Bobcats remain perfect on home ice

Doug Manners

For the men’s hockey team, home is where the wins are. With a record of 8-0 at the Northford Ice Pavilion this season, and a 38-3-3 home record dating back to February 2001, the Bobcats have had astounding success on home ice.

But the winning show has not followed the team on the road, where they have managed to win just two games in thirteen contests (2-9-2). If it is any consolation, though, one of those road victories, a 3-2 win at Hockey East member Merrimack College on Nov. 29, was a monumental win. The victory marked the first time an Atlantic Hockey team had ever defeated a Hockey East club in 45 games (0-40-5).

“I think that win shows that we are good enough to play with those teams,” said junior Matt Craig, of London, Ontario. “I think it also shows how far the league has come in a short time and how it keeps improving.”

The Bobcats followed up that game with another big victory over conference foe Mercyhurst on Dec. 5.

The two rivals had not met since the MAAC final last season, when the Lakers edged the Bobcats, 4-3, to deny Quinnipiac a trip to the NCAA tournament.

Carrying the momentum over from the Merrimack win, Craig scored a pair of power play markers in the opening half of the first period as Quinnipiac cruised past the Lakers, 5-2. The Bobcats finished the night with 47 shots on goal, while junior goaltender Jamie Holden, of Telwka, British Columbia, made 22 saves for Quinnipiac.

“The guys were fired up to play Mercyhurst,” said head coach Rand Pecknold. “They were upset about last year’s championship loss. We came out and were all over them for 60 minutes.”

With his performance in the Merrimack and Mercyhurst contests, Craig was named Atlantic Hockey Player of the Week two weeks in a row. Craig leads the Bobcats in goals with nine.

“It was nice to be recognized, but I think our team played well during those weeks and that helps me out individually,” Craig said. “Matt Froehlich had a couple of great weeks as well.”

After a three-week hiatus in the schedule, the Bobcats hit the ice again on January 2 for a game at Hockey East’s Providence College. The result was a 7-1 thumping, Quinnipiac’s most lopsided loss since a 9-0 defeat at Maine on November 18, 2001. To make matters worse, the game at Providence was televised live regionally on the New England Sports Network, NESN.

Freshman defenseman Reid Cashman, of Red Wing, Minnesota, had the lone goal of the night for the Bobcats, scoring a power play goal right off a face-off in the second period with Quinnipiac already down by five goals.

Following that shellacking, the Bobcats had a few days to regroup before facing a tough test in the nationally ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Quinnipiac entered the game with just one win in program history over a ranked team, a 3-2 win at No. 11 Union during the 2000-01 season. No. 12 Ohio State came agonizingly close to becoming the second such win.

Senior goaltender Justin Eddy, of Apple Valley, Minnesota, made 49 saves for the Bobcats, but Ohio State’s 50th shot snapped a scoreless tie with 0.2 seconds left in regulation. Andrew Schembri capitalized on a Quinnipiac turnover just inside the neutral zone at the Ohio State blue line and raced in alone on Eddy to tally the buzzer-beater. The game marked Quinnipiac’s final non-conference game of the season.

With only conference foes left on the schedule, the Bobcats headed to Buffalo, New York, to try and remain unbeaten in Atlantic Hockey play, 4-0-2, with a two-game series at Canisius. However, that streak came to an end and the team’s losing skid continued as the Bobcats lost both games, 3-0 and 4-2, respectively.

“It was definitely disappointing to lose that game [at Ohio State] and I think we lost our focus a little bit for the Canisius weekend,” said Craig.

Mired in a four-game slump, the Bobcats returned home for a pivotal match-up on January 17 versus Holy Cross, the top team in Atlantic Hockey. After falling behind by a goal in the first-period, Quinnipiac used goals by freshman John Kelly of Winnetka, Illinois, and sophomore Joe Dumais of Auburn, Maine, to take the lead in the second. The Bobcats added two more goals in the third to win the game, 4-1.

“It was a great win to get us back on track,” said Craig. “Now we need to play consistent throughout the rest of the season in our conference.”

The Bobcats picked up their second win away from home over this past weekend on Friday in the first game of a home-and-home series with Army. Junior Chris White of Santa Ana, California, opened the scoring for Quinnipiac at 12:46 of the first stanza by firing a slap shot through a screen past Army goalie Brad Roberts.

Sophomore Aaron Ludwig of Lampman, Saskatchewan, added another goal for the Bobcats at 13:16 of the middle frame. Ludwig crashed the net and knocked in the rebound. Freshman Troy Maleyko of Belle River, Ontario, and junior Rob Hammel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, recorded the assists on the goal.

That would be all the scoring the Bobcats would need, as Holden stopped all 31 shots he faced to pick-up his fourth career shutout.

Quinnipiac also blanked Army in the back end of the series, 3-0, on Saturday night at the Ice Pavilion. Holden turned away all 24 shots he faced for his second consecutive shutout as the 2003-04 Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time in the program’s history.

The Bobcats scored one goal in each period, with senior Ryan Morton of Hampden, Massachusetts, opening the scoring at 9:33 by deflecting a shot from the point by sophomore Dan Rossi of Surrey, British Columbia.

Freshman John Kelly of Winnetka, Illinois, scored 4:26 into the second period and Froehlich knocked home a rebound just 56 seconds into the third period to capitalize on a power play and give the home team a 3-0 lead.

The victories over Army boosted the Bobcats over the .500 mark with an overall record of 10-9-2. In Atlantic Hockey play, Quinnipiac is 7-2-2. The Bobcats will be on the road this weekend for a pair of big conference games at Mercyhurst, which has won six games in a row. Now would be the perfect time for the home-tough Bobcats to turn into road warriors.