Late goal sparks men’s hockey to win

Doug Manners

NORTH BRANFORD – It looked like the Quinnipiac men’s hockey team might be headed toward another disheartening tie when Union tied the game Saturday night late in the third period.

But a quick penalty against Union, followed by an even quicker Quinnipiac power-play goal, allowed the Bobcats to regain the lead and defeat the Dutchmen, 4-2, at the Northford Ice Pavilion.

The Bobcats (8-4-4 overall, 5-2-3 ECACHL) will go into the holiday break in first place in the ECACHL, although Quinnipiac and its travel partner, Princeton, have played the most conference games in the league.

Quinnipiac, which allowed three unanswered third-period goals Friday in a 4-4 tie with RPI, saw its 2-1 lead wiped away by Union when Matt Cook redirected a shot past Bobcats goalie Bud Fisher (20 saves) for a power-play goal with 2:56 left in the third.

Just 11 seconds later, the Bobcats went on their eighth power play of the night, and seven seconds into it Bryan Leitch scored his second goal of the night. Leitch took a cross-ice pass through the legs of a Union defenseman down low from Ben Nelson and jammed the puck in at the right post.

“It’s always deflating when they score so late in the game, but we got a power play and it’s our job to bury it, and we did,” Leitch said.

The Bobcats’ top line of Leitch, Nelson and Jamie Bates also scored the team’s first goal of the game, which tied the game at 1-1 early in the second period. The line accounted for four of the eight goals that Quinnipiac scored over the weekend.

“I think they’re playing better because they’re competing harder,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “I think all three of them thought it was going to be easier than it is. Last year, they were really good the second half of the year because they competed and battled. They all came back thinking it was going to be freewheeling, easy sailing.”

David Marshall gave the Bobcats a 2-1 lead with 6:14 remaining in the third with a highlight reel goal. Marshall skated with the puck into the Union zone, deked the Dutchmen defenders to weave around them and then roofed a wrist shot over Union goalie Justin Mrazek.

“I think Marshy has about nine goals this year on SportsCenter,” Leitch said. “He’s quite a player.”

Marshall had been held scoreless in the last three games after scoring five goals in Quinnipiac’s first six ECACHL games.

“Marshy was fighting a little bit tonight, just battling and trying to do too much,” Pecknold said. “(Assistant coach) Ben (Syer) and I were talking and I said, ‘I’ll just keep playing him because he’s going to score sooner or later.’ And sure enough, he does.”
Brandon Wong put the game away with an empty-net goal with 1.6 seconds remaining.

Union’s goaltending was significantly better than in its previous two meetings with Quinnipiac. The Bobcats scored eight goals in each of those wins, including an 8-2 win at Union in the ECACHL opener for both teams Nov. 3.

Mrazek, who was pulled in that game, finished with 24 saves tonight and stopped all 16 of Quinnipiac’s first-period shots.

“Honestly, we just kind of got lucky up (at Union) and we got on a roll,” Leitch said. “They definitely came to play today and we just gutted it out.”

The Bobcats are off until Jan. 4 when they host Rochester Institute of Technology at Northford.