Bobcats win first of three vs. Princeton

Bobcats win first of three vs. Princeton
by Seth Rothman
November 17, 2007

HAMDEN — No, it’s not March, and certainly not the ECAC Hockey playoffs.

Yet, somehow, Princeton (3-3-0, 2-2-0 ECAC) and Quinnipiac (4-3-2, 1-1-2 ECAC) are playing three consecutive games against each other between tonight’s 4-0 Bobcats win at the TD Banknorth Sports Center, and next Saturday at the same rink.

Usually, you do not see a 3 game series between two teams this time of year — especially when both play in ECAC Hockey. Those are usually reserved for the conference playoffs, which for the first two rounds consist of a 3 game series between the two competing teams.

It’s a quirk in the scheduling. Tonight’s contest, a non-conference game, was merely the warm-up before the conference games on Wednesday night in Princeton, N.J., and Saturday’s contest in Hamden.

An even bigger quirk, tonight’s win was the first ever time a matchup between these two teams ended with the home team celebrating in front of its fans.

Quinnipiac’s glory can be attributed partly to the barrage of shots Quinnipiac put on Princeton goaltender Zane Kalemba. The shot counter looked similar to Quinnipiac’s exhibition win over Ryerson back in October. Tonight, the counter read 16-5 — advantage Quinnipiac — after 1 period, and 35-25 at the final buzzer.

Yet Kalemba bravely kept the surging Bobcats off the scoreboard in the first period, much to the chagrin of the 2,235 in attendance at the TD Banknorth Sports Center.

Kalemba wasn’t going to keep QU off the scoreboard for long, however. Five minutes and 12 seconds into the second period, Dan Travis batted the puck out of mid-air in an acrobatic effort that gave Quinnipiac the 1-0 lead. Jean-Marc Beaudoin and Brandon Wong assisted on the tally.

“I thought we played well tonight,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold told WQUN. “Kalemba was good early on. It was easily the best 60 minutes we’ve played all year.”

Brandon Wong, last year’s freshman sensation, has started slowly this season. Coming into tonight’s action, he had only 5 assists on the season, but Wong had been yet to send a ripple into the twine.

That changed tonight.

After a Dan Henningson goal early in the third period, Wong gave the Bobcats some extra insurance on the power play. Jamie Bates kept the puck in the zone, and sent a pass to Ben Nelson. The Spokane, Washington native found Wong right in front of the net for the easy score and the insurmountable lead with 10:30 left.

“It was nice to get him going; get him a little confidence,” Pecknold said of Wong.

Wong’s two point night gives him 1 goal and 6 assists on the season, tying him for the team lead in points with scoring stalwarts Ben Nelson and Bryan Leitch.

For Bates, Wong’s goal was a milestone. His assist gave him the 100th point in his Quinnipiac career, a milestone only 25 players have achieved before.

After the contest, Bates spoke modestly with WQUN when they talked to him just outside the Bobcats locker room.

“It’s really just been having the opportunity to play with some great players at Quinnipiac,” Bates said. “Playing on the power play with Reid Cashman the past three years as well as Ben Nelson and Bryan Leitch have helped get to 100.”

After Jean-Marc Beaudoin backhanded the puck into an empty net on the penalty kill from just outside his own blue line with 1:49 left in the third period, the Bobcats had a convincing 4-0 win and the 40th shutout in Quinnipiac hockey history.

“We’re coming along. Certainly not there yet, we need to do this every night,” Pecknold reasoned. “It’ll be interesting to go to Princeton Wednesday night. I think they’re the most competitive team in the league. If we take them lightly, we’re going to be in trouble.”

So now, the team looks ahead to the evening before Thanksgiving, when they face these Tigers again. But that time, it will count for far much more than it counted for tonight.

On Wednesday, it will count towards the ECAC Hockey standings.

In the meantime, the Bobcats get to spend the next week on campus lonely — most students have headed home for the week-long Thanksgiving break — but looking forward to their two games against a Princeton team that has now lost three consecutive games.

“Tonight was a good win for us,” Bates said. “We came out and competed for 60 minutes. If we can continue to do that, we’ll have good things happening for us.”

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