s dangerous from wherever she is at.”
The Bobcats had been slowly taking over the game as the third period progressed and they took an extra burst of energy from their first goal of the season.
“In the third period, we came out harder than we had all weekend,” Bobcats’ junior goaltender Chelsea Laden said. “As a group of girls, we’re learning that we can’t look too far ahead. We have to take each minute and each period super seriously.”
Two and a half minutes later, Woods took a pass on the weak side and found twine before Fitzgerald could get across.
Woods added an insurance goal at 17:08, capitalizing off of another turnover and scoring from the low slot.
“The goals were the result of building on good shifts prior, too,” Seeley said. “Each line played well and then Babstock’s line obviously capitalized for us.”
Quinnipiac closed out the win without further drama.
The last best chance for the Huskies came when Amy Olson’s line had multiple whacks at the puck in an attempt to forge a 2-2 tie with just over 3:20 to play. Instead, Laden was able to cover the puck and Woods soon sealed the deal at the other end.
That made it a happy homecoming for Laden, originally from Lakeville, Minn., and playing in her home state for the first time as a collegian.
“Until the last eight minutes of the game, it wasn’t looking so hot,” Laden said. “But I’m really proud of the freshmen. They really pulled it together; they didn’t cave in.”
For St. Cloud State, the game slipped away as the third period wound down.
“A little bit of our youth and obviously, having some older players play in areas they haven’t played in yet, in different spots and just getting a little tight,” Giesen said. “We took it to them I thought for the first period and a half, for sure. We just played a little bit nervous and then we make two mistakes that end up on the board.”
Back in the first period, Spataro took a short shovel pass from Molli Mott and smacked it by Laden on the power play for a 1-0 St. Cloud State lead. Michelle Burke made a subtle play from the sidewall to create the two-on-one opportunity down low.
“Everyone broke down on that penalty kill and left someone wide open on the back door,” Seeley explained.
Audrey Hanmer clanged the crossbar with a loud slapper late in the second period while on another power play.
“It can be a goalie’s favorite sound and a goalie’s worst sound depending on where the puck goes after the ding,” Laden said. “It kind of woke me up.”
“If that goes bar down instead of bar up, we’re up 2-0,” Giesen said.
Hanmer displayed skills not seen on the Huskies’ blue line in almost a decade.
“I’d compare her to Kobi Kawamoto,” Giesen said. “She does a lot of the same things. She mirrors Kobi and she can really control [the game].”
Quinnipiac had an extended five-on-three chance near the end of the second frame, but the Huskies did a good job of getting in the way of shots and Fitzgerald came up with a couple of big saves.
The Huskies’ Kalli Funk had a point-blank opportunity nine minutes into the third period, but Laden swallowed it up.
“I was just focused on the next shot and that’s about as much as I could do,” she said.
Laden recorded 27 saves in earning the victory, while Fitzgerald recorded 29 stops for the Huskies.
“Chelsea Laden, stepping in as a true starter for the first time in her career, I thought was exceptional,” Seeley said.
Next up, SCSU heads to Columbus, Ohio, to face Ohio State next Friday and Saturday and Quinnipiac hosts Penn State for two games.
“A good learning point for us, getting into league play next week,” Giesen said. “[Ohio State is] a good team. I think they’re going to be in the mix all year, so we’ll look back and say it was a good tune-up anyway for us going into league play.”