Rand Pecknold said it would only be a matter of time before the first line came around for the Quinnipiac men’s hockey team. Held scoreless in the Bobcats’ first three games, the line of Bryan Leitch, Ben Nelson and Jamie Bates found the back of the net twice Saturday night.
Nelson, centering a line with Leitch and Bates, scored two first-period goals as Quinnipiac completed a two-game sweep of Robert Morris with a 5-1 victory at the Northford Ice Pavilion.
“They were pressing a little bit, but it’s amazing how they change after they score,” Pecknold said. “The confidence just soars through the roof.”
The trio, which led all Quinnipiac forwards in scoring last season, opened the scoring 5:47 into the first period. Nelson started the play by intercepting a Robert Morris pass in the neutral zone. Bates fed Leitch the puck from the right corner and Nelson swatted Leitch’s rebound past Robert Morris goalie Joe Tuset.
Nelson tallied another goal with 18.8 seconds left in the period. With the Bobcats on the power play, he took a centering feed from Leitch and deked to the backhand to put the puck over Tuset’s shoulder.
Quinnipiac was buzzing around in the offensive zone for much of the first period. Had it not been for Tuset, who made 17 first-period saves, the Bobcats could’ve gone into the first intermission with more than just a 2-0 lead.
“I thought we set the tone early and that’s what we wanted to do both nights on the weekend,” Pecknold said.
The second period played out much like the first, with Quinnipiac holding a sizeable advantage in shots (25-10) and scoring an even-strength goal early and power-play goal in the final minute.
David Marshall scored at 3:40 and Wong knocked in a pass at the right post with 24.5 seconds remaining to extend the Bobcats’ lead to 4-0. Wong also scored an empty-net goal in the third period.
Penalty killing is an area in which the Bobcats are looking to improve this season and they had ample opportunities to practice in the two games. Penalties were called at a dizzying pace, especially in Saturday’s game, when the two teams combined for 22 power plays.
Both goals the Bobcats allowed on the weekend came on Robert Morris power plays, but Quinnipiac went 16-for-18 on the penalty kill (88.9 percent) and rotated in some offensive-minded players such as Marshall and Wong, who are tied for the team-lead in goals with three.
“We did a nice job, but we still need to get better,” Pecknold said. “We have a lot of new players we’re working into the system, so we have a ways to go with that.”
Bud Fisher came up with 43 saves in the 3-1 win Friday, with Marshall, Dan Travis and Andrew Meyer providing the goals for Quinnipiac, which is 17-1 in its last 18 games at Northford.