No. 4 Quinnipiac rings in first championship of year with Belpot Trophy win in Belfast


Quinnipiac Athletics

Quinnipiac men’s hockey now 10-1-3 on the season as it heads back to the U.S. for an ECAC Hockey series with St. Lawrence and Clarkson.

Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

There were six championships on No. 4 Quinnipiac men’s hockey’s bucket list as it prepared for the 2022-23 season. Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over No. 17 UMass was the first step in that journey as the Bobcats claimed the Belpot Trophy as champions of the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast, Ireland. 

It’s the sixth time the tournament has been held and the second time that both the Bobcats and Minutemen have participated. Quinnipiac fell to Vermont in the title game in 2016, but flipped the script this time around.  

“It was something the coaches really wanted, obviously we really wanted it,” senior defenseman and team captain Zach Metsa said. “We have a set goal for the trophies we want to win, this was one of them this year, and we had to battle against two great teams that put up an unbelievable effort, so it feels even better.”

The Bobcats held a majority of the offensive zone time early in the first period, but didn’t generate any A1 scoring chances until they went on the power play with seven minutes to play in the period.

Quinnipiac went 0-for-5 on the man-advantage in the tournament semifinal against Dartmouth, but didn’t let that trend continue Saturday. The ECAC Hockey leaders put shot after shot on UMass sophomore goaltender Luke Pavicich. He escaped the initial netfront scramble, but was helpless as Bobcats’ graduate student forward Ethan de Jong caught a pass moving east-to-west in the slot and backhanded it into an open half of the net. 

Strong play from Pavicich and a commitment to blocking shots by the Minutemen kept de Jong’s tally the lone first period goal for the eventual tournament champions. 

UMass found life in the period’s dying minutes after Quinnipiac graduate student defenseman Jacob Nordvquist took a penalty. Minutemen sophomore defenseman Scott Morrow was electric on the power play, as he was throughout the game, breaking through the Bobcats’ defense to force Perets to make two saves in quick succession. 

The second period showcased the championship desire for both sides. The officials held their whistles as physical, back-and-forth play highlighted a championship atmosphere across the pond. 

Quinnipiac’s lead didn’t hold long in the final frame. A clean breakout by the Minutemen five minutes in allowed freshman forward Kenny Connors to send a saucer pass to sophomore forward Taylor Makar streaking to the net, who finished it blocker side past Bobcats’ sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets. 

Using that goal as a springboard, Quinnipiac put on an offensive surge, a plethora of great chances all denied by the stellar play of Pavicich. 

The Clarence Center, New York, native would come up big again as the Bobcats went on the power play in the final five minutes of regulation. Sophomore forward Collin Graf rifled a one-timer from the left dot that met Pavicich’s blocker as he made an incredible save sliding across the crease. 

Graf’s next shot however would be a different story, the puck careened off Pavicich’s pads right to the stick of senior forward Skyler Brind’Amour, who put it home to give his team the lead. 

On the other end, the Minutemen would answer right back. 31 seconds later, a shot from Morrow sent a big rebound to the blade of freshman forward Michael Cameron, who fired the puck into an empty net to even the game once more.

“I thought we had them there, and then we let them back in it,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. 

The contest would stand even through the five minute 3-on-3 overtime period despite two massive chances for UMass. 

A bad Quinnipiac line change sent Cameron down the ice on a breakaway, but his shot was rejected by the left post. 

Quickly after, Morrow picked up the puck in the high slot off a broken pass and ripped a shot that beat Perets, but not the post. The goaltender’s best friend coming up big again. 

With the game still tied after 65 minutes, it goes down as a tie in the record books. But a winner still had to be crowned, so the game headed to a shootout. 

Pavicich stopped the first shooter for the Bobcats, but not the second, as sophomore forward Cristophe Tellier sent a rolling puck past the sophomore goaltender for the eventual game winner. Perets shut the door on all three Minutemen attempts and Quinnipiac rang the Belpot Trophy for the first time in program history. 

“What a great experience for our players,” Pecknold said. “Belfast has just been awesome, a unique experience for our student-athletes and obviously we’re happy to get out of here with a win.”

Both Perets and Pavicich earned man of the match honors in the game, while Graf was named Friendship Four Player of the Tournament. 

The Bobcats are back on the ice in North America on Dec. 2, as they face off against St. Lawrence in an ECAC Hockey battle in Hamden at 7 p.m.