Defensive lapses doom Bobcats

Defensive lapses doom Bobcats
by Seth Rothman
February 24, 2008

HAMDEN — It’s an over-used sports adage, but one that rings true: “Defense wins Championships.”

The Quinnipiac men’s hockey team (17-11-4, 9-7-4 ECAC), allowed four defensive lapses to turn into four Colgate goals, and a 4-3 overtime loss on Senior Day at the TD Banknorth Sports Center in Hamden in front of 2,869 on Sunday afternoon.

The backbreaking tally came with just 60 seconds remaining in overtime. Quinnipiac sophomore Brandon Wong lazily kicked the puck in the neutral zone, attempting to send it into the Colgate end. Instead, Tyler Burton took it from his own blue line and started a 2 on 1 odd-man rush into the Quinnipiac zone. Burton sent the rubber to junior winger Peter Bogdanich for the game-winning tally, setting off the second wild celebration of the weekend by Quinnipiac’s visitors.

“It’s obviously a disappointing loss,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. “I thought we played very poorly [today] in terms of our defensive mindset and lack of commitment. Even the last play there, the 2 on 1, that’s just unacceptable to give up a 2 on 1 in overtime. We’re struggling right now with our confidence. It doesn’t take long to lose it, and it’s hard to get it back.”

The game started well for Quinnipiac when Colgate lapsed defensively on the penalty kill. After Colgate’s David Sloane got called for a hitting from behind penalty nearly seven minutes into the game, Quinnipiac’s power play quarterback Greg Holt took the puck at the far point. With no Colgate penalty-killer in sight, the sophomore just kept moving closer and closer to the net until he got in between the circles. From there, he wristed a laser past Colgate netminder Mark Dekanich for the early 1-0 lead.

But then, the defensive breakdowns started deflating the Bobcats. After Quinnipiac gave the puck away just outside their own zone, Colgate (14-13-5, 8-8-4 ECAC) sophomore winger David McIntyre broke in alone. He put a dazzling move on Bobcats goaltender Bud Fisher for the equalizer 1:12 after Quinnipiac’s initial tally.

“They’re all just stupid mistakes,” Pecknold said of his team’s mental lapses on defense. “We’re not getting pucks out, we’re not getting pucks deep, just an atrocious turnover on their first goal of the game, the breakaway. He had five seconds and no one on him.”

Quinnipiac fought back on Sunday, thanks in large part to their special teams. The Bobcats were 3-5 on the man advantage, and held Colgate scoreless on seven power play opportunities. Their second goal came when Greg Holt’s slapper from the point was saved, but the rebound came to Wong for the put back 8:04 into the second.

“As bad as we played today, we probably still played well enough win the hockey game,” Pecknold said. “Give Colgate credit; they probably didn’t have the best game but they found a way to capitalize on our mistakes.”

After Colgate’s Brian Day tied the game late in the second period, Tyler Burton took a gift from Bobcats junior Bryan Leitch and gave Colgate its first lead of the game.

Leitch was skating behind the net, and expecting a teammate, left the puck behind the net. Instead, Raiders senior Tyler Burton took the puck, skated out in front, and roofed it blocker side past Fisher three minutes into the final stanza.

3:26 later, Leitch redeemed himself. He took the puck from the far side point, and skated in nearly the same way Holt did early in the first. His wrister got past Dekanich, and the game was tied.

But then came the final turnover — the dagger that might kill Quinnipiac’s hopes of a first round bye in the upcoming ECAC Hockey playoffs.

“The last five minutes of the [third] period and overtime were just real sloppy,” Bobcats senior captain Jamie Bates said. “We weren’t getting pucks deep and weren’t getting pucks out. Our back-checking, especially coming down the stretch, if we’re not going to do that stuff we’re not going to win games.”

Quinnipiac stands at 22 points, two points ahead of Yale and Colgate, but in 6th place. They are 1 point behind Cornell and Union for 4th place, and 2 points behind Harvard for 3rd. All three teams ahead of the Bobcats hold the tiebreaker over Quinnipiac.

“We’re letting that first round bye slip away. At this point, as bad as we’re playing, I think if we got it, we’d be two and out anyway,” Pecknold said. “We were struggling last year and actually lost the bye; that turned out to be a good thing because we played that first round which gave us some confidence. At this point I don’t think we can worry about [the bye].”

Earlier in the season, Rand Pecknold said he had a M.A.S.H. unit in the training room in Hamden. Right now, the injury bug that plagued Quinnipiac early in the season has turned into an epidemic.

“We had a number of guys hurt that didn’t dress today, and two more hurt during the game,” Pecknold said. “We’re down to about 15 players right now, so I think the biggest thing we have to do is get healthy. Hopefully we haven’t lost any of these guys for a significant amount of time. Sorteberg’s done for the year, and then the five or six other kids that are hurt are all short term.”

The two players Pecknold was referring to were forward Jean-Marc Beaudoin, and freshman defenseman Brett Dickinson. In addition to all the other injuries, sophomore forward Eric Lampe was a late scratch after injuring his knee on Friday.

All these injuries seem to be hurting Quinnipiac’s confidence, according to Pecknold.

“We’re struggling, and our confidence isn’t there,” Pecknold said. “When we lose our confidence, we struggle. I did have five or six kids that played well today: [Brandon] Wong, [Dan Henningson], and Andy Meyer were real good, but some of my other top players are just absolutely awful right now.”

“It’s tough to say [how we can find our confidence again]. I think we just have to get better at doing the little things better,” Bates said. “Early in the year we were pulling the one goal games out, right now we just seem to find ways to lose one goal games.”

It’s been a season that has seemed to be very similar to the end of the 2006-07 campaign. Last year, the Bobcats finished the regular season by losing three of their last four when they had a first round bye in sight. This year, Quinnipiac has lost its last four games, with two regular season games left to be played.

“The end result is kind of deja-vu. I think last year we played poorly [down the stretch]. This year, the injuries are just really catching up to us,” Pecknold said. “Even when we went 9-0-1 in that 10 game stretch, we had a lot of injuries. It was unbelievable — we kept finding ways to win. We’re just not doing that right now. We’re over-matched with the amount of injuries we have.”

Last season, Quinnipiac tried — and failed — to salvage their first round bye at home against Clarkson and St. Lawrence. This year, they will go on the road to the two schools — historically the toughest road trip in the conference.

“We’re looking to sweep, and we need to work hard as a team. We’ve hit a rough road but we have to right the ship and we’re going to go in expecting nothing less than a sweep next weekend,” Bates said. “We need good goaltending and a solid team effort both nights. Right now, it seems we’ll have the forwards playing well some nights and the [defense] will struggle, then the [defense] will pick it up and the forwards won’t sustain a fore-check. We just can’t get all three units together right now.”  

NOTES: This weekend’s two consecutive overtime losses are the first time Quinnipiac has lost two consecutive overtime games since February 2 and 5, 1997, in the school’s D-II days. …  In the 32 year history of the Quinnipiac men’s hockey program, they have never lost overtime games on consecutive days. … Wong’s goal was his 10th of the season. He leads the team in points with 32. … Quinnipiac finishes the regular season averaging an attendance of 3,049 at the TD Banknorth Sports Center. Capacity for hockey is listed at 3,286.

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