Niagara continues dominance of Quinnipiac

Niagara continues dominance of Quinnipiac 
by Seth Rothman
January 26, 2008

HAMDEN — After the game, six youth hockey teams stampeded through the Quinnipiac locker room getting autographs from their favorite Bobcats.

Maybe Quinnipiac should go into the Niagara locker room and ask for the same thing.

Niagara (15-8-1) continued to dominate Quinnipiac (14-7-3), winning their 9th game out of 10 all-time, in a 5-3 win over the Bobcats in front of 3,367 at the TD Banknorth Sports Center in Hamden.

Quinnipiac hasn’t won a game over Niagara since a 5-2 win on January 28, 2006 at the Northford Ice Pavilion.

The Bobcats lack of effort, especially in their own zone, was once again their undoing according to head coach Rand Pecknold.

“I just think it was a poor defensive effort both nights,” Pecknold said. “Our forwards didn’t do a good job backchecking, didn’t do a good job getting it deep. Worst two games we’ve played all year as a D core.”

“It’s a huge weekend for us,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “We were in the polls half the first semester and got in a bad run after Christmas, but this is four in a row on the road which is very tough to do in college hockey. We got something special going on in that room right now.”

“I don’t know if its fatigue or what, but it seemed like our heads weren’t in it this weekend,” Bobcats sophomore Jean-Marc Beaudoin said. “We just have to bounce back. We’re a good team, a good group of guys, we’ll take the positives out of this weekend, and come back with better effort next weekend.”

Niagara got on the board first after Josh Duncan took a penalty for hitting from behind less than two minutes in.

After setting up the power play, Les Reaney was able to find a gap between the pads of Fisher to give Niagara the early lead.

But, unlike Friday night, Quinnipiac was able to fight back with two shorthanded goals within 1:02 of each other on the same penalty kill.

On the first goal, sophomore Brandon Wong fed Beaudoin on the far side wing. Beaudoin skated in, slipped the puck between the legs of a Niagara defenseman, got it back, and roofed it past Purple Eagles goaltender Juliano Pagliero (32 saves).

“It was a big goal, we needed that goal, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. It was nice to score that goal, but [ultimately] we came up short,” Beaudoin said. “That’s what happens when you play with Brandon. He finds you out there, and makes my job a lot easier. We work well together.”

The second goal was a fantastic effort by forward Eric Lampe, who Pecknold called his best player of the night. Lampe stickhandled to behind the net, and found Dan LeFort in the slot for the senior’s first tally of the season.

“We were second in the nation in shorties last year, and with those two we’re up there again. It’s something that we do well,” Pecknold said. “Usually when that happens, we keep rolling, but we let Niagara get back in it [tonight]. That’s the difference. In the past, we’d do those things and run away with the game. Defensively we just didn’t have a good weekend.”

“Getting through the ebb and flow of that game in the first period, I’m pretty proud of our team,” Burkholder said. “Surviving those two shorthanded goals, I mean the momentum swing there was dramatic.”

After that, it was all Niagara. They scored three goals in the second period — two of them on tip-ins thanks to defensive breakdowns by Quinnipiac.

Once again, a major story for Quinnipiac is the injury bug. Three players were injured and unable to play tonight. Dan Henningson, one of the team’s assistant captains was a scratch due to a foot injury he suffered blocking a shot on Friday. His loss was a big one for the Bobcats.

“They’re so good offensively. You look at their line chart, and it’s nerve-wracking,” Burkholder said. “Obviously, the injury to Henningson, that’s a break for us. He’s their quarterback guy and plays a ton of minutes for them.”

“It killed us. If you look at the [10 game unbeaten] streak, Dan Henningson’s probably been our best player, and probably top 2 or 3 for the year,” Pecknold said. “Hopefully we’ll have him back in there next weekend. That killed us, especially in a game like tonight, with the TV timeouts where you can play four or five defensemen. Henningson probably would have played 35 minutes.”

“That’s a big loss,” Beaudoin said. “He’s obviously one of our best D-men out there, and he’s really dependable. We need a couple guys to step up, and hopefully this week we can find a replacement for him.”

Pecknold had no update on the severity of Henningson’s injury, and it remains unclear if the team’s leading offensive defenseman will be able to play next weekend.

Meanwhile, Quinnipiac continues to be handcuffed against Niagara. They have only beaten them once in 10 affairs between the two teams, a fact not lost among the participants.

“I don’t know what it is. There’s teams that I won’t schedule anymore because we can’t beat them. I can’t explain our record against Quinnipiac,” Burkholder said. “They dominate in a lot of areas. They’re usually the puck-possession team, and we’re obviously concerned with their offensive skill level. Those are two perfect road games that we played this weekend. Maybe we caught them at a good time.”

“It seems like every time we play those guys, they come ready to play,” Beaudoin said. “They take the body on us, they work really hard. I don’t know if we’re snake-bitten [against Niagara], they just outworked us.”

“Like their coach said, last night was probably their best game they played all year,” Pecknold said. “Last year, the first game we lost to them he said the same thing. I don’t know if its just bad luck or what, but Niagara gets fired up to play us, and our guys can’t match it.”

While the bad feelings and uneasiness roamed freely in the Quinnipiac dressing room, ecstasy was the name of the game in Niagara’s room.

“Our room’s in really good shape right now,” Burkholder said. “We were really excited — knowing that we’re coming to this beautiful building, told it was sold out, and playing a ranked team. It was a real easy team to be around this week. We pushed them hard, but we were so fired up to get the chance to be here, and we made the most of it. We played hard and smart all weekend.”

“Niagara played hard this weekend, they were fired up. Playing in front of a good crowd, in a new rink, number 12 team in the nation, they wanted it more,” Pecknold said. “Niagara always plays well against ECAC teams because they feel they have something to prove. Unfortunately, for our guys its just another game, and that’s an issue.”

It’s a sweep that hurts, not just because its four points lost at home, but because it severely hampers Quinnipiac’s chances of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“It puts a lot of pressure on us from an NCAA Tournament perspective,” Pecknold said. “I don’t know how far we’re going to drop in the Pairwise, but these two will hurt us. We can’t worry about that right now, we just have to focus on the next game.”

“This weekend, these games were big, but unfortunately we came up short,” Beaudoin said. “Where it really counts is our conference play. It’s a tight race, and every game counts.”

So now, that’s where the attention turns. After a day off on Sunday, Pecknold’s team is back on the practice sheet to get ready for a tough weekend at ice-cold RPI (1-10 in their last 11), and red-hot Union (7-1 in their last 8).

“Honestly, I don’t even know how many guys I’ll have in practice on Monday,” Pecknold said. “We’re a beat up team right now, we got five guys hurt on the weekend, which is extremely disappointing to have something like that happen. It doesn’t hurt you just on the weekend, but it hurts you for the season. I’m pretty upset about that.”

“We didn’t play for 60 minutes during both games this weekend,” Beaudoin said. “Lack of intensity and lack of work ethic. We’ve been playing really well the last 10 games or so; to play like we did this weekend came as a surprise to all of us. It’ll be a hard week of practice, and hopefully we come back next weekend with a couple wins.”

“Every season has peaks and valleys. You’ll have ups and downs; this is definitely a down,” Pecknold said. “We had it last year around the same time when we went 1-5 in league play, really struggled down the stretch, and then rolled in the playoffs. Hopefully we can cut the bleeding short and come to play next weekend.”

NOTES: Quinnipiac University President John L. Lahey was in attendance. … Former Bobcat player Joe Testa, who graduated in 2006 and played with 12 current Bobcats, was one of the linesmen during the game. … Beaudoin is second in the nation for shorthanded goals with four. Colorado College’s Chad Rau has 5. … Pat McGann played the final 13:14 after Fisher let in five of the 26 shots he faced. … Quinnipiac is now 6-4-2 at home this season. … Quinnipiac allowed ten goals on the weekend, the most since February 2-3 last year, when they allowed ten against Yale and Brown. They were 1-1 that weekend.

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