Season ends with a bang

Doug Manners

Overtime goals in the playoffs are rarely a thing of beauty. Many times, it takes a fluky goal to find a winner and a loser. Such was the case when the third-seeded Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team was ousted 1-0 in overtime by sixth-seeded Canisius in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Hockey tournament.

The old adage “put the puck on net and anything can happen” proved true for Canisius forward Justin Carre, who netted the game-winner 1:37 into overtime. Carre intercepted a clearing pass along the right boards, skated deep into the right corner and fired a low shot on net from the hash marks. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the puck deflected off a Quinnipiac defenseman’s skate and went past junior goaltender Jamie Holden.

“It’s tough to feel the puck go by and know that that one goal, at that moment, ends your season,” Holden said. “If a goal occurs in regulation it hurts, but your team has a chance to even it up. In overtime, that’s it, there is no chance to redeem yourself and that makes the goal and the loss that much moreTdifficult to accept.”

Not only was the season over for the Bobcats, but for the first time since becoming a Division I program in 1998-99, they were eliminated without at least one win in the league tournament. The loss also put an end to Quinnipiac’s streak of three consecutive appearances in the league championship game.

Quinnipiac finished the season with a record of 15-14-6, the program’s worst record as a Division I team. Prior to this season, the Bobcats had never finished lower than second in their conference or had fewer than 20 wins in Division I.

“Losing in the quarterfinals was a huge disappointment to the whole team,” said freshman defenseman Reid Cashman, of Red Wing, Minn. “We really have no one else to blame but ourselves for letting the game go to overtime. They just got a fluky goal and that’s how overtime is usually decided.”

Holden and Cashman both earned All-Atlantic Hockey awards for the regular season. Holden was named to the First-Team All-League and also earned the Regular Season Goaltending Award for posting the best save percentage in league play. Cashman was named to both the Second-Team All League and the All-Rookie Team.

They were presented with their awards immediately following the gut-wrenching overtime loss. In the future, it would seem to make more sense for the league to present the awards before the game, as posing for pictures with your award just minutes after your season has ended is certainly no fun.

“I am honored to be recognized by the league and realize that those awards are a reflection of the talented teammates I had this season, however the season ended too quickly for me to be satisfied by any personal awards,” Cashman said.

Cashman was an offensive catalyst on the Bobcats’ blue line, finishing third on the team and first among defensemen with 21 points (two goals, 19 assists). He ranked second among all defensemen in the league in scoring. Cashman was also one of just four players to play in all 35 of the team’s games this season.

Holden was arguably the team’s MVP this season, going with 11-8-3 with a 2.32 goals against average and .932 save percentage. He was named Atlantic Hockey Goalie of the Week five times and finished the regular season with the fourth-best save percentage in the nation.

“I think that it was a great accomplishment to get the awards I did this year and it is something that I will be proud of for a long time,” Holden said. “There are some real good goalies in this league and to get the awards I did was nice. But, I couldn’t have achieved the success and stats I did without the great play of the guys in front of me.”

And Holden will have the majority of those guys back in front of him next season with only four players graduating this May. The Bobcats will have a very large senior class next season with nine juniors from this season’s team returning.

Among the players returning to Hamden next season is this season’s leading scorer, junior Matt Craig, of London, Ontario. Junior Matt Froehlich, of Apple Valley, Minn., who finished one point behind Craig, will also be back with the Bobcats for his senior season. If there is one area the Bobcats will need to improve upon next season, it is offense. Quinnipiac averaged only 2.49 goals per game this season, a sharp drop-off from their average of 3.86 in the 2002-03 campaign.

On defense, Cashman will be back after a stellar freshman season, as will sophomores Joe Testa, of Wallingford, Penn., and junior Dan Rossi, of Surrey, British Columbia, who both finished tied for second among defensemen in scoring.

“I am very optimistic and excited about next year,” Cashman said. “With the players we have coming back and the new recruits we have coming in our team will be ready to get back to the winning form Quinnipiac University has come to expect from their hockey program.”

In goal, Holden will be between the pipes again, although his counterpart over the past three seasons, senior goalie Justin Eddy, of Apple Valley, Minn., will not.

In addition to Eddy, seniors Bill Cass, of Indianapolis, Indiana, red shirt captain Mark Hallam, of Medicine Hat, Alberta, and Ryan Morton, of Hampden, Mass., will graduate in May.

“I would like to say on behalf of the rest of the team and myself, that we will especially miss the guys that are graduating this year,” Holden said. “Eddy, Hallam, Morton, and Cass are all great guys and we will miss having them in the locker room and on the ice. I would like to wish them all the best of luck in the years to come and their future plans.”