Bobcats lose intensity, game against Princeton
by Seth Rothman
November 24, 2007
HAMDEN — Different game, same story.
It’s hard to imagine a team wouldn’t play a hard-working game when they’re on television for the first of only six contests in front of the NESN cameras.
But that’s exactly the kind of game Quinnipiac (5-4-2, 2-2-2 ECAC) played today against Princeton (4-4-0, 3-3-0 ECAC) in men’s hockey action from the TD Banknorth Sports Center, losing 4-2 in an effort that left the 2,283 fans at “The Bank” disappointed.
“I thought Princeton was grittier than us, hungrier than us, as you can expect after we beat them twice,” Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold said. “We played a decent first period, but I thought we struggled the rest of the game. The intensity wasn’t good.”
“I thought we had it turned around the last couple of games, but tonight was disappointing, to say the least,” senior captain Jamie Bates said. “The effort the guys put out as a team — with the chance to move into second place, get two points; we just didn’t seem to have the heart to do it tonight.”
Bates has been a one-man wrecking machine this last week against Princeton, scoring once and helping on 7 others in the three games against Princeton.
“He’s a good power forward,” Pecknold said. “When he plays like a power forward, he’s one of the better players in the league. When he goes hard to the net, and gets his nose dirty in front. He’s got a great stick, and plays with a great level of competitiveness.”
“He’s been all over the ice; making great plays, taking hits,” junior wingman Bryan Leitch said. “Definitely the best stretch of the season for him; he’s playing really well.”
The story of this one was not Bates, however. Quinnipiac played a fast-paced first period that saw them outshoot the Tigers 10-3. But Quinnipiac was outshot 22-8 over the final two periods, and outscored 3-1 over that span.
After Leitch scored on a pretty feed from Bates nearly 8 minutes in, Princeton scored three unanswered goals. Quinnipiac’s misfortune was thanks in large part to the Bobcats perceived lack of hunger.
“The first two goals they scored, we failed to block a shot,” Pecknold lamented. “We were in the lane, but we just didn’t want to do it. It’s tough to win games when you don’t have that desire to want to commit; to make a sacrifice. That’s what usually makes us good; we have that commitment level. It wasn’t there tonight.”
“The team’s commitment to win a hockey game wasn’t there today,” said a visibly upset Bates. “Our forwards weren’t keeping the puck down low; the defensemen weren’t doing a great job moving the puck up the ice. Two goals came from us not blocking shots, which is usually the strong point of our game.”
“I don’t think it’s lack of hunger, they just outworked us,” disagreed Leitch. “It has nothing to do with how much we want it — we want it, we just didn’t go and get it. It’s disappointing.”
For Pecknold, the story remains the same. He still feels his team isn’t competing hard enough to win consistently. After playing well in the first two games of this three game series, the Bobcats seemed to take Saturday’s game as a vacation day while Princeton was busy breaking a four game losing streak.
“[Princeton] blocked more shots, they won more pucks, they did all the little things,” Pecknold said. “You make sacrifices to win games, we did it in the first two games, we didn’t today. Give Princeton credit for rebounding, coming out and gritting a win out today.”
As the team’s captain, Bates is becoming frustrated at his team’s apparent lack of desire.
“We feel we should have beat Princeton today,” Bates said. “We were at home, and playing well lately. Pretty much, to beat Princeton all you have to do is work hard. That should be something pretty easy to do when you’re at home in front of your home fans. For some reason we couldn’t do that today.”
The captain went into further detail of one of the areas he feels the team was lacking in.
“We were talking about not getting three guys below the goal line; trying to keep a two-man cycle,” Bates explained. “They play a man-to-man defense, so when you get three guys below the goal line, you beat two guys, and that brings the third defenseman in. We seemed to have three guys low all night, so we didn’t have a goal scorer, and gave up a lot of odd-man rushes because of it.”
Early in the game, Quinnipiac was getting bodies in front of Princeton’s freshman goaltender Alan Reynolds. The Toronto native was making his first career collegiate start, so it figured he would be nervous. Putting bodies in front would have helped the Bobcats get the rebound goals a nervous young goalie tends to give up.
“We always want to get guys to the net, guys in front screening,” Pecknold said. “We did it to varying degrees tonight; we just didn’t generate a lot of offense. We didn’t get a lot of pucks on net. We had a lot of chances to shoot the puck, we didn’t shoot it. We need to get more pucks to the net.”
It’s also possible the Bobcats good play over the last week hurt them this afternoon. Pecknold explained why he thought — correctly — this game would be difficult for Quinnipiac.
“I think it makes it harder when you’ve won the first two; the team that lost the first two has the advantage,” Pecknold explained. “They’re going to come in, and there’s pride on the line. I think our guys, I wouldn’t say they’re complacent, but we just didn’t have the same energy level we had the first two games.”
That doesn’t change the bitter taste the Bobcats have in their mouths after losing a game they felt they should have easily won.
“I don’t even think Princeton played that well, and we still couldn’t get the two points,” Bates fumed. “You want to get that bye through the ECAC first round playoffs. That’s our goal,” the captain continued. “You can’t have performances like tonight.”