HAMDEN, Conn. – The No. 5 Quinnipiac Bobcats scored four unanswered goals in the first five minutes of the second period en route to a 6-1 victory over the Merrimack Warriors Friday night at the High Point Solutions Arena.
“We’re definitely a good second-period team; I’d like us to be better in the first,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “I thought last year we were a great first-period team, and this year it’s been a little bit of an issue at times for us but there’s no question we’re good in the second period every game.”
Bryce Van Brabant led the Quinnipiac (18-3-5, 8-2-3 ECAC) attack with two goals as the Bobcats extended their unbeaten streak to seven games as part of a weekend home-and-home series with the Warriors.
Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Kellen Jones each registered a goal and an assist for Quinnipiac in the victory.
Merrimack (5-11-3, 1-5-2 HE) controlled much of the play in the first period, as it outshot the Bobcats 6-4 and went on two power plays.
Mike Collins scored the only Warriors’ goal 4:45 into the game when Michael Garteig turned his back looking for the puck behind him, but the puck was in the left faceoff circle where Josh Myers shot it on net and Collins tapped it home to give Merrimack a 1-0 lead.
“I saw us making simple plays, I saw us playing with a sense of urgency, I saw us winning some battles,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said. “I don’t know necessarily if we had their attention, but we got their attention.”
Samuels-Thomas started the scoring for Quinnipiac just one minute into the second period when he stole the puck in his own defensive end and skated up the right boards before wristing the puck through the five-hole of Merrimack goaltender Rasmus Tirronen to tie the game at one.
Quinnipiac added to its lead 55 seconds later when Van Brabant made it 2-1 off a one-timer in the left faceoff circle off a pass from Matt Peca in the left corner.
“I thought that makeshift line of Peca with [Van Brabant] and [Samuels-Thomas] was great and they had two goals in two shifts,” Pecknold said. “That doesn’t always work that way for you, but I thought that gave us a lot of energy.”
Kellen Jones gave the Bobcats their third goal in three minutes to start the second period when he stole the puck in the offensive zone on a forecheck and skated into the slot before wristing the puck low on Tirronen’s blocker side to give the Bobcats a 3-1 lead.
“We sat a couple kids, and the guys who played responded,” Pecknold said. “I don’t usually do that and that’s rare that I bench kids during a game. We had some guys that just weren’t ready to play, and sometimes it sends a message to the other guys that are playing like they better go if they want their ice time.”
After the Kellen Jones goal, the Warriors changed goalies, as Tirronen gave way to Sam Marotta between the pipes.
“I think we’ve got to get a save there; most games in college hockey need to get a pretty solid effort out of their goaltender,” Dennehy said. “I’m not blaming [Tirronen] at all but I’m sure he would’ve liked that first one back.”
The Bobcats finished off their hot second period start 4:54 into the second period when Connor Jones elevated Quinnipiac’s lead to 4-1 when he received a pass at center ice and skated the puck into the left faceoff circle, where he wristed it high glove side on Marotta.
“They’re a team that when there’s blood in the water, they’ve won a lot of hockey games and they know what to do,” Dennehy said. “We didn’t protect the areas of the ice that we talk about protecting, lost a lot of battles. When you play good teams like that, it really highlights your weaknesses, and we had some guys that just wilted. That’s on me, because I brought them here.”
Quinnipiac outshot Merrimack just 29-23 in the game, but held a 15-10 advantage in the strong second period.
Van Brabant added his second goal of the game in the third period on a power play as Travis St. Denis fired a shot from the left point and Van Brabant redirected it past Marotta to give Quinnipiac a 5-1 lead.
With 2:15 left in the third, Brayden Sherbinin added his first goal of the game to give Quinnipiac a 6-1 lead after Tommy Schutt worked the end boards to control the puck and found Sherbinin low in the left side of the slot, where he one-timed a shot top shelf on Marotta’s glove side.
“We’re finishing, which is nice; we generate a ton of chances every game we play and sometimes it goes, sometimes it doesn’t, and right now we’ve been scoring and it takes a lot of pressure off the defense,” Pecknold said.