Nina Steigauf’s heroics propel No. 5 Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey to ninth Nutmeg Classic title with win over UConn


Cameron Levasseur

No. 5 Quinnipiac continued its terrific season with a win over No; 6 Yale on Sunday.

Cameron Levasseur, Associate Sports Editor

Sophomore winger Nina Steigauf did it all for No. 5 Quinnipiac Friday night, propelling the Bobcats to a 3-2 victory in the Nutmeg Classic championship game.

Steigauf scored the game winner in the third period and proved to be a menace on the defensive side of the puck, her physical play and scoring touch burying UConn on its home ice.

Riding high from a comeback win over No. 6 Yale in the tournament opener Friday, Quinnipiac carried that momentum into the title game the following evening, but its offensive attack was thwarted early.

Both sides had their share of zone presence in the game’s opening 10 minutes, but the stellar net front defense of their opponents stopped most shots from ever making it to the net.

The Bobcats dominated play in the latter half of the period, but still struggled to create any real scoring chances, as four blocked shots by UConn kept the puck out of the crease of freshman goaltender Megan Warrener.

With just over a minute remaining in the opening frame, Quinnipiac found a crack in Huskies defense and did not let the chance go awry.

Sophomore centerman Sophie Urban cutoff a breakout pass intended for a UConn winger along the left half-wall, leaving the puck for freshman Ann-Frederik Naud before skating hard to the net. Naud dropped deep into the zone, firing a pass to the waiting stick of Urban in the mid slot, who wasted no time giving the Bobcats a 1-0 lead.

Out of the break, Quinnipiac’s offensive attack continued to roll, as junior defenseman Kate Reilly ripped a shot walking down from the right side that beat Warrener, but not the goalpost.

Full of energy after being sprung from the sin bin just 43 seconds earlier, UConn graduate student forward and team captain Natalie Snodgrass one-timed a knuckle puck that bounced up and over Quinnipiac graduate student goaltender Corinne Schroeder to tie the game at one.

Desperate to keep the game that way, a sprawling effort from Warrener on a shot from junior winger Sadie Peart did just that, but she couldn’t stop everything.

Minutes later, the Bobcats earned an offensive zone faceoff after Steigauf followed up her shot by bowling over Warrener. Graduate student centerman Taylor House won the draw to herself and let a shot go on net before picking up her own rebound and slotting it by the Ontario native.

House earned the tournament MVP honor for her weekend performance, notching the overtime winner against Yale the night before as the Bobcats roared back from a 2-0 first period deficit to claim their place in the title game.

Both teams had their chances as the puck flew up and down the ice in the period’s waning minutes, but the netminders stood tall and Quinnipiac’s one goal lead remained as the in-state rivals headed into the final 20.

With a trophy on the line, the game became much more physical as the clock ticked towards zero. Looking to add to the Bobcats lead shorthanded, senior centerman Lexie Adzija dangled her way through the Huskies defense and laid a backhand shot on net, but was driven head first into the ice by graduate student forward Summer-Rae Dobson trying to keep the play alive.

With less than ten minutes to play, UConn graduate student forward Morgan Wabick sniped one over the right shoulder of Schroeder walking down the right wing to even the contest at two.

But as the Bobcats have proven again and again all season, just when you think an opponent has all the momentum, that’s when they flip the script.

Less than a minute later, a point shot off a Quinnipiac face-off win rebounded off of Warrener and then the end wall, landing on Steigauf’s stick mere inches from the crease. She snuck the puck by the lunging Huskies’ goaltender and once again the Bobcats were on top.

Eight heart pounding minutes now separated Quinnipiac from victory.

With senior forward Danielle Fox doing it all for UConn on both sides of the ice, it looked as if the tournament hosts might find an equalizer, which for a brief moment they did. On the powerplay with under four to play, Snodgrass unloaded a rocket from Ovechkin’s office that went bar-down … and out. The cheers of the Huskies’ faithful cut short by the official waving no goal at the line.

And so it would stand, Quinnipiac holding on to earn their second straight Nutmeg Classic championship, and ninth overall. Only one team besides the Bobcats (Yale, who has won four times) has won the tournament more than once.

Named to the all-tournament team were Steigauf, Schroeder and sophomore forward Olivia Mobley.

Now 15-1-2 on the season, Quinnipiac does not hit the ice again for over a month, when they fly out to Madison, Wisconsin for a weekend series with the No. 1-ranked Badgers to kick off the new year.