It may have taken 10 games but Jamie Bates, Bryan Leitch and Ben Nelson have picked up where they left off last season.
The first line trio exploded for a combined 11 points in the Bobcats 5-2 win over Princeton Wednesday evening at Hobey Baker Rink. Bates and Leitch had a goal and three assists each, while Nelson chipped in two goals and an assist on the night.
“It was definitely their best game of the year,” Bobcat head coach Rand Pecknold said. “They have some great leadership. It’s good having two seniors and a junior out there.”
Early in the season Pecknold experimented with different lines but eventually moved the three back together.
“We started off slow at the beginning of the year,” Senior captain Jamie Bates admitted, “But we have good chemistry.”
The chemistry was on full display on Wednesday as the three Bobcat first liners were on the ice for all but one goal on the night. Junior goalie Bud Fisher turned away 23 shots to earn his second victory of the season and help guide the Bobcats to a four game unbeaten streak.
With the win, the Bobcats improved to 3-0 all time at Princeton’s Baker Rink and won their second straight game over Princeton in only four days. Quinnipiac (5-3-2 overall, 2-1-2 ECAC) moved into a tie with Yale for fourth place in the ECAC and sits six points behind first place Clarkson, but have two games in hand. The Tigers (3-4-0 overall, 2-3-0 ECAC) fell into a four-way tie for 8th in the division.
Quinnipiac fended some early Princeton physicality to get on the scoreboard at 9:10 in the first frame. Leitch won a battle in front and slid the puck between Princeton goalie Zane Kalemba’s leg for the power-play tally. Bates and Dan Henningson assisted on the goal.
“We pride ourselves on good special teams,” Bates said of the team’s success on the power-play.
The Bobcats would go up by two when Nelson scored his first goal of the night after a series of impressive moves behind the net. Nelson took a pass from Leitch and changed direction three times behind the goal before shaking the Tiger defender and beating Kalemba on a wrap-around.
Quinnipiac controlled the tempo in the first period but the Tigers rebounded during the second period with two goals in a five minute span.
“Princeton came out hungry in the second period,” Pecknold said. “Luckily we were able to weather the storm.”
The storm began at 3:49 in the second period when Princeton freshman Mike Kramer scored his first collegiate goal off assists from Matt Godlewski and Brand Kushniruk.
Exactly five minutes later Lee Jubinville finished off a Princeton odd-man rush when he put home a loose puck off passes from captain Mike Moore and linemate Cam McIntyre. With the point McIntyre recorded his team high 11th point on the year and remained one of the nation’s leaders in points per game.
But the Bobcat’s first line ensured the teams would not be deadlocked going into the second intermission. With a 1:04 left in the period, a rebound off a shot from Bates bounced right to Nelson who one-timed the puck into the upper right hand corner of the Tiger net for the game winner.
The Bobcats would add two insurance goals in the third to put the game away for good. David Marshall roofed a loose puck past a diving Kalemba off a pass from Andy Meyer with five seconds left in an early power-play to make the score 4-2. Just under eight minutes later the Bobcats scored their fifth and final goal of the game off a Bates blast with assists from Nelson and Leitch.
With the win the Bobcats move to 4-2 all-time against the Tigers. But despite their two game winning streak against Princeton, Pecknold says the Bobcats still are not the favorite in Saturday’s game.
“Even though we’ll be at home, Princeton has the advantage on Saturday,” Pecknold said. “They don’t want to be swept.”
The Bobcats will look to gain the sweep of the season series against Princeton at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the TD Banknorth Sports Center in Hamden, Conn.