HAMDEN, Conn. – Jordan Samuels-Thomas’ one-timer goal in the third period proved to be the difference for the No. 6/5 Quinnipiac Bobcats, as they hung on to defeat the Harvard Crimson, 3-2, Friday night at the High Point Solutions Arena.
Connor Jones sent a pass to Samuels Thomas from the end line to inside the right faceoff circle, where he scored to extend the lead for the Bobcats.
“I feel pretty fortunate we got a win tonight; we didn’t deserve it,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “When you’ve got some good players like [Michael] Garteig, [Devon] Toews and [Cory] Hibbeler, you find ways to win games.”
Both teams were even in the shot column with 33 shots a piece, but Harvard (2-4-1, 1-4-1 ECAC) dominated late by outshooting Quinnipiac (10-1-1, 4-0-1 ECAC), 18-8, in the third period.
“I think we are disappointed; I thought we played very well,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “We had our chances; we gave up goals too easily. Our kids battled, we kept coming back, [and] we had chances to tie the game up.”
Quinnipiac set the tone early in the first period when Brayden Sherbinin one-timed a shot from the left faceoff circle on a pass from Tim Clifton from behind the net for his first career goal in his first game to make it 1-0 just 6:30 into the game.
Cory Hibbeler doubled Quinnipiac’s lead with less than eight minutes to play in the first period when Devon Toews blasted a shot from the left point and Hibbeler deflected it under the pad of Harvard goaltender Raphael Girard to give the Bobcats a 2-0 lead.
Tempers flared in the second period when Luke Esposito fired a shot at Quinnipiac netminder Michael Garteig after the whistle. Esposito received a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and Kellen Jones got a five-minute major for facemasking and a game misconduct.
With 45 seconds remaining on a power play from the major penalty, Harvard’s Kyle Criscuolo cut Quinnipiac’s lead in half when a loose puck came to him above the slot and he ripped a shot past Garteig for the power-play goal.
“We didn’t really have a lot going on the power play; we were having some problems entering the zone, but we stuck with it, scored a goal, and it gave life to the bench,” Donato said. “We felt that we were playing pretty well up until that point, but weren’t getting rewarded.”
Samuels-Thomas notched his goal just 4:20 into the third period of the game, which was vital for Quinnipiac.
The Crimson got within a goal of Quinnipiac with 8:50 remaining when Jimmy Vesey punched the puck into the net in the midst of a scrum on top of the crease with less than nine minutes remaining in the game.
“In the third period, we talked about taking pucks to the net and being tougher to play against offensively, and I thought we did that,” Donato said. “We had a lot of traffic down net, a lot of second- and third-shot opportunities.
As Harvard piled on the attack, Pecknold said Quinnipiac struggled to win the battles in the neutral zone.
“We’ve got to get pucks out, get pucks in,” Pecknold said. “We got a 3-1 lead and we have five guys turn that puck over in the neutral zone in the third period, just unacceptable. We didn’t play the way we’re supposed to play.”
The power play struggled again for the Bobcats, as it was 0-3 on the man advantage situations, while the Crimson were 1-2 because of the goal by Criscuolo.
“You can’t make excuses; you put that jersey on, you’ve got to battle, you’ve got to work and we had some kids that struggled with that mentally tonight,” Pecknold said.