Rejuvenated Bobcats take out Knights

Rejuvenated Bobcats take out Knights
by Seth Rothman
November 9, 2007

HAMDEN — It was a much different Quinnipiac team tonight than the one that skated off the ice at the TD Banknorth Sports Center on October 30 after an uninspiring win over American International.

This Quinnipiac team defeated #8 Clarkson (6-3-0, 3-1-0 ECAC) by a final of 3-2 in a game played in front of a record crowd of 3,444 at “The Bank” on Friday night.

It seems, at least after tonight’s game, the slump that plagued this team through its first six games might be over.

“The guys on this team are way too good for the puck to keep hitting the post,” junior winger Bryan Leitch said. “Johnny [Jean-Marc Beaudoin] got one tonight, he’s off the schnied, Bates got one, and Wonger’s [Brandon Wong] not far behind, I can guarantee you that. He’s far too talented a player to be held off the sheet this long.”

“I don’t think we had alot of jump in our step,” Clarkson coach George Roll said. “We just didn’t have the legs tonight. They were first on alot of loose pucks and won alot of battles.”

It was that hard work that enabled the Bobcats (3-3-1, 1-1-1 ECAC) to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Bryan Leitch fed a streaking Jamie Bates, who used some fancy stickwork to get a shot past Leggio’s glove with 1:36 remaining in the opening stanza. For Bates, the captain of this Bobcats team, it was the first goal of the season.

“I’m just trying to get back to the basics,” Bates said. “Trying to keep working hard, finish all my checks, get as many pucks on net as I can. I did that tonight, and it seemed to work well.”

“That was phenomenal; I mean, he caught the puck basically at his ear, put it down, and shot it at the net, all in one motion,” Leitch said. “I think Leggio was more surprised than anybody he got that puck down, because he didn’t look like he was ready for the shot at all.”

“Bryan was just trying to dump it in, got lucky that it came to me, and I think I caught Leggio off guard a little bit,” Bates recollected. “The puck dropped flat on my stick. I’m just trying to get the puck on net as fast as possible. I got a quick shot off, and I think it fooled him. I’ll take it.”

He certainly will, as it gave the Bobcats the momentum in front of the raucous crowd.

“It’s so different from Northford. Northford’s a great place to play, but this is just spectacular,” Leitch said. “To see that many people out there, coming back from Cornell on Saturday, and seeing how they are, that’s where we want to be. We’re well on our way.”

“The fans were great tonight,” Bates said. “Reminds me alot of last year at the end of the season. It definitely gave us a boost.”

For Leitch, Bates, and senior Ben Nelson, tonight was a reunion they have been waiting for since the end of last year. Early this year, junior David Marshall was paired with Leitch and Nelson, but this week, Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold switched things up, reuniting the chemistry laden line.

“We’re trying to get all three of those guys going at the same time, and be a little more consistent, which I think we will do,” Pecknold said.

For the Bobcats, it was a chance to face the foe that ended their season in March. No one, however, admitted thinking about revenge.

“We talked very little about the Championship Game,” Pecknold said. “Clarkson’s Clarkson; they’re a great hockey team.”

“That was probably the worst loss of my life, but summer’s a long time and we’re definitely ready to go this year,” Leitch said. “We’re more looking forward to this year than looking back at last year.”

“They were hungry for the win tonight, and earned it,” Roll said. “I’m sure for them, maybe there was a revenge factor. For us it was a chance to stay undefeated in the league, and we didn’t do it.”

And most of the blame for that can go to the Bobcats top line. After Bryan Rufenach took an interference penalty with just over 6 minutes left, Leitch put home his team-leading 4th goal of the season on a broken play.

“I think it hit Bates on the foot, Henny [junior defenseman Dan Henningson] got it to the net, and I just got a lucky bounce and put it behind Leggio,” Leitch said.

“I was just standing in front of the net,” Bates said. “I was trying to tip it on net, and ended up tipping it over to Bryan Leitch. When you’re playing a team like Clarkson, you’ll take all the luck you can get.”

“That winning goal, we did everything right, we got the puck to the net. Jamie Bates did his job; screening the goaltender,” Pecknold said. “We got a good bounce, but everyone did what they needed to do.”

So now, the Bobcats get a few hours to savor a win against the highest ranked opponent they’ve ever beaten in program history.

“At this point in the year, any win’s big,” Pecknold said. “We need some momentum. Alot of our veteran players are stuggling right now with their confidence, and this’ll give them some confidence. I give my guys alot of credit.”

“If you can beat Clarkson, you can definitely beat anybody in this league,” Leitch reasoned.

But now, the focus must turn to tomorrow’s opponent: St. Lawrence. The Larries gave Princeton their first loss, and earned themselves their first ECAC Hockey win of the season.

For the Bobcats, the key will be effort.

“The key to beating St. Lawrence is outworking them,” Bates said. “That’s not an easy task. It’s going to be tough, but I think we have some good character, and we’re hungry. It’s pretty crucial for us to get four points this weekend if we want to be considered in the top of the league.”

Or as Rand Pecknold said it:

“When we’re good is when we’re hungry, and that’s how we’ll get ready to play.”

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