Photo credits: Caiti Kaminski
With home ice for the playoffs on the line and facing a confident Brown team, the Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey team knew they had to get their offense in sync early.
On Quinnipiac’s first possession, senior forward Kallie Flor carried the puck up ice, passed it to fellow senior forward Janine Duffy, then got the puck back from her and banked it off the goal’s left pipe and into the net.
“We knew playing against Brown – coming off that huge win against Princeton – we were going to have to come out strong,” Flor said. “To have that goal in the first shift was huge just to get our team rolling.”
The goal was the first of an 8-1 thrashing of Brown at the TD Bank Sports Center on Saturday and secured a home playoff series for Quinnipiac in the first round of the ECAC Hockey Tournament this weekend.
The win helped Quinnipiac finish out the year on a seven-game undefeated streak heading into its first ever playoff series this Friday. It also culminated the best regular season in program history, as the team finished 18-8-8 overall and 11-4-7 in ECAC Hockey.
Flor added her 13th goal of the year six minutes into the second period to give her team a 4-0 lead on a one-timer that nearly knocked goaltender Katie Jamieson to the ice after the puck hit off her shoulder pad and stuck in the back of the net. The goal actually did knock Jamieson out of the net, as replacement Joy Joung finished the game in relief for the Bears.
For Duffy and the Bobcats, a chance to play in a home playoff series was an aspiration heading into the year.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” Duffy said. “Making the playoffs with home-ice advantage – it was one of our goals that we set out – but it was a very lofty goal, so it was bittersweet.”
Duffy, along with seniors Flor, Breana Burton, Evelina Husar and trainer Meg Brunelle were honored before the game for Senior Day. The four senior players were given a tough assignment at the beginning of the year to lead a team with 12 freshman and six sophomores, but Duffy said they were up to the task.
“I knew we had the talent, but it was going to be a question of how long it would take for our freshmen to catch on,” she said. “They were so easy to teach and we just had to stay on them. It’s falling into place real nice.”
Two freshman, forward Heather Hughes and goaltender Victoria Vigilanti, have taken huge roles on the team. Hughes, who added two goals on Saturday, leads the team with 14 goals this season and Vigilanti, who stopped 30 shots in the victory, leads ECAC Hockey with a .948 save percentage and a 1.31 goals against average.
“She’s capable of a huge save, but she just makes every save she’s supposed to make, Quinnipiac head coach Rick Seeley said of Vigilanti. “It gives our team so much confidence knowing that she’s back there. We’re going to nominate her for All-American.”
The conference has recognized her five times for weekly awards this year and she has earned ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week honors the past two weeks.
“The awesome thing about this team is – it’s unique with every team I’ve been associated with – everyone gets along,” Seeley said. “Everyone supports each other and the character is solid. There’s not one negative influence.
“This group did a great job early (this season) and just built on it in the second half,” Seeley said. “I would have never guessed we would have done as well as we did in the second half.”
Duffy believes home ice will help get rid of the nerves expected in her first playoff game.
“Going into the playoffs I’m sure they’ll be some extra nerves, but the fact that it’s at home makes it a lot more comfortable,” she said. “You have your regular game-day routine, it’s just a lot more easygoing when things are at home. They’ll be some nerves, but I don’t think it will take much from us to get over them.”
ECAC Hockey standings