Bobcats dominate Yale behind raucous, record crowd
by Seth Rothman
February 8, 2008
HAMDEN — On Thursday night, Central Connecticut State continued its dominance over Quinnipiac’s men’s basketball team.
On Friday night, the Bobcats men’s hockey team continued its dominance over Yale (10-8-4, 6-5-4 ECAC), defeating the Bulldogs 5-1 in front of a deafeningly raucous crowd of 4,213 at the TD Banknorth Sports Center in Hamden.
Even though the two schools are less than ten miles apart, Yale coach Keith Allain has maintained he doesn’t consider the Quinnipiac game a rivalry game.
Tell that to Quinnipiac (16-7-4, 8-3-4 ECAC) and its student section, which was full — and screaming — nearly 45 minutes before the game started.
“The buildup all week on our campus was great. This was big-time hockey tonight,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. “I don’t know how many were in the building at 6:15-6:20, but it was great. We had a ton of students here tonight screaming and yelling. It was loud, and you could really feel it. The game we played at Yale was a good hockey game, but the students weren’t there. It’s a different atmosphere when students are around.”
It took Quinnipiac some time to get rolling, though. The nerves in the first period contributed to multiple mistakes, and both teams were only able to muster five first period shots each.
“We played a little bit sluggish in the first — we were ready to play, but we were a little nervous,” Pecknold said. “The guys were nervous in the first, and settled down and played much better hockey in the second and third. The thing we wanted to focus on in the third was winning battles and getting pucks to the net. Early in the game we hesitated to get pucks to the net. Yale did a great job collapsing to the net and clearing some rebounds.”
But with just over two minutes to play in the first period, Quinnipiac got on the board. After Yale took a penalty for having too many men on the ice, junior Dan Henningson fired a shot from the point that was deflected by senior Dan Travis and past Eli goaltender Billy Blase.
“We kept it simple. There wasn’t much as far as plays, fore-checks, back-checks, or anything like that. When we’re good we keep it simple,” Travis said. “We have great forwards to carry the puck, get to the net, and score goals. Besides [Dan] LeFort’s goal, I don’t think we had a highlight-reel goal.”
The hard work was evident right from the opening face-off for the Bobcats. Late in the second period, Quinnipiac was pinned in their own zone on a 4v3. When Zach Hansen broke his stick on the penalty kill, things looked dire for Quinnipiac. But Mike Atkinson, who gave Hansen his stick, blocked multiple shots, bringing the overflow crowd to its feet and eliciting the loudest roar of the night.
“They did a great job. They blocked a lot of shots, did a lot of good things: stick on puck, denying shots,” Pecknold said of his defense. “Both teams were very good defensively tonight. We did a nice job, and our face-off intensity was good, also.”
“Hansen broke his stick, Atkinson gave him his stick, and one time Hansen tried clearing the puck but the stick was the wrong hand,” Bobcats junior goaltender Bud Fisher said. “Mike Atkinson probably blocked three or four shots. Guys were laying their bodies down, I don’t even know if I had a shot in that sequence. We played great defensively.”
Quinnipiac was amped to play this game. Huge crowd, big rival, it was the epitome of a playoff atmosphere inside the TD Banknorth Sports Center. Pecknold wishes he could bottle the Bobcats intensity and use it for games with less juice.
“It’s hard to do it every game, I’d be coaching in the NHL if I could figure that out,” Pecknold said. “You want to play hard every night, and I think we do a fairly good job — that’s why we’re successful.”
“We were all really excited to play this game. We get up for the Heroes Hat, I think we set an attendance record, and with that support behind us we were really geared up for this game,” Fisher said. “We were really excited coming in. We worked really hard and the guys played awesome.”
“A lot of guys prior to us didn’t get a chance to play them. To hear that from some of the guys — one being [assistant coach] Scott Robson, who never had a chance to play these guys; they always wanted to, but [Yale] wouldn’t play them,” Travis said. “We’ve had that in the back of our minds, it’s definitely nice to get a win. Beating Yale is big for us. It’s our rivalry game whether [Yale] cares about it or not.”
“We’re coming into the league, we really don’t have rivalries with teams in this league,” Pecknold said. “We have rivalries with teams we used to play against, like UConn, Mercyhurst, and Holy Cross. There’s no question; we’re five miles apart, it’s a rivalry. My kids were ready to play, they were fired up.”
When the second period ended, Quinnipiac held a slim 2-1 lead. Pecknold said he has a very strong message for his team in the locker room during the 2nd intermission.
“I told them not to sit back and try to protect a one goal lead with the prevent defense. We were going to go after them,” Pecknold said. “We struggled early in the game getting pucks to the net. We took so long to do it, and Yale was so good at collapsing to the net.”
Quinnipiac’s insurance goal was exactly that.
Sophomore Jean-Marc Beaudoin brought the puck behind the net where he slipped it to sophomore sniper Brandon Wong. He wrapped around, got stopped by Blase, and followed up with the game-breaker on the doorstep to give Quinnipiac the two-goal lead 46 seconds into the final stanza.
“The Wong goal was huge right out of the gate, he attacked the net and that’s what we want to do,” Pecknold said. “I feel very fortunate that we won the game tonight, I thought it could have gone either way going into the third. Yale played a really good first 2 periods, and Brandon Wong took over with that goal.”
“Jean-Marc had the puck, I kept yelling at him to give me the puck,” Wong said. “He heard me and kept taking it behind the net and dished it back. [Blase] made a nice first save, and I just put it into the net.”
Yale coach Keith Allain was frustrated with his team, and didn’t even make an appearance for the post-game press conference. Instead, he released a statement through Yale Sports Publicity Director Steve Conn.
“Its hard to win a game when you give up 4 goals on the first 15 shots on net,” Allain’s statement said. “We probably played OK tonight, but did nothing particularly well. For us to be successful, we need all 20 players to suit up and play well.”
While Yale’s locker room was frustrated, Quinnipiac’s was elated.
“The game at Yale didn’t have the same intensity it had tonight,” Pecknold said. “My guys were fired up to play Yale [in January]. Tonight, playing at home with everything that went on, Quinnipiac did a great job of staging this game. From the color guard, the guy who sang the national anthem was great, I just thought it was an event. My kids stepped up to the plate and protected home ice.”
When the building’s really buzzing, you feel it and feed off it,” Fisher said. “It’s an edge for us when the crowd’s always into it.”
“It was big-time tonight. I heard the number: 4,200 were at the game tonight,” Travis said. “When we’re in warm-ups and its loud, we know it’s going to be a big one. They had the noisemakers going tonight, it was a lot of fun. We had a good time out there.”
When teams score goals at the pace Quinnipiac did on Friday, most forget about the goaltender. But Fisher earned high praise from his coach.
“He played very well. Sometimes you overlook the goalie because you score five goals, but he was really good,” Pecknold said. “Right before they scored their goal, on the 4v3 sequence he was great. We blocked a lot of shots, and I thought Bud was very good.”
“Yale shoots from everywhere, so I just wanted to be real aggressive, be square, and let pucks hit me,” Fisher said. “The guys took away passes, and a lot of pucks hit me.”
So now, Quinnipiac has one day to practice before playing Brown on Sunday afternoon on NESN.
“Brown’s playing better, they swept Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend, so we need to refocus in practice tomorrow and come out ready to play,” Pecknold said. “Sunday will tell the tale. If we have a hangover from this, then we’re not on track.”
“You want to take the positives from this game,” Wong said. “We played very well tonight — personally I think it’s one of our best games this year. We have to get back on another roll.”
“We have to refocus again. It’s another league game, a big two points, and I’m assuming it’s not going to have quite the electricity, being a Sunday day game,” Travis said. “We have to do our job, get two points, and move on.”
NOTES: Friday’s attendance was a TD Banknorth Sports Center record, breaking the old record set on November 9, 2007 when 3,444 fans packed the building for Quinnipiac’s contest against Clarkson. … The building lists a capacity of 3,286 for hockey games. … The game is the second highest attended Quinnipiac home game ever, second only to Quinnipiac’s inaugural ECAC game against Harvard at the Hartford Civic Center. That game was attended by 5,049. … Quinnipiac now stands tied for 2nd place in ECAC Hockey at 20 points. Clarkson is three points ahead of both Princeton and the Bobcats. Cornell falls to 4th place at 19. … During the first intermission, fans threw hundreds of teddy bears onto the ice as part of a fund-raising effort.