HARTFORD, Conn. — Quinnipiac has made a habit of outshooting its opponents this season, but the Bobcats took it to another level Monday night against Sacred Heart in the championship game of the UConn Hockey Classic.
Quinnipiac, which entered the game leading the nation in shot differential, outshot the Pioneers 25-0 in the second period en route to a 5-0 win at the XL Center. It was the second UConn Hockey Classic title for the Bobcats, who beat Merrimack 4-3 in overtime to win the 2008 tournament.
Sacred Heart managed just three shots in the second and third periods combined and was outshot 54-12 for the game. Alex Vazzano had 49 saves for Sacred Heart, while five different players scored for the Bobcats, who had four power-play goals.
“Anytime you can hold any teams to three shots in two periods, that’s obviously something that you can be proud of,” Quinnipiac forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas said.
Tim Clifton, who scored his first collegiate goal Saturday against Massachusetts, put Quinnipiac up 2-0 at 2:38 in the second, crashing the net and slapping a rebound past Vazzano.
“I’ve gotten 20-something games under me now,” Clifton said. “I’m not saying I’m a veteran by any means, but I understand the speed and the tempo of the game.”
That goal came at the beginning of an utterly dominant second period by the Bobcats, who allowed the Pioneers (5-13) to attempt only two total shots, neither of which found their way on net.
“I knew we were good the whole period but that kind of shocks me,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said of outshooting Sacred Heart 25-0 in the second. “We were also fortunate to get a lot of power plays but we deserved them. It’s not that we play this prevent defense; we go and play offense. We had the puck a lot tonight and when we do that we don’t have to play defense.”
Connor Jones’ power-play goal made it 3-0 at 10:10 in the second, while Travis St. Denis and Soren Jonzzon each added power-play goals late in the third to provide the final margin.
“They posses it and they protect it,” Sacred Heart head coach C.J. Marottolo said of Quinnipiac’s work with the puck. “They’re hockey strong. They have great chemistry on their lines. It’s very impressive.”
The Bobcats (14-3-4) went up 1-0 on Bryce Van Brabant’s power-play goal at 7:57 in the first. Samuels-Thomas tipped Zach Tolkinen’s shot from the point on net, and Van Brabant put the rebound past Vazzano to give Quinnipiac the early lead.
“In the first period we were good in certain areas but we were definitely taking shortcuts,” Pecknold said. “We missed three backchecks, which is very uncharacteristic of our players, and that screams shortcuts.”
Vazzano make several good saves later in the period to keep Sacred Heart’s deficit at one, reaching up with the glove to snag Connor Clifton’s blast from the slot, and then squeezing the pads on a bouncing puck off the stick of Cory Hibbeler.
“He was our backbone,” Marottolo said of his goalie. “I feel bad that we put him in tough circumstances throughout that game.”
Bobcats goalie Michael Garteig (12 saves) was rarely tested, but did make a nice save on a short-handed bid the Pioneers’ Jeff Carroll at 5:17 in the third, Sacred Heart’s first shot on goal since the opening period.
Connecticut beat Massachusetts 2-1 in the consolation game earlier in the day.
Vazzano was named the tournament MVP and top goalie, while Clifton, Samuels-Thomas and Kellen Jones were named to the all-tournament team along with Sacred Heart defenseman David Iacono and Connecticut forward Billy Latta.
Both Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart are back in action Friday night. The Pioneers host Robert Morris while the Bobcats host Maine.