A day after losing its first game in 14 weeks or 108 days, Quinnipiac got back right to its winning ways. The Bobcats rebounded from last night’s loss with a 2-1 victory over Clarkson at High Point Solutions Arena at the TD Bank Sports Center. Quinnipiac will look to get back on another winning streak when the Yale Bulldogs come to Hamden next Friday. Puck drop is slated for 7:30 p.m. and can be seen live on the NBC Sports Network.
Eric Hartzell made 28 saves for No. 1 Quinnipiac (22-4-4, 15-1-2 ECAC). With his record-breaking 22nd win of the season, Hartzell moves past J.C. Wells’ ’01 21 wins in 1998-99. With his 50th career win, he joins Wells (59), Jamie Holden ’04 (59) and Bud Fisher ’08 (58) as the only goalies in Quinnipiac’s history to record 50 wins in their career.
“He’s been great, he’s our best player and he’s the best player in our league and maybe one of the best in the country definitely a Hobey Baker candidate,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “He was great again tonight.”
Both Bryce Van Brabant and Connor Jones scored first period goals to give Quinnipiac the 2-0 lead, which they wouldn’t relinquish.
Just 2:22 into the game, Quinnipiac drew first blood. Jordan Samuels-Thomas stopped the puck just outside the face-off circle to Clarkson goaltender Greg Lewis’ left. Samuels-Thomas collided with a Clarkson defender and poked the puck to Van Brabant in the slot. Van Brabant wristed a shot over Lewis’ left shoulder to give Quinnipiac a one-goal lead. It was Van Brabant’s fourth goal of the season and Samuels-Thomas seventh helper.
“I think Friday was a little bit of a wake up call for us,” Jones said. “Obviously, it was a heck of a run and I think we got a little too complacent. The passion was there today we were flying, but we made a lot of mistakes, but our energy was great and we got back to the basics of what started our streak.”
A little over eight minutes later at 10:16, Jones scored his eighth of the season. Matthew Peca stopped the puck at the neutral zone and fed to Loren Barron near the blue line. Barron sent a pass through traffic to Jones who beat two defenders and skated in on a breakaway on Lewis. Jones deked to his right and then backhanded a shot five-hole for a 2-0 lead.
The Golden Knights added a late goal with 14 seconds left to cut the deficit to 2-1. With the empty-net, Will Frederick fed Paul Geiger who snapped a pass to McPherson in the slot down low. McPherson’s one-timer trickled past Hartzell.
“Clarkson came out really hard and they battled really hard tonight and they were just throwing pucks from everywhere,” Hartzell said. “My job is to make the first save and I think the defense and the forwards did a great job of clearing pucks.
In the second period, Quinnipiac had a few chances to extend the lead. Peca raced out of the penalty box on a breakaway but his backhander was padded away by Lewis. Peca had another chance with a spin move and backhander to Kellen Jones but Kellen’s shot rang off the crossbar and deflected to the far boards.
Quinnipiac was 0-for-4 on the power-play, while Clarkson was 0-for-5. Both teams committed six penalties.
The Bobcats held a 34-29 shot advantage.
The Cleary Cup trophy was awarded to Quinnipiac after the game for clinching the ECAC regular season title. The Bobcats will have the number one seed in the playoffs.
“We’re happy to escape with that win tonight, we were great offensively but we didn’t finish as much as we like,” Pecknold said. “We had sloppy defense and gave up more two on ones tonight than the last two months of hockey. I’m not sure what was going on but I think we were too focused on scoring goals.”