Wyatt Bongiovanni plays his 100th game and Ty Smilanic nets two as No. 2 Quinnipiac shuts out No. 18 Harvard 3-0


Alex Bayer

After COVID-19 put an end to Ty Smilanic’s juniors tournament with Team USA, he returned to the People’s United Center and dropped two goals on Harvard in a 3-0 win.

Aidan Sheedy, Copy Editor

After a 34-day pause from play, the No. 2 Quinnipiac Bobcats welcomed a familiar foe, the Harvard Crimson, Friday night in Hamden. It was neck-and-neck for much of the game, but the Bobcats’ relentless forechecking proved to be too much for the Crimson. Sophomore forward Ty Smilanic scored twice for the Bobcats with two, and senior forward Wyatt Bongiovanni added the final nail in the coffin in the 3-0 win.

Both squads played an aggressive defense-heavy game, but the offensive pressure and one-on-one battles ended up being the deciding factor.

“We are relentless. We hunt the puck well, we defend well,” Pecknold said. “It was not perfect tonight, but it was just good enough to get the win.”

For the first five minutes of play, both teams appeared to be feeling each other out. But at the 6:40 mark, Smilanic found an opportunity for a potential breakaway with a surging Harvard defender just behind him. Harvard senior defenseman Marshall Rifai took Smilanic down with his stick blade as the Bobcat passed the right faceoff dot. Smilanic drew the penalty but made an incredible one-handed shot from his stomach to give the Bobcats the lead early in the first. It was a play made from pure instinct.

“I just kinda threw it on net,” Smilanic said with a laugh. “I was buried into the boards, but then I heard people cheering so I figured it out.”

Smilanic scored once again in the second period, but this time on the power play. Though they have struggled mightily this year, the Bobcats scored just six seconds into the man advantage, giving them a 2-0 lead going into the third period.

After little action throughout the first two periods of play, Quinnipiac and Harvard entered a stretch of no stoppages that lasted almost nine minutes. From that long stretch of play, the Bobcats found a sharper edge.

With just under three minutes left to play, Smilanic chipped a loose puck to a streaking Bongiovanni for a breakaway. The captain made no mistake as he utilized a forehand-backhand deke before shooting five-hole to score in his 100th collegiate game. From that point, the Bobcats were in cruise control and eased the rest of the way to close this one out. The Bobcats’ defense surrendered only 13 shots on goal, aiding breakout freshman goaltender Yaniv Perets to his seventh shutout of the year, the third-most in the NCAA this year.

Smilanic, who put up two goals and an assist, came into this game with an extra kick. The Florida Panthers third-round draft pick briefly participated for Team USA in the World Juniors Championship during New Year’s weekend. Unfortunately, an in game injury sidelined him before COVID-19 complications forced the International Ice Hockey Federation to cancel the tournament, affecting players from both sides of the ice tonight.

“I was away from Quinnipiac for a month, and I was really missing it,” Smilanic said. “To be able to come back to play for a team that is second in the country, you get pretty amped up.”

Smilanic even dealt with an ankle injury over the past couple of weeks, changing his game approach.

“I went into this game as a fresh start,” Smilanic said. “I will try to carry that into the rest of the season as well.”

Coming as no surprise to the members of Bobcat Nation, Perets continued to stay red hot, proving why he is one of the best goaltenders in the nation. The Quebec native locked down his fourth shutout in his last five starts and his fifth consecutive win.

“The guys just play so well in front of me,” Perets said. “My job at that point is being ready for whatever (the opponent) throws at me.”

With the win, Quinnipiac extends its winning streak to six games, and improves to 15-1-3 overall (6-0-1 ECAC Hockey). Smilanic, Perets and the rest of the No. 2 Bobcats will be ready to square off against Dartmouth (3-9-1 overall, 2-5-0 ECAC Hockey) Sunday evening.