After a 2015 season filled with injury and disappointment, the Bobcats are headed to the MAAC tournament championship with a 3-1 win over Canisius on Friday.
“We’re feeling confident,” Bobcats captain James Doig, who is one of the few Bobcats who played in the 2013 MAAC Championship, said. “We’re back to where we belong.”
The Bobcats tallied goals from sophomores Rashawn Dally and Matthew Taylor, while freshman Eamon Whelan also found the back of the net for his team-leading 11th goal of the season. Whelan was recently selected as the MAAC Rookie of the Year.
After starting the season with just nine goals in the first nine matches, the Bobcats offense has erupted for 22 in their last 10 games.
The fifth-seeded Golden Griffins were playing in their first semifinals appearance since 2007, but seemed to be a step behind the top-seeded Bobcats for the majority of the match.
On a day where the winds were gusting heavily, Dally and Whelan blew past the Griffins’ defense continuously in the opening minutes of the first half, but weren’t able to come away with goals. Whelan had multiple chances in front that were blocked, while Dally had a breakaway chance that was thwarted by senior Thomas Teupen, who was awarded the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year Award on Thursday.
Whelan would have another chance in front 15 minutes into the first half which was blocked again, but Taylor was there for the rebound to sneak a goal past Canisius goalkeeper Marco Trivellato to put the Bobcats on the board.
“Eamon created that chance for me,” Taylor said. “It was just an instinctive finish. I was able to turn around and put it in.”
Whelan was rewarded for his numerous scoring chances five minutes later, when Dally scrambled past the defense again and sent a centering pass to Whelan, who would earn his elusive goal and put the Bobcats up 2-0.
Canisius tried to dial up the pressure after the Whelan goal, but was unable to generate any quality scoring chances. The most pressure Bobcats’ goalkeeper Chrys Iakovidis faced in the first half was from the strong winds blowing straight into his face.
Quinnipiac came out firing again in the second half on two solid scoring chances from Dally. It appeared the first half would be more of the same in terms of offensive dominance from the Bobcats, but a tricky bounce in front of the Bobcats’ net found its way to Teupen, who netted the top-shelf goal to cut the deficit in half.
The Bobcats didn’t blink despite surrendering the deflating goal, and minutes later it was Dally again to provide the spark. He netted a breakaway goal on the pass from junior William Pustari to give the Bobcats breathing room, which they would not relinquish.
“Rashawn [Dally] really has the complete package,” Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa said. “He’s certainly been a force in the last five or six games.”
The last breath of offense from Canisius came in the final 10 minutes on consecutive corner kicks, but both found their way into the hands of Iakovidis, who is ranked 16th nationally in save percentage.
It will be a quick turnover for the Bobcats as they will look to rest and refresh before the title match on Sunday.
“We’ve put ourselves in these sort of environments where we purposely congested some games so we would be prepared when faced with a challenge like this,” Da Costa said. “Our opponent will be facing the same situation, and we’ll do our best to be prepared for the next match.”
Looking ahead to potential finals matchups, the Bobcats beat Siena 3-2 earlier in the season and lost 3-1 to Rider on senior day in Hamden two weeks ago.