Perhaps Quinnipiac has found what it needs to make Ingalls Rink feel more like home – student fans. Playing its fifth home game of the season at Yale’s home arena, the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team defeated No. 18 St. Lawrence, 3-1, before 2,315 fans Saturday night for its first win at Ingalls.
The Bobcats (15-14 overall, 6-11 in ECAC) had lost all four games at Ingalls prior to Saturday, but all of those games were played while classes at Quinnipiac were not in session. This season, crowds at Quinnipiac men’s hockey games have grown substantially larger and louder.
Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said the growing fan base has been one of the best things to happen to the hockey program this season.
“The kids are getting into and enjoying it,” Pecknold said. “In order for us to be need that fan base and kind of culture. It helps you win, and there’s no question that our guys fed off it this weekend.”
The Bobcats also fed off freshman goalie Bud Fisher’s 31-save performance. Fisher, who celebrated his 19th birthday Saturday, stopped all 18 shots he faced in the third period to preserve Quinnipiac’s 2-1 lead.
“We’re not giving up too many breakaways or 2-on-1s, so that’s helping us out a lot,” Fisher said. “I’m just trying to keep it simple and be where the puck is.”
Fisher’s finest save came early in the third. He had come out to play the puck and was at the edge of the crease when Mark Wallmann picked up the puck. Wallmann had a wide open net to shoot at, but Fisher swung his stick out to keep the puck out of the net.
“We’re sitting on the bench (saying), ‘Oh my god, how didn’t he score a goal?” Quinnipiac sophomore Jamie Bates said. “He saved a for-sure goal and that really changed the momentum.”
For the fifth time in the last six games, the Bobcats scored the game’s first goal. Brian Leitch fired a hard shot from the slot on Clarkson goalie John Hallas, who was making his first collegiate start. Ben Nelson picked up the rebound to Hallas’ left and knocked the bouncing puck into the half-empty net at 8:05.
The line of Leitch, Nelson and Bates gave Quinnipiac a 2-0 lead with 3:39 left in the first period. Leitch snapped a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Hallas stick side for his 11th goal of the season.
Leitch and his linemates accounted for five of Quinnipiac’s nine goals last weekend.
“Ever since Christmas, we seem to be getting bounces and we’re getting confident,” Bates said. “Earlier in the year, pucks weren’t going our way.”
St. Lawrence sliced the lead in half just over a minute after Leitch’s goal when Chase Trull deflected T.J. Trevelyan’s shot over Fisher’s glove.
Leitch scored into an empty net for the Bobcats with 32.2 seconds left in the third for his second goal of the night.
Despite the two wins over the weekend, Quinnipiac remains in 11th place in the ECAC standings as 10th-place Princeton also swept Clarkson and St. Lawrence this weekend.
However, the Bobcats are just two points out of 8th place. The teams that finish between 5th and 8th place receive home-ice advantage in the first round of the ECAC playoffs (the top four teams earn a first-round bye).
“We haven’t, as a staff, talked that much about the standings with the players this year,” Pecknold said. “The only thing we can control is trying to get better week to week.”
Quinnipiac’s only game this week is Friday night at Dartmouth. The Bobcats play their final regular season home games the following weekend, hosting Union at Northford and RPI at Ingalls.successful in the long run, we