Bobcats ride freshman to win

Bobcats ride freshman to win
by Seth Rothman
December 1, 2007

HAMDEN — Maybe all they needed was a new month.

As the calender changed from November to December, the Bobcats men’s ice hockey team put in a solid effort while defeating Rennselaer 3-2 in an ECAC Hockey contest at the TD Banknorth Sports Center on Saturday night.

“All twelve forwards played well, six defensemen played well, Vetri was good in net, penalty kill was good, but our power play struggled a little bit,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. “It was a good team win, and most importantly, our team was ready to play. If we can find a way to do that game in and game out, we’ll be in good shape.”

“Quinnipiac’s a pretty good hockey team with a lot of skill,” RPI coach Seth Appert said. “I have a lot of respect for how Rand’s built that program. They’re one of the most skilled teams in our league, especially with their forwards.”

One of those forwards who returned to the lineup today was Jamie Bates. The senior from Toronto, Ontario missed Friday’s game due to an undisclosed injury. On Saturday, his inclusion in the lineup proved immediate dividends for Quinnipiac (6-5-2, 3-3-2 ECAC).

After Rensselaer’s Jeff Foss took an interference call, Bates took a pass from sophomore Brandon Wong in the far side circle and ripped it past RPI goalie Jordan Alford for a 1-0 lead 18:57 into the first stanza.

“No question we missed him last night, and he was a presence tonight,” Pecknold said. “Not only did he play well, but he’s got a presence about him and that’s why he’s our captain. He showed the leadership tonight.”

“Their first goal was a lucky bounce,” Appert remarked. “They threw it to the middle of the net, it hit a shinguard and ricocheted in.”

“I thought our competitiveness was much better,” Pecknold said. “When you compete as hard as we did today, you can make up for a lot of mistakes. We made some mistakes tonight, but from a competitive standpoint, it was excellent.”

Appert’s club has been good all season in the transition game, and it hurt the Bobcats twice in the second period. 4:56 into the second, Jake Morissette came into the zone on a 2-on-1 with Andrei Uryadov. Morissette found Uryadov streaking towards the net who deflected it home for the freshman’s sixth goal of the season.

Then, with 90 seconds remaining in the second, Rensselaer (7-5-3, 2-2-2 ECAC) struck again when Jon Ornelas found Seth Klerer right in front for the junior’s first goal of the year.

“We still made a couple of mistakes,” Pecknold said. “Both goals were transition type goals, which is what RPI is very good at; we were trying to do a better job shutting that down. ”

Despite those miscues, the Quinnipiac defense played exceptionally well, earning praise from the coach and goaltender.

“They [defense] played a solid game,” Pecknold said. “We’ve got three freshman D, and they’re playing a ton right now with all the injuries we have. I was very happy with how they played, and those three guys are only going to get better. They all played very well tonight.”

“This is by far the best team I’ve ever played on,” junior transfer goaltender Peter Vetri said. “It’s really great every day I get to play with these guys. They’re unbelievable. They block shots, get rid of rebounds; it’s just something I’m not really used to. It’s pretty fun for me to get out there with those guys.”

The most praise, however, was saved for the freshmen on the defensive line. Jake Bauer, Zach Hansen, and Brett Dickinson all played a game that earned them even more praise.

“I thought all three [freshmen] D tonight that played, Hansen, Bauer, and Dickinson, have all been very good and very solid for us,” Pecknold said. “It’s been a good impactful freshman class.”

“They’re big time players who know how to play in big time situations,” Vetri said. “You can see they’ve fit in right away even though they’re so young. It’s calming having them back there. I don’t refer to them as freshmen at all. It’s a pleasure playing with them, they’re great players.”  

Meanwhile, Vetri continues to split time in net with junior Bud Fisher. With both putting up solid numbers (Vetri has a 2.24 GAA, Fisher a 2.39 GAA), the situation seems to be working for the Bobcats.

“Bud and I were actually talking about this the other day,” Vetri recollected. “Neither of us have really ever split time with another guy, or competed for a starting job. I’m used to playing all the time, it’s a nice reality check for me to have Bud here. He’s such a good goalie, he pushes me every day, and I have to battle every single day for every minute that I play.”

“[Vetri] played very well,” Pecknold said. “Early on, he wasn’t getting a ton of shots. That’s part of goaltending; you have to be ready. Give credit to RPI — they’re a very good hockey team, a top 20 team for a reason. They were down in the third, and they got a lot of shots. Vetri was very good for us.”

“I felt pretty good out there today, I did some extra work with Coach Pecknold this week on coming out, cutting down the angles, and playing big,” Vetri said. “I was confident going into the game, and I knew the team was going to be playing well tonight because we played so poorly the night before.”

The story of this one, however, was the defense. Quinnipiac’s defensemen played a strong game, and were exceedingly pleased with the effort the group put out.

Case in point: Dan Henningson walked into the press room at the TD Banknorth Sports Center with a bike, and imitated the Ottawa Senators’ gig — conducting an interview while riding a bike.

“For the first half of the season, at least, we haven’t been that good at [blocking shots],” Henningson said. “Today we were a lot better at it. Today we wanted to do the little things — block shots, get the puck deep, we did a lot better. At least, we attempted to do a lot better.”

“It’s a little different than where I was before,” Vetri said. “I saw a lot of shots when I was in Hockey East. Now, I have a very strong defensive team in front of me, so I don’t see as many shots,” the UMass-Lowell transfer said. 

For Hansen, having a leader like Henningson makes playing much easier.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Hansen said. “Especially with the guys that are leading us: Dan Henningson and Andy Meyer, they’re doing a great job. They make it easy for us.”

It was Hansen who scored the game-winning goal when he took a feed from Henningson and ripped a drive along the ice and into the net for his first collegiate goal.

“We were on the power play, and Henny (Henningson) made a great pass over,” Hansen said. “You have to give credit to the guys in front screening [Alford]. I don’t think it was a great shot, but I guess the goalie didn’t see it, and it went in.”

“Their winning goal was one that Jordan would like back,” Appert said. “It was a floater from the point that was on the ice. We’ve got used to great goaltending from Jordan and Mathias, and no question that’s one he’d like to have back.”

It was a game the Bobcats desperately wanted — losing two games at home to end the home 2007 schedule was just not an option for Pecknold’s crew.

“The enthusiasm was high tonight,” Hansen said. “Last thing we want to do is lose two straight in our own building. We really wanted to get two points out of the weekend after we dropped two last night. It was a big win for us standings-wise, too.”

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