Saints march past men’s hockey

Doug Manners

POSTED 2/23/07 AT 10:26 P.M.

HAMDEN – Another sluggish start cost the Quinnipiac men’s hockey team a key win, and more importantly, might have cost them a bye in the first round of the ECACHL playoffs.

The Bobcats fell behind early, allowing two goals in the first six minutes and lost 4-1 to St. Lawrence Friday night at the TD Banknorth Sports Center.

St. Lawrence (20-11-2, 16-4-1 ECACHL) won the conference’s regular season championship with the win. Quinnipiac (16-12-5, 10-7-4 ECACHL) fell into a fourth-place tie with Cornell, which lost 5-1 at Dartmouth, but can still earn a top-four finish and the first-round bye that comes along with it by defeating Clarkson tomorrow night in the final game of the regular season. A loss or tie would put Quinnipiac’s fate in the hands of other teams.

The Saints scored on their first shot 51 seconds into the game when Max Taylor scored from the top of the left circle. Alex Curran gave St. Lawrence a 2-0 lead at 5:22 when he alone at the left post and stuffed his rebound over the shoulder of Quinnipiac sophomore goalie Bud Fisher (19 saves)

“It’s hard to say we lost the game in the first five-and-a-half minutes, but in hindsight, we probably did,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “The first goal was real mediocre and the second goal was just unacceptable. We had three guys on one kid and you can’t beat the best team in the league when you’re going to have that happen.”

Slow starts have been a problem of late for the Bobcats. In its last conference home game, a 5-4 loss to Dartmouth Feb. 9, Quinnipiac gave up a pair of goals in the first 4 minutes, 12 seconds.

“I don’t know what it is, but we just seem to be lacking a bit in the first five minutes and it’s putting us behind the eight-ball for the rest of the game,” junior assistant captain Jamie Bates said. “[With] home ice on the line, if we can’t get up for tomorrow, there’s definitely a problem.”

Pecknold said the team has struggled with its competitiveness throughout the second semester. Since winning at Yale Jan. 13, the Bobcats have gone 2-4-1 in ECACHL games, with the wins coming against Yale and Colgate, two teams in the bottom half of the conference.

“The kids just aren’t buying in the way they were first semester,” Pecknold said. “This semester has been very difficult. The kids, for the most part, just aren’t playing with that same emotion.”

Despite the early 2-0 deficit, the Bobcats had plenty of power-play opportunities to get back in the game. But facing the best the ECACHL’s best penalty kill in conference games (91.2 percent), Quinnipiac was held scoreless on the power play (0-for-8) for the first time this season at home.

“[St. Lawrence] did a good job of stacking it up on their blue line and we just couldn’t seem to make it click to get by them to set it up,” Bates said.

Freshman forward Brandon Wong, who didn’t have a shot in the game, set up one of Quinnipiac’s best scoring chances midway through the second period when he gave the puck to classmate Jean-Marc Beaudoin on a 2-on-1 shorthanded breakaway. However, Beaudoin was denied by St. Lawrence goalie Alex Petizian, who turned aside the shot with his blocker.

The Saints scored 8:29 into the third on a power-play goal, which the Bobcats followed up by scoring 16 seconds later when sophomore Bryan Leitch snapped a low shot past Petizian (28 saves).

St. Lawrence put the game away with 1:32 left when Kevin DeVergilio put a rebound past Fisher after he stopped Taylor on a breakaway.