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College Hockey:
Quinnipiac upends Yale in first game of ECAC Hockey quarterfinals as St. Denis pots two

HAMDEN, Conn. — In another postseason matchup pitting Yale against neighboring Quinnipiac, the host Bobcats notched a decisive 6-2 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series.

Travis St. Denis scored twice for the Bobcats (23-8-6, 12-6-4 ECAC), while Connor Jones, Bryce Van Brabant and freshmen Tim Clifton and Connor Clifton each notched goals as well.

Goaltender Michael Garteig stopped 17 of 19 shots for his 23rd win of the season.

“I thought our guys played hard, capitalized on opportunities,” remarked Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “It wasn’t our best game of the year, but we were pretty good tonight. We got some good jump and some guys made plays when we needed them to.”

Ryan Obuchowski and John Hayden scored Yale’s goals, but the Bulldogs (17-10-5, 10-8-3) never mounted much of a threat after the game’s midpoint.

Yale goalies Alex Lyon (four goals against, 29 saves) and Patrick Spano (two goals, five saves) shared responsibility for the final score. Yale has not defeated QU in three meetings this season (0-2-1) and last spring’s national championship game marks the Bulldogs’ last victory over the Bobcats.

“We need to skate better, we need to forecheck better, we need to defend better, we need to backcheck better, we need to be better around loose pucks,” listed Yale coach Keith Allain, who was brief in his postgame remarks.

Whether or not Yale-Quinnipiac is a rivalry depends on whom you ask. The veracity of these teams’ animosity toward each other, however, has not been in question for some time. The Bulldogs and Bobcats combined for 11 minor penalties and dozens of heavy hits, some more dubious than others.

“It’s college hockey, NCAA hockey – it is what it is,” said Pecknold of the physicality. “There was a lot of passion, a lot of emotion.”

On the topic of some of QU’s penalties, the coach did not mince words: “We need to be smarter than that.

“Yale’s got their backs against a wall tomorrow night, so they’re going come out and play better. They’re going to be great tomorrow night, so we’re going to have to be better.”

Tim Clifton’s third career goal of the season broke the ice, as he lifted a tailor-made rebound into a yawning net. Brayden Sherbinin took the initial shot from close range on the right wing, but Lyon failed to guide the rebound out of harm’s way.

St. Denis doubled the hosts’ lead four minutes into the second period by, as coaches say, getting into the “dirty areas.”

With the puck at the left-wing point, St. Denis parked himself at the top of Lyon’s crease and got just enough of his stick on a Zach Tolkinen blast to fool Yale’s goalie.

Yale’s climb got even steeper two minutes later, when Jones found himself with the puck and an unreasonable amount of time and space in front of Lyon’s den. The top-line center deked to the backhand, but slyly cut the move short and slipped the puck between the goal pads for a 3-0 lead.

Van Brabant made the Blue bluer still, making Rob O’Gara and the rest of the Bulldogs pay for an unwarranted cross-check a minute earlier. With O’Gara in the box for wounding recently sidelined bruiser Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Van Brabant lit Lyon’s lamp for the third time in seven minutes and the fourth time of the night.

Yale broke Garteig’s shutout bid late in the second period with precision power-play passing, ultimately giving Obuchowski a clear look at an open net.

Hayden put pressure on the Bobcats with a tip-in on an early third-period power play, but a two-goal counter-punch by St. Denis and Connor Clifton put the game out of reach.

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