Free Fallin’

Free Fallin’
by Seth Rothman
March 1, 2008

It’s officially a tailspin for the Quinnipiac men’s hockey team.

Clarkson University (20-10-4, 15-4-3 ECAC) used three shorthanded goals in the first 21 minutes of their ECAC Hockey contest against Quinnipiac (17-13-4, 9-9-4 ECAC) to pace themselves to an easy 8-0 win over the slumping Bobcats at Cheel Arena in Potsdam, New York.

Quinnipiac has now lost six consecutive games for the first time since the 1994-95 season when the Bobcats lost eight consecutive games.

“It was another bad one,” Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold told WQUN’s Don Boyle. “We’ve been struggling, and we have some issues. We gave up six goals on [the first] 14 shots. Defensively, as a team, we’re just atrocious right now. Guys just aren’t buying in, they’re not playing well, they don’t play hungry, they don’t want it, and it’s really hard to try to fight out of it.”

Despite the loss, Quinnipiac clinched 6th place in ECAC Hockey when 7th place Colgate got dismantled 5-2 by Dartmouth. The Bobcats will face 11th seeded Brown in a 3 game series starting on Friday night at 7pm in a series to be played at the TD Banknorth Sports Center.

Looking back at the lost weekend for Quinnipiac, Saturday’s contest against the 2008 Cleary Cup champion Knights got off to a bad start. Once the wheels went into motion, the brakes failed for Quinnipiac, and Clarkson’s accelerator was working just fine.

Halfway through the first period, Clarkson defenseman Bryan Rufenach scored his 2nd goal of the season on a blast from the point over the shoulder of Quinnipiac goaltender Bud Fisher.

Quinnipiac, over much of the season, has had an effective power play, gunning at 17.6%, good for 4th in ECAC Hockey. Coming into play on Saturday, they had only given up three shorthanded goals all season.

On Saturday night, Clarkson scored 3 shorthanded goals over the first 20:23 of the game.

The first shorthanded goal came when Matt Beca was joined by Grant Clitsome on a 2 on 1 break. Beca fed Clitsome, who gave the twine a meal for Clarkson’s second goal of the game.

After the Knights scored a power play goal with 3:10 left in the first, they scored their second shortie of the game when Beca came in, once again, on an odd-man rush. This time, it was a 3 on 2. Beca fed Steve Zalewski who scored his 19th of the season with 10 seconds remaining in the opening frame.

Their third shorthander came 23 seconds into the second period. Freshman Pat McGann spelled Fisher in net to start the second period, and the Dallas Stars prospect made a mistake. He went behind the net, couldn’t handle the puck, and Matt Beca deposited it into the open net. That goal gave Clarkson a 5-0 lead, and further distanced the 1st place Knights from the 6th place Bobcats.

“There’s no easy answers. It’s really disappointing. We have a lot of veteran guys that are really not playing their best hockey right now,” Pecknold said. “It’s not like a light switch you can flip on. The competitiveness just isn’t there. We’ll have to find a way. They’re good kids, good character in the locker room.”

So, when the game mercifully ended for the downtrodden Bobcats, they had embarrassed themselves in the North Country of New York State. Now, they need to forget their troubles over the weekend and get ready for the playoffs to begin on Friday against Brown.

Last season, Quinnipiac was swept at home by St. Lawrence and Clarkson to end the regular season, dropping them into 5th place in the conference. The Bobcats turned their season around by sweeping Union and Cornell in the first two rounds of the playoffs before advancing to the ECAC Hockey Championship Game in Albany.

“We have the playoffs coming up, and we’ll be home,” Pecknold said. “We have to find a way. We need to have some of these guys step up.”

NOTES: The last time three shorthanded goals were scored in a Quinnipiac hockey game, the Bobcats scored 3 shorties against Bentley last February 6. Before that, the last time it had happened in all of Division-I was 2003. … The loss is Quinnipiac’s largest margin of defeat since November 18, 2001 when Maine thrashed Quinnipiac 9-0 in Orono. … Fisher made only 6 saves while allowing 4 goals in the first period before getting pulled for freshman Pat McGann. … The outing is the shortest of Fisher’s career since the 2005-06 season, when he was pulled after one period at this same Cheel Arena.

One response to “Free Fallin’

  1. Listening to this game, it’s just upsetting to hear how much this team has fallen. You can tell the guys just don’t have the heart that’s required to win these gut ’em out games. I understand there are injuries, but this team has enough talent to win; injuries are not an excuse. They were done after their losses to Cornell and Colgate at home, both in overtime. This team lacks heart, leadership, and any sort of pride in what they’re doing on the ice right now. They had it earlier in the year, but right now, none of those things are there, and it seems like Pecknold has lost control of his team.

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