Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey continues to roll with a 5-3 come-from-behind victory over Arizona State

Bongiovanni, Smilanic each score twice as the Bobcats score five unanswered


Peyton McKenzie

The Bobcats came back from a 3-0 deficit to win their fourth straight game on Friday.

Ethan Hurwitz, Staff Writer

Backed by sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets, the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team roared back to complete a 5-3 comeback against the visiting Arizona State Sun Devils on Friday.

Captain center Wyatt Bongiovanni scored twice in the third period, and sophomore winger Ty Smilianic scored the open-netter to complete the Bobcats’ biggest comeback of the season. The crowd played a huge role in the comeback, and it resonated with the players.

“Our fans stayed the whole game, and they were energetic,” Smilanic said. “A year like this with fans make these games a lot easier. They were a part of the game too.”

Arizona State took the lead just six minutes into regulation, as redshirt senior winger Chris Grando cleaned up the Perets rebound and scored his first goal of the season.

With 2:08 left in the first period, graduate student center Colin Theisen grabbed another Perets rebound and lit the lamp to bump their lead to two. The goal was Theisen’s sixth of the year, putting him second on the team for career goals with 39, only trailing his linemate, graduate student winger and team captain Johnny Walker.

The first period was not all bad for the Bobcats. They won 18 faceoffs in the first frame, adding on to their second-best ranking in the entire NCAA. Entering tonight at a 57.8% win rate, faceoffs are something that Quinnipiac men’s head coach Rand Pecknold has put a lot of emphasis on this season.

“I haven’t looked at the tape yet, but I know (junior forward) Skyler (Brind’Amour) was excellent,” Pecknold said. “It is something that our team focuses on, and we get everyone involved.”

The second period did not start off any better than the first, as Arizona State scored its third goal of the game. Sophomore winger Matthew Kopperud finished on a give-and-go sequence, extending his team lead in goals with his ninth of the year. The Sun Devils were on fire and limited the chances Quinnipiac got inside the slot.

Pecknold then decided to shift around his line, having Bongiovanni, usually on the first line, work with Smilanic and senior winger Michael Lombardi on the second line. This change in the offensive system seemed to flip a switch for the Bobcats, as the chemistry within the team seemed to change the tide.

The Bobcats then went on a shooting rampage, firing shot after shot at Sun Devils sophomore goalie Cole Brady. A beautiful pass from senior center TJ Friedmann went right onto the tape of junior defender Jayden Lee to put the Bobcats on the board with their first of the night.

Just under three minutes later, Smilanic found a redirected puck out in front of the net and buried it, having the Bobcats climb to just one goal down. The Florida Panthers prospect sent the People’s United Center into a frenzy with his fourth goal of the season.

Perets, who struggled in the first frame, was lights out in the back half of the second period. Highlighted by a superhuman save that had Perets in a full-out split that sent Sun Devils sprawling left and right, he stopped eight shots to keep the Bobcats alive against the high-powered Arizona State offense.

Perets came into today ranked in the top three nationally in win percentage, save percentage and goals against average. Pecknold approved of how the sophomore goaltender bounced back after a tough first period.

“Good test for Yaniv to be down 3-0 and kinda close the door for us,” Pecknold said. “Our culture came through tonight.”

Pecknold also added how a new goalie was not in the cards, responding with a blunt “no” after being asked if a goalie change was ever in the works.

The third period began with a tripping minor called on senior defender Marcus Chorney, which was killed off by the Bobcats. They’ve killed off 93.1% of penalties so far on the year, and that same penalty kill helped Quinnipiac towards the end.

Halfway through the final period, Bongiovanni snipes the top of the net to even the score up at three. The goal was the fourth of the season for Bongiovanni which sent the fans in Hamden into mayhem.

Just a few minutes later, Bongiovanni did some fancy puck work, a la The Mighty Ducks, and snuck one past Brady to give the Bobcats their first lead of the night. The nicknamed “Bonjo” got the pass from junior winger Guus Van Nes to give him his third point of the night, leading the team.

“We felt like we took control of the game in the third period,” Bongiovanni said. “We gotta keep the pressure on them. Getting shots through … we have a lot of talent.”

To add insult to injury, the Sun Devils sent a pass the wrong direction, leading to another Bobcats goal, credited to Smilanic. This sealed the deal for Quinnipiac, as it scored five goals in a game for the third time this season. The win was the eighth of the season for Quinnipiac, and it has now rattled off four straight victories.

The Bobcats will host Arizona State for the second half of their back-to-back tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the People’s United Center.