HAMDEN, Conn. – The Quinnipiac Bobcats used three unanswered goals to turn in a 3-1 win over the Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks in the home opener of the 2013-14 season.
It was banner night at the High Point Solutions Arena for the Bobcats (3-1-0), as they rose the banners for the ECAC Regular Season title, NCAA East Regional Title, and Frozen Four appearance from just a season ago.
With the veterans from that team, as well as a few graduates, returning for the ceremonies, Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said it was those players that carried the team in the game.
“Something that I’ve always known is that if you’ve got some horse that can carry you, and our horses carried us tonight,” Pecknold said. “While it wasn’t our best effort, our big guys stepped up and did what they needed to do to help us win a hockey game.”
Despite the loss for the River Hawks, coach Norm Bazin felt that his squad their best game of the season.
“I thought we played a good hockey game tonight,” Bazin said. “You know we certainly have to improve a few areas. I was more pleased with our effort tonight than I have been all year so if we continue with that same type of effort, we’re going to win a lot more than we lose.”
Quinnipiac’s penalty kill was one thing highlighted both Pecknold and Quinnipiac goaltender Michael Garteig after the game, as it took care of the five man-advantages Lowell (1-3-0) had.
“The fact that they could hardly set up in our zone was very good for me and gives me a lot of rest, I guess you could say,” Garteig said. “It’s not as stressful on me being around the whole time and being ready for the shots, and we got a lot of older guys in our PK you can tell, (are) very, very good.”
Although the Bobcats outshot the River Hawks, 28-23, Lowell had ample opportunities where Garteig stuffed multiple shots on the doorstep after the River Hawks took the initial 1-0 lead in the first period.
“[Garteig's] compete level was excellent, he was battling, he never quits on anything,” Pecknold said. “I thought his anticipation of some of the plays was excellent … I thought he was the best on the ice last night, and again tonight he was outstanding.”
Blocking was one of the keys in the game for Bazin, as he said how crucial it was in Quinnipiac taking away his team’s shots on goal.
“They’re ability to block shots tonight was probably the difference,” Bazin said. “From my standpoint. there were a lot of pucks directed to the net. but there wasn’t enough of them that got to the net.”
Lowell got on the board first when Jake Suter took a shot and Ryan McGrath joined the scrum in the crease, poking the puck in the back of the net past Garteig.
Less than two minutes later, Quinnipiac evened the score. Derek Smith started the play in the Bobcats zone, finding Kellen Jones, who sent the puck up ice to his brother, Connor, who skated into the right faceoff circle and wristed a shot over the blocker of Lowell netminder Doug Carr and off the post for the goal.
The special teams came through for Quinnipiac in the second period, when Kellen Jones gave the Bobcats a 2-1 lead with just over eight minutes remaining. Jones stole the puck in the defensive zone and skated over all three lines before he wristed a shot low blocker side and off the post to notch a short-handed goal.
Just under five minutes later, Jordan Samuels-Thomas doubled the Bobcats lead to make it 3-1 with a power-play goal. Smith cycled the puck to Zach Tolkinen at the top of the zone, who then found Samuels-Thomas wide open at the top of the right faceoff circle. Samuels-Thomas wristed the puck top shelf over Carr’s glove for his second goal of the season.
Quinnipiac returns to action Tuesday night when it hosts Bentley at 7 p.m., while Lowell returns to action Friday when it travels to Michigan State to take on the Spartans at 7 p.m.