When the final whistle sounded at the Tsongas Center, goaltender Michael Garteig tapped his stick on the crossbar. The sophomore then calmly congratulated his teammates, giving a few brief hugs before lining up for handshakes.
Though he only appeared in five games as a freshman last season, Garteig played with the composure of an upperclassmen Friday evening against UMass-Lowell, guiding Quinnipiac to a 3-1 victory over the River Hawks, a team which reached the 2013 Frozen Four and won Hockey East last year.
Jordan Samuels-Thomas had a goal and two assists, Connor Clifton and Derek Smith both scored goals and Connor Jones tallied two assists for the Bobcats (2-1), who killed all seven UMass-Lowell power plays.
Garteig has had large expectations to live up to. Preceded by 2013 Hobey Hat Trick Finalist Eric Hartzell, Garteig was tabbed as the starting goaltender this season, beating out Jacob Meyers and Brady Rouleau for the spot.
“I think it’s been a pretty easy transition,” Jordan Samuels-Thomas said of the change between Hartzell and Garteig. “Michael got to watch last year how Hartzell prepared. He’s familiar with our system. He’s familiar with our players. He plays with confidence, and the team has confidence in him.”
Last weekend against Alaska-Fairbanks, Garteig made 23 saves on 24 shots en route to a 4-1 Bobcats win. Tonight, Garteig saved 21 of 22 shots.
“I felt fine,” Garteig said. “I felt confident in there. My [defense] were great tonight. My forwards were good tonight. It was good.”
Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold praised Garteig’s efforts of filling Hartzell’s shoes on the young season.
“It’s only three games in, but he’s gotten better each game,” Pecknold said. “He’s a warrior. He competes, he battles. The only thing he lacks at this level is game experience. He’s getting it fast. He was very good tonight.”
Garteig’s play and the Bobcats defense helped set the tone early, allowing just four River Hawks shots in the first stanza.
Following a scoreless initial period, Quinnipiac lit the lamp at 2:03 of the second. While on the power play, Peter Quenneville sent a cross-ice feed to Samuels-Thomas, who drilled the puck top shelf for the one-goal lead.
The Bobcats added their second goal less than eight minutes later, with a Connor Clifton shot from the point.
Quinnipiac’s final goal of the night was recorded on a Derek Smith drive from the point, good for the freshman’s second goal of the season.
The River Hawks recorded their lone goal at 1:51 of the third period, credited to Adam Chapie.
The Bobcats held UMass-Lowell 0 for 7 on the power play. Last season, Quinnipiac totaled a penalty kill percentage of 90.9, leading the country.
Quinnipiac completes its home-and-home series with UMass-Lowell tomorrow night at TD Bank Sports Center. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.
“Lowell is a great program,” Pecknold said. “For a young, inexperienced team that we are right now, that’s a great win.”