POSTED 3/17/07 AT 11:45 P.M.
ALBANY, N.Y. – The Quinnipiac men’s hockey team had Clarkson where it wanted heading into the second period of Saturday’s ECACHL championship game. The Bobcats were up by two goals, had limited the league’s top offensive team to just 15 shots and goalie Bud Fisher had put together seven straight periods of shutout hockey.
In the third period, though, everything that had lifted the Bobcats to the championship game in just their second ECACHL season fell apart. Quinnipiac spent most of the period scrambling to clear the puck out of its zone and Fisher allowed three goals as Clarkson rallied for a 4-2 win at the Times Union Center.
“We were tired and we started running around a bit. You can’t do that against a team that good,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “For us to play a team like Clarkson, which is the most talented team in our league in my opinion, we need to have the highest level of intensity and the highest level of commitment just to keep them at bay.”
The loss put an end to Quinnipiac’s season at 21-14-5. Despite a 5-1 playoff run that included a two-game sweep at Cornell last weekend and a win over top-seeded St. Lawrence in the semifinals Friday, the Bobcats’ ranking in the PairWise, a statistical tool that measures teams in Division I hockey, isn’t high enough to earn them an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.
It marked the second time in three years that the Bobcats have a blown a third-period lead in a league championship game with an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament on the line. In 2005, Quinnipiac lost to Mercyhurst in overtime, 3-2, in the Atlantic Hockey championship game.
“For us to win two playoff series and get to the championship game with a two-goal lead going into the third, I don’t have regrets about how the third period goes,” Quinnipiac senior captain Reid Cashman said.
Clarkson (25-8-5) seized control of the game early in the third. It nearly got on the scoreboard at 1:20, but Fisher managed to block a close shot from a wide-open Mike Sullivan with his arm.
Fisher didn’t get a piece of Clarkson’s next shot, which came 23 seconds later when Chris D’Alvise jammed the puck in to cut Quinnipiac’s lead to 2-1.
The Bobcats withstood the Golden Knights’ flurry that ensued, but then came away empty on a power play midway through the period, missing an opportunity to gain some momentum back.
Just over a minute after the man advantage expired, Clarkson scored two goals 50 seconds apart to take the lead. Philippe Paquet took a pass from behind the net and fired a shot past Fisher near the left post at 12:30 before Brodie Rutherglen scored to give the Golden Knights a 3-2 lead. Clarkson added an empty-net goal with 56 seconds left.
“I definitely thought of changing some things, but changing the forecheck wouldn’t have mattered because the puck was in our end for a good chunk of time,” Pecknold said. “We didn’t have a lot of options. We had some of our better lines and players on the ice when they scored.”
Clarkson, which outshot Quinnipiac 15-7 in the third, ended Fisher’s shutout streak at 144 minutes, 47 seconds.
“I don’t think he had much of a chance on any of those goals,” Pecknold said. “There’s no question we wouldn’t be in the championship game without him.”
The Bobcats built a two-goal lead with a pair of first-period goals. Jean-Marc Beaudoin scored just 32 seconds into the period and Bryan Leitch added a power-play goal with 6.5 seconds left.
Pecknold said the loss of Quinnipiac’s second-best defenseman, Matt Sorterbeg, to an ankle injury in the post-game celebration after the first win in the series against Cornell last weekend hurt the Bobcats in the championship game.
“It just killed us this weekend,” Pecknold said. “We won two games without him, but it was tough to win a third. We’re just not deep enough right now to overcome the loss of a player that good.”