Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey returns to win column with 2-1 overtime victory over AIC


Connor Lawless

The Bobcats hold a record of 5-1-2 going into next week’s Battle of Whitney Avenue at Yale.

Cameron Levasseur, Staff Writer

After playing to a tie in Springfield last night, the Quinnipiac men’s hockey team earned redemption over AIC back in Hamden on Saturday, winning by the score of 2-1.

A couple early chances for the Bobcats, including a one-on-one chance for sophomore winger Ty Smilanic, nearly broke the game open mere minutes in. His toe-drag snapshot beat the defender, but couldn’t get by the shoulder of Yellow Jackets’ graduate student goaltender Alec Calvaruso.

“That’s a shot I work on a lot,” Smilanic said. “So when I got that chance early on I’d say that I was pretty disappointed with myself that I didn’t score that, but it kind of got my blood pumping pretty quick into the game.”

Those would be the only major opportunities for either side for a large portion of the period however, as sloppy passing and turnovers kept the game a neutral zone battle.

With 6:30 to play in the period, Quinnipiac finally broke through. Senior defenseman Zach Metsa toe-dragged around an AIC forward in the high slot before cutting back to feed Smilanic far post, who slid the puck past Calvaruso to give the Bobcats their first lead of the weekend.

“In practice we talk about having guys off the back post like Ty was,” Metsa said. “As well as just like, for me, walking the blue line, trying to make offense, create offense from the blue line, so a lot of things just kind of worked out in that play.”

The Yellow Jackets would get two chances from close range in the ensuing minutes, trying to pound the puck straight through Quinnipiac graduate student goaltender Dylan St. Cyr, but the 5-foot-8-inch Michigan native stonewalled both.

Following several AIC penalties in the waning minutes of the first and the early second, the Bobcats played the first three minutes of the second frame on the power play. And while they generated a number of chances on the man-advantage, including one that required a sprawling save from Calvaruso, their lead remained one as the infractions expired.

Despite outshooting the Yellow Jackets 17-3 in the second, the lone goal in those twenty minutes would not go to Quinnipiac. Halfway through the period, a diving block from a Bobcats defenseman put the puck on the stick of AIC graduate student winger Luka Maver, and with St. Cyr out of position, he sent a pass to fellow graduate student winger Justin Cole for an easy tuck.

Quinnipiac would have chances to retake the lead in the coming minutes, including a shot from senior centerman and captain Wyatt Bongiovanni that rang off a post and out. So the two teams headed into the final frame tied at one.

Once again, the Bobcats outshot the Yellow Jackets by a sizable margin (17-4) in the third period. But Calvaruso and an AIC defense that allowed the fewest goals in Division I last season held strong.

“I think it’s just hard to score goals sometimes at this level if kids are willing to block shots like they were both days,” Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey head coach Rand Pecknold said. “Probably the bigger problem for us is we’re just gripping that stick a little tight, guys are fanning on one-t’s and missing empty nets.”

One of those missed opportunities came in the third period, when Metsa found Smilanic back door once again, but this time the Florida Panthers’ third-round draft pick couldn’t corral the puck to bury it in the Yellow Jackets’ net.

Several other scoring chances for the Bobcats came off the stick of junior defenseman Jayden Lee, who was buzzing up and down the ice all night long, getting second and third chances off of his own rebound.

“I might argue that’s the best game Jayden Lee’s ever played for us,” Pecknold said. “He’s always been a really good hockey player, high IQ, just has a lot of confidence right now.”

Despite the play of guys like Lee, after 60 minutes, the game was still even. So for the second night in a row, the two headed to a five-minute three-on-three overtime period.

AIC won the initial draw, but created nothing on offense except for a turnover that sprung Metsa and Bongiovanni down the ice in a two-on-one. After evaluating the passing lane, Metsa turned his focus back to the net and fired one past Calvaruso, sending the Yellow Jackets back home with a stinging loss.

“I think it was Bonjo that ended up being the guy up ice,” Metsa said. “I thought maybe I could get it to hum, obviously he’s got a great shot. But at some point — I couldn’t really tell you when — I just decided to shoot it, try to catch the goalie off-guard.”

After a 1-0-1 weekend, the Bobcats have what is the most anticipated game of the regular season thus far this coming Friday, as they head 20 minutes south to do battle with Yale at Ingalls Rink in what is yet another installment of the Battle of Whitney Avenue.