HAMDEN, Conn. – Depending how you look at it, Friday’s game was either a case of opportunistic scoring by Union or poor puck management by Quinnipiac.
The Dutchmen were outshot 39-23 by the Bobcats, but converted two Quinnipiac mistakes early in the third period into a pair of goals en route to a 5-2 win at Frank Perotti Arena.
Jake Kupsky made 37 saves for Union, who moved ahead of Clarkson into sole possession of second place in ECAC Hockey with three games left in the regular season. The Dutchmen remain four points behind first-place Cornell, as the Big Red won 2-1 over Brown on Friday.
Anthony Rinaldi had a goal and an assist for Union.
“Some of the chances we did have were pretty nice and our guys did bury them,” Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett said. “Sometimes you’re not going to be on the positive side of the shot chart.”
Union led 2-1 entering the third, but Alex Whelan tied the game for the Bobcats fifty-six seconds into the final period.
“I still think we’re going to through the learning process, even in February,” Bennett said. “It’s going to be like that for us. And sometimes we’re just going to have to go through these challenges throughout games and we’re going to have to battle through. I don’t think we can keep putting ourselves in that situation.”
However, the Dutchmen (19-13-1, 14-5) retaliated quickly, taking advantage of a pair of QU blunders to score a pair of goals in a span of just over a minute.
The first came when Rinaldi stole the puck off the stick of a Quinnipiac player’ stick just inside the Bobcats’ zone and skated in alone before beating Andew Shortridge (12 saves ) at 1:57. That marked the end of the night for the QU sophomore, who was replaced by Keith Petruzzelli.
Freshman Sean Harrison took advantage of another Quinnipiac mistake, corralling a puck that bounced past Bobcats defensemen to make it 4-2 at 3:12.
“It was a good play, (Zachary Emelifeonwu) chipped the puck up the glass,” Harrison said. “It was kind of a bouncing puck and their defenseman couldn’t handle it.”
Those two goals were backbreakers for Quinnipiac, who appeared to have the momentum after Whelan’s goal.
“Unfortunately, it’s a little bit of a fragile group right now,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. “We battle back and make it 2-2, and then they scored that third goal. I’ll take the blame for that; I should have called timeout right there and reloaded the troops. I would have done it in the past, but this is a different team and I need to adapt.”
Brett Supinski added a shorthanded goal later in the period to make it 5-2.
Union was outshot 12-6 in the opening period but led 1-0 thanks to Greg Campbell’s power play goal at 16:24. The puck deflected off a Bobcat player’s stick out to Campbell, who roofed a shot from the left circle past Shortridge for his third goal of the season.
“That was kind of a microcosm of our season,” Pecknold said. “Late in the first, we make a great play, we’ve got half an empty net and miss the net and then we take a bad penalty and we’re down 1-0.”
The Dutchmen went up 2-0 early in the second, as Quinnipiac had some trouble clearing the puck away from its net. Shortridge kicked the rebound to a waiting Ryan Scarfo, who buried it 3:07 into the period.
Matt Forchuk snapped a shot from the right circle to get the Bobcats (12-15-4, 7-10-2) on the board at 15:19 into the second period, setting up Whelan’s tying goal early in the third.
“These last couple of games going into the playoffs are big points for us and we need them,” Harrison said.” We’re pretty much starting the playoffs here, trying to get that top spot.”
Union travels to Princeton Saturday, while Quinnipiac hosts Rensselaer. Both games start at 7 p.m.