Men’s hockey drops two on road at Niagara

Doug Manners

Over the summer, the ECAC nixed Niagara University’s bid to replace Vermont in the conference, eventually selecting Quinnipiac from a field of five applicants. Over the weekend, Niagara did the best it could to get revenge on the Bobcats, winning a pair of non-conference contests at Dwyer Arena. The Purple Eagles won Friday’s contest 3-1 and defeated the Bobcats again on Saturday night, 4-1.

The Bobcats entered the two-game series after a 13-day break in the schedule.

Quinnipiac had not played since Oct. 30, when they won 2-1 against Dartmouth, which was ranked 11th in the country at the time. After the losses to Niagara, Quinnipiac’s record on the season drops to 3-4.

In Friday’s game, the Bobcats fell behind after Niagara scored a pair of first-period goals in a 42-second span.

At 7:10, Marc Norrington beat senior goaltender Jamie Holden, of Telkwa, British Columbia, stick-side from between the circles. Then, captain Barret Ehgoetz jammed the puck between the post and Holden’s right pad to put Niagara ahead 2-0.

“We struggled out of the gate,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “I thought our competitiveness was good from there-on-out. We competed and played hard, but we struggled to score goals,” he said.

The Bobcats were awarded a penalty shot 7:10 into the second period after junior Michael Bordieri, of Rocky Hill, Conn., was taken down from behind on a breakaway. Bordieri could not convert, missing the net wide to the right.

In the third period, Quinnipiac finally solved Niagara goal tender Scott Mollison, who was making his collegiate debut. With 5:14 left, senior Matt Craig, of London, Ontario, scored on the power play from the right face-off circle for his team-leading third goal of the season.

Niagara added an insurance goal less than three minutes later. Justin Cross beat Holden low to the stick-side with 2:46 left in regulation. Holden made 33 saves for the Bobcats, who were outshot 36-22 in the game.

“We can’t expect Holden to be superman every night,” Pecknold said. “He’s certainly our best player, but we can’t ask him to get a shut out or give up one goal every game. We need to play better in front of him.”

The Bobcats fell behind early again in Saturday’s game, giving up a goal just 1:41 into the contest. Kris Wiebe popped a wrist shot into the upper-right corner of the net to give the Purple Eagles a 1-0 lead.

Then, at 12:02, Niagara leading scorer Ryan Gale scored his eighth goal of the season to increase the home team’s lead. After the opening 20 minutes, Niagara had built a 2-0 lead and amassed 21 shots-on-goal.

The Purple Eagles added another goal late in the second period. While on a five-on-three man advantage, Norrington beat Holden with a slap shot from the right point.

Senior forward Chris White, of Santa Ana, Calif., scored Quinnipiac’s only goal of the game 6:03 into the third period. But the Purple Eagles quickly responded as Cross pounced on a rebound and knocked it past Holden at 9:32 to finish the scoring. Niagara finished the game with 48 shots, the most allowed by the Bobcats this season.

The Bobcats will finally begin conference play this weekend with a home-and-home series with Bentley. Quinnipiac is the only Atlantic Hockey team to not have played a conference game this season. After visiting Bentley on Friday, the Bobcats will host the Falcons on Saturday in Quinnipiac’s first home game in over a month.