Pete’s pond: Overtime heartbreak

Peter Piekarski, Associate Sports Editor

There is almost nothing more legendary than scoring an overtime playoff goal. For Quinnipiac, Saturday night’s overtime loss was nothing short of heart-breaking.

Kudos to Minnesota State for battling back over the course of two periods, eliminating two separate two-goal leads. Especially after being outplayed in the first period.

Previously, I mentioned that Quinnipiac’s chance of success and a win exponentially skyrockets when it scores first and exits the first period with a lead. To its credit, it did just that. Two first-period goals came off the sticks of senior forward and captain Odeen Tufto and junior defenseman Peter DiLiberatore.

Senior forward Odeen Tufto scored a goal in the first three minutes of the NCAA regional round against Minnesota State. (Courtesy of QU Athletics)

Tufto began the game emphatically by collecting a rebound from a keep-in by freshman defenseman Iivari Räsänen, and while all alone in front of junior goaltender Dryden McKay, he deked him out and backhanded the puck into the net just three minutes into the game.

Just 12.5 minutes later, freshman forward Christophe Fillion started a 3-on-2 odd-man rush, made a cross-slot pass to redshirt sophomore Guus Van Nes who then one-touched the puck toward the net and was tipped in by DiLiberatore.

Quinnipiac executed on every aspect of the game, something that’s been a rarity for this team in the first period this season. Breakouts were clean, forechecking was relentless, odd-man rushes were efficient at generating chances, shots were high-danger opportunities and goals ultimately were scored.

“I think we started really good and I think we may have shocked them a little bit,” Tufto said. “I don’t think they expected us to come out like that.”

However, once the second period began, Minnesota State completely flipped the tide of the game. After being outshot 13-to-6 in the first 20 minutes, the Mavericks outshot the Bobcats 14-5 in the second frame. They also managed to cut the lead in half with two minutes left.

A poorly played dump-in by Quinnipiac allowed junior forward and leading Mavericks goal scorer Julian Napravnik to fire a puck on net, which senior forward Jake Jaremko deflected past senior goaltender Keith Petruzzelli.

“We’ve been struggling a little bit with our first periods this year,” head coach Rand Pecknold said. “We really locked in as a coaching staff trying to do something different with the guys today. Which worked but then it flipped because we weren’t very good in the second.”

The third period was going to be a tough test for both teams no matter what, but Quinnipiac took a late penalty following the Mavericks goal, which carried over into the third period. Just minutes after killing off the penalty, Quinnipiac took another one and nearly dug its own grave.

Nevertheless, the Bobcats killed off both successfully and then drew two consecutive penalties just 23 seconds apart, gifting them an extensive 5-on-3 opportunity to build on their narrow lead.

Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey head coach Rand Pecknold was named ECAC Hockey Tim Taylor Coach of the Year. (Courtesy of QU Athletics)

For a power-play unit that finished sixth overall in the nation, one would expect the top unit to work the puck around smoothly and generate a couple of clear shot lanes, but this 5-on-3 failed to do so. A forced shot, a bad cross-slot pass and a flubbed one-timer later, and Minnesota State had killed the two-man advantage.

Quinnipiac did manage to extend its lead just before the midway point of the third when the most unlikely goalscorer in C.J. McGee fired a loose puck from just above the left circle underneath the blocker of McKay.

The sophomore defender had never scored a goal at the NCAA level to that point. This also happened to be Quinnipiac’s only shot on goal in the period.

As the final minutes rolled on, both teams created multiple offensive chances, but nothing connected until the 14:54 mark of the period when a Maverick’s dump-in was deflected back to the point where sophomore forward Nathan Smith fired a shot along the ice looking for a deflection.

Only this time it would come off of a Quinnipiac player.

Minnesota State, just like the second period, started coming in waves, never taking the pressure off of Quinnipiac’s breakout.

Freshman defenseman Jake Livingstone collected a Quinnipiac clearance with the Maverick’s net empty, skated coast-to-coast seemingly untouched, drawing a crowd of Quinnipiac players to the left corner before finding sophomore forward Cade Borchardt open in the slot, ultimately tipping the puck past Petruzzelli.

Just like that, Quinnipiac’s lead had vanished and Minnesota State had sent the game to overtime.

For us, I don’t want to say we’re a young team but we’re a little bit all over the map at times,” Pecknold said. “And unfortunately, you can’t do that when you’re playing a top-five team nationally. A lot of the credit has to go to Minnesota State and how good they were and how they controlled play at times.”

Much like the second period, Minnesota State dominated overtime. The Mavericks suffocated the Bobcats breakout, forcing several turnovers in the neutral zone. In doing so, Quinnipiac’s forechecking and offensive pressure was non-existent.

The winning goal came via a great play by sophomore forward Brendan Furry. After getting to a dump-in first, Furry circled around the zone and then darted to the net, shooting it off of Petruzzelli’s pad.

Senior forward Reggie Lutz picked up the loose puck behind the net and wrapped around the side, putting the puck underneath Petruzzelli as he scrambled into position. With no whereabouts of the puck just laying in front of his right pad, sophomore forward Ryan Sandelin called game and knocked the puck into the net, sending Minnesota State to the next round.

A bitter ending for a few glorious careers with Quinnipiac. Seniors goaltender Josh Mayanja, forward Joe O’Connor, as well as Tufto and Petruzzelli, had played their final game in a Bobcats sweater. Junior defenseman and assistant captain Peter DiLiberatore also joins that list as he recently signed an entry-level contract with the Vegas Golden Knights.

“It’s unfortunate the way it ended there late in the third and then in OT,” Tufto said. “I was given a great opportunity when I came as a freshman, to play right away and play big minutes and special teams. I’m truly grateful for a coach like Rand Pecknold. He’s given me the world these last four years.”

Quinnipiac has some major holes to fill for next season, and Pecknold will have a lot of work to do in the offseason to get this team ready for next year.