Bobcats flummox Merrimack, advance to NCAA Regional Final


Peyton McKenzie

Quinnipiac men’s hockey will face Ohio State at 4 p.m. on Sunday with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line.

Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Building off a tough ECAC Hockey semifinal loss a week ago, No. 2 Quinnipiac men’s hockey returned to its identity in a dominating 5-0 win over Merrimack in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament Friday. 

The Bobcats defense came back to form, allowing only 15 shots and few quality chances, allowing their offense to flourish at the other end of the ice. Sophomore forward Jacob Quillan scored two goals and freshman forward Sam Lipkin notched the empty netter and a pair of assists in the win. 

“We played well,” head coach Rand Pecknold said. “I thought the guys really bought into what we need to do to be successful. Play to our identity and we get rewarded and we’re moving on.”

A heavy-handed, physical first period ended scoreless, but not without its fair share of chances. 

Merrimack junior goaltender Zachary Borgiel came up big for the Warriors on several occasions, including two saves sliding across his crease to rob Quinnipiac sophomore forwards Cristophe Tellier and Collin Graf. 

The Bobcats had two power plays in the frame, none of which found the back of the net. Merrimack had several opportunities on the opposite end as well, but Bobcats sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets was up to the task. 

There was no absence of physical play as the second period got underway, but unlike the opening frame, there was movement on the scoreboard.

Senior forward Joey Cipollone got the party started for the Bobcats, cleaning up a shot that senior defenseman Jayden Lee fanned on to give his team a 1-0 lead early in the period.

Quinnipiac found success in exploiting the Warriors’ physicality, leveraging their commitment to the hit to find players in open space.

“I think we just move pucks quick and sort of catch them out of position because they’re going for a hit all the time,” Graf said. 

The Bobcats quickly doubled up on their offensive surge, adding a second goal less than four minutes later.

A puck lobbed into the offensive zone found the stick of freshman forward Sam Lipkin, who dished it forward to Quillan for a one-on-one chance with Borgiel that he had no issue converting on.

Graduate student forward Michael Lombardi extended the Bobcats’ lead to three in the third period with a snipe over Borgiel’s blocker. The goal was Lombardi’s 10th of the season, making this his second-straight campaign surpassing the mark. 

“(Graduate student defenseman Zach) Metsa yelled at me, it was a weird bounce, it kind of hit off his skate and popped out,” Lombardi said. “And he’s like ‘all you, all you’ and I looked up and luckily Joey or (graduate student forward) TJ (Friedmann) was net front and I just tried to put it in an area where it had a good chance and it went in.”

Quillan added his second of the night on a centering pass that redirected off a Merrimack glove to all but seal the victory for the Bobcats. 

Quinnipiac advances to the Bridgeport Regional Final on Sunday, where it will face No. 9 Ohio State with a Frozen Four berth on the line. 

The Buckeyes entered the tournament as the region’s No. 3 seed, but proved that seeding is irrelevant with a triumphant 8-1 beatdown of No. 2 Harvard in the opening semifinal contest. 

“They’ve got size, they’ve got high-end talent,” Pecknold said. “(Sophomore defenseman Mason Lohrei) is outstanding. (Graduate student forward) Jake Wise I coached back in Russia in the under-18’s, he’s a great kid, a great player. They’ve got a lot of really great players and they’ve got (sophomore goaltender Jakub Dobeš). He’s big time, he’s one of the better goalies in college hockey.”

Puck drop is set for 4 p.m. on Sunday as both squads look to keep their national championship dreams alive.