HAMDEN, Conn. – Justin Baker scored the game-winning power-play goal for the St. Lawrence Saints as they came back to defeat the No. 3 Quinnipiac Bobcats, 3-2, Saturday night at the High Point Solutions Arena.
St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel called a timeout after Connor Jones was whistled for interference and the Saints were going on a power play. After winning the faceoff, Greg Carey wristed a shot from the right point, where Quinnipiac netminder Michael Garteig kicked out the rebound and Baker was there to bat the puck into the net out of the air with the backhand.
“Believe it or not we drew that up; sometimes it works,” Carvel said. “The power play being as good as it’s been, we have a very good relationship where I will ask, ‘Guys what do you see?’ and they will tell me, ‘Let’s do this.’ We wanted to turn the corner and give it over to Greg and look for options. Basically, we just got the puck to the net and got a lucky bounce.”
The Saints survived being down a man for much of the final four minutes of the game, including down five-on-three for 1:14 to hold on to the victory.
“That’s been the Achilles’ heel for us this year, is the penalty kill,” Carvel said. “Our power play’s number one in the country but our penalty kill is almost bottom so as good as the power play is, it’s been balanced by our penalty kill, so those were huge.”
Matt Weninger was solid in goal for the Saints with several stellar saves that kept them in the game and the Bobcats off the scoreboard. Weninger was also helped out by the post when two Quinnipiac shots rang off the post and back out.
“Our team’s starting to get their feet under them again; the biggest reason is our goaltender’s starting to play well, Weninger was outstanding tonight,” said Carvel
Weninger finished the game with 31 saves on 33 shots to pick up the victory over the Bobcats, who outshot the Saints 33-23 in the game.
“We weren’t very good tonight; I thought we stunk in every facet of the game,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “One of the strengths of our team is our character and we find ways to battle through and we didn’t have it tonight for whatever reason and that’s our fault. There’s no excuses.”
Quinnipiac had the strong advantage in the third period by outshooting St. Lawrence 17-6, but couldn’t find the net again after taking a 2-1 lead early on in the period.
“We should have done that for three periods,” Pecknold said. “I thought we played better in the third, even though we gave up the three-on-two goal which was just a bad mistake by a freshman defenseman at the blue line. He’s got the puck on his stick and he doesn’t bury it deep. We don’t have our back-checker. I thought we had our chances, we hit posts. I thought the St. Lawrence goalie was pretty good too, made some saves.
Matt Peca put Quinnipiac up 1-0 with just 1:50 left in the first period when he collected the rebound of a Soren Jonzzon shot that hit the post and came back out under Weninger, where Peca tapped it back home.
St. Lawrence responded to tie the game 1-1 midway through the second period when Gavin Bayreuther wristed a shot from the left point that went right past Garteig’s blocker as he was screened in front and couldn’t find the puck.
The Bobcats regained the lead just 1:41 into the third period when Bryce Van Brabant scored on a power play after receiving a pass from Zach Tolkinen at the point and whiffed on a shot attempt before getting the shot off that went through Weninger’s five-hole.
Brian Ward answered back with 5:28 left to play in the third period when he skated down the center of the ice into the slot, where Drew Smolcynski found him with a centering feed and he wristed a shot high on Garteig’s blocker side to tie the game 2-2.
“Ward can finish; he’s got a wonderful shot,” Carvel said. “When he gets some time he’s sneaky, he’s a finisher, and Smolcynski when he’s got time is a very good distributor of the puck, so those guys got a little space and made the most of it.”