Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey sweeps home-and-home

Bryan Lipiner

Last season, the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team’s penalty kill was a primary factor in propelling the squad to its first Frozen Four.

This weekend against UMass-Lowell, another 2013 Frozen Four team, the special teams unit proved that it could be a critical component of Quinnipiac’s success for a second-straight season.

Killing off five River Hawks power-play opportunities Saturday evening, Quinnipiac topped UMass-Lowell on Banner Night to sweep the home-and-home series, 3-1 the final. Connor and Kellen Jones recorded goals, while Jordan Samuels-Thomas added a tally of his own.

The Bobcats killed off 12 total UMass-Lowell power plays between Saturday and Friday’s 3-1 victory at Tsongas Center, including a five-minute major Saturday evening. Last season, Quinnipiac’s penalty kill percentage was 90.9, one of the highest rates in the nation.

“We were great at it last year,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “It was good tonight, no question.”

Pecknold pointed to captain Cory Hibbeler as one of the reasons for the penalty kill’s success, as the senior forward has been taking defensive shifts when a man down.

“He’s a warrior,” Pecknold said. “He played a good chunk of the second period, probably gave us 12 shifts back there. He was a big factor for us winning tonight.”

The Bobcats also successfully killed off a five-minute major between the first and second periods, after Tim Clifton was called for boarding.

“The fact that they killed off 12, and that they could hardly set up was very good,” goaltender Michael Garteig said. “It gives me a lot of rest, not as stressful on me. Very, very good.”

Though the success of the penalty kill carried over from Friday night, UMass-Lowell found a way to score early, lighting the lamp in the first off a rebound. At 5:49, Ryan McGrath knocked in a loose puck following a scrum in front for the early River Hawks lead.

Quinnipiac then struck back less than two minutes later, when Connor Jones skated up the far side wing with room. The senior then ripped a shot from the top of the circle, beating Doug Carr low-blocker side to tie the game at 1.

The Bobcats added two more goals in the second period. At 11:37 while shorthanded, Kellen Jones and Matthew Peca skated onto a 2-on-1. Jones then drilled a shot off the left post and in, good for the one-goal lead.

Later in the second, Samuels-Thomas notched his second power-play goal of the season, going shelf on Carr via a shot from the near-side circle.

Garteig made 23 saves on 24 shots, also giving up just two goals in the series. In his past three games, Garteig has given up only three goals on 70 shots.

Banners celebrating Quinnipiac’s 2013 Clearly Cup, NCAA East Regional title and Frozen Four appearance were also raised prior to faceoff. Former Quinnipiac standouts Eric Hartzell, Clay Harvey and Kevin Bui were in attendance for the ceremony.

“It was a pleasure being a part of that and having guys from last year come back,” Kellen Jones said. “It was a good exciting atmosphere, and I think the crowd enjoyed it too.”

The Bobcats host Bentley in a non-conference matchup on Tuesday, with puck drop set for 7 p.m.