After a 615-day wait, the Battle of Whitney Avenue finally returned Friday night. And much like that last game so long ago, Quinnipiac was the dominant offensive force throughout, rolling to a 3-0 win.
It was a clash of opposing strategies in this game, as the high-powered Bobcats offense, outshooting opponents 286-150 on the season entering the game, met the excellent defensive play of the Bulldogs.
The opening minutes saw a neutral zone stalemate, as both teams shook off the rivalry jitters. But as the first period went on, they settled into their respective roles. Quinnipiac set up camp in the offensive zone, controlling the game from outside of the circles, but as it tried to work its way into the middle of the ice, Yale’s stifling man-to-man defense limited the Bobcats’ chances.
With eight blocked shots in the opening frame, it’s safe to say that stacking the net worked for the Bulldogs. But when facing an offense as skilled as Quinnipiac, a puck is bound to slip through the cracks eventually, and with four minutes left in the period, one did.
Junior winger Joey Cipollone picked up the puck along the left point and threaded the needle to junior defenseman Jayden Lee as he snuck down the right side. Lee received the pass and fired it shortside past sophomore goaltender Nathan Reid for his second game-winning goal in as many tallies this season.
Reid, a Wisconsin native, returned to the USHL to play for the Muskegon Lumberjacks last season after the Ivy League canned the 2020-21 campaign because of COVID-19. He makes up a third of a Yale goaltending trio that had yet to play a minute of college hockey before the Bulldogs played their season over last weekend.
Yale’s offense, under 16th-year head coach Keith Allain, struggled to find its stride through the first 20 minutes, failing to establish any real zone presence, all its chances coming in transition.
The second period would treat the Bulldogs the same offensively, but their stellar play on the defensive end kept it a one-goal game, as they blocked more shots (seven) than they put on net themselves (three).
That’s not to say that Quinnipiac didn’t have chances to extend its lead, as the Bobcats had two power play opportunities midway through the period, but they failed to convert on either. Yale contained Quinnipiac to the perimeter as it passed the puck around looking for the perfect shooting lane, which the Bulldogs never found.
Outshooting Yale 25-8 heading into the final frame, Quinnipiac came out of the locker room for the final frame in the holiday spirit, lighting up the Yale goaltender like a Christmas tree.
After a giveaway by Bulldogs freshman centerman Briggs Gammill was sent high off the glass by Bobcats senior winger Michael Lombardi, Quinnipiac senior centerman and captain Wyatt Bongiovanni won the ensuing draw back to senior winger Ethan de Jong, who used Bongiovanni as a screen to rifle the puck into the twine.
Down two and struggling to make the Bobcats pay on the scoreboard, Yale began to dish out punishment with its bodies, as Cipollone became the first of several victims when he was rocked on the far boards.
Quinnipiac continued to pour on the attack after a Bulldogs penalty gave them a third chance on the man-advantage. Graduate student winger Oliver Chau swiveled just above the goal line and unloaded a shot on net, which Bongiovanni promptly pounded into the net, extending the Bobcats’ lead to three.
Only, the officials said otherwise. After review, the goal was called back, and Yale suddenly had new life with the score still 2-0.
The home squad put on a desperate offensive onslaught in the next few minutes, mustering some of its best chances of the night, including a shot from freshman defenseman Michael Young that nearly knuckled by Quinnipiac sophomore goalie Yaniv Perets.
Ultimately, it was to no avail. The Bulldogs’ momentum faded and was replaced by a flurry of broken sticks that allowed the Bobcats to keep the puck in the o-zone. They ran down the clock until senior centerman TJ Friedmann sealed the game with a bank shot that soared into Yale’s open net.
Quinnipiac earned the victory in the first chapter of this storied rivalry, and the clock now ticks until these two meet again in Hamden on Jan. 8.
The Bobcats continue their weekend on the road in Providence on Saturday as they face Brown, a team that was fed a 6-3 beatdown by Princeton on Friday.