A four-goal second period propelled the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team to a 5-2 victory over the St. Lawrence Saints Saturday afternoon at the TD Bank Sports Center. But the real story of the game was not the offense.
The Bobcats’ penalty killing ability was what head coach Rand Pecknold focused on after the game. Junior defenseman Zach Hansen took a five-minute major penalty in the first period for checking from behind and also received a game misconduct for the hit. Behind sophomore goaltender Dan Clarke, however, the Bobcats (6-1-0, 2-0-0 ECAC Hockey) came out unscathed. Pecknold viewed this as the game’s turning point.
“That was huge,” Pecknold said. “We could’ve gotten down early and by a lot, so I think that was big. I just think our penalty killing in general the whole game was great.”
St. Lawrence (5-3-1, 1-1-0 ECAC Hockey) was 1-for-12 on power plays, with the lone goal occurring late in the third period when the score was 5-1.
Clarke stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced, including 19 on power plays, to win his second game of the weekend after allowing four goals against Robert Morris last Saturday. His defense also blocked 28 shots in front of him.
Clarke is competing with freshmen Mathieu Cadieux and Eric Hartzell for the starting spot in net, though the latter did not dress due to sickness.
“You can’t complain about it,” Clarke said of the goalie competition. “It keeps you on your toes. Every practice, you show up and work hard, because if you take one day off, or you have a bad week of practice, you know you’re not in the lineup or not starting.”
Pecknold said he hasn’t decided on a full-time starter just yet, but he liked what he saw from Clarke.
“He played well this weekend,” Pecknold said. “You never lock into anything and it’s a long season, but right now he stepped up and played well. We’ll figure the goaltending out. It’ll work itself out, and certainly Clarke’s doing a nice job right now.”
On the offensive side, each of Quinnipiac’s five goals was scored by a different player.
“I think it’s a clear picture of our team this year,” senior Brandon Wong said. “It’s not just going to be between one and five guys. It could be all 20 guys that dress.”
Wong got the scoring started halfway through the first period when he picked up a rebound and beat goalie Robby Moss. He now has four goals through the team’s first seven games, though he is still grounded despite the fast start.
“It’s not just all about scoring goals,” he said. “I’m willing to do anything for the team.”
Freshman defenseman Zack Currie added his first career goal 1:40 into the second period on a one-on-one with Moss. Another freshman, forward Reese Rolheiser, sophomore forward Yuri Bouharevich and senior forward Eric Lampe also added goals in the period.
Wong, senior forward Greg Holt and freshman defenseman Mike Dalhuisen each tallied two points.
Seven freshmen saw playing time Saturday, and Rolheiser has noticed improvement among his fellow rookies as the season goes on.
“It’s been good to kind of get our feet wet,” he said. “I think we’re doing a better job as freshmen. The vets have been helping us out, giving us tips here and there, so it helps a lot.”
QU has won six of its first seven games this season after being picked to finish eighth in the conference by the league’s coaches. Wong sees this as motivation.
“It’s just good to see that we’re very humble to prove to everyone in the nation how good of a team we are and what type of a team we’ve turned around from last year,” he said. “We had a .500-team last year and now this year, we have a good start. We only want to keep getting better as the games go on.”
Quinnipiac will continue its four-game home stand this weekend with night games against Harvard and Dartmouth.