Bobcats dominate Bears, sweep first round series

Bobcats dominate Bears, sweep first round series
by Seth Rothman
March 8, 2008

HAMDEN — It sounds so easy. All they did was stick to the fundamentals.

The Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s hockey team (19-13-4) closed out the hockey side of the TD Banknorth Sports Center for the 2007-08 season with an impressive 7-1 shellacking of Brown (6-21-4) Saturday in the second and final game of the first round playoff series between the two teams.

Quinnipiac used a four goal outburst in the second period to pull away from the over-matched Bears, who fall to the Bobcats for the fourth time this season.

“We’re very excited to move on,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. “I thought my team played an excellent 2nd and 3rd period tonight. We were solid in the first, but the second and third were great. The coach-ability was excellent tonight, we really bought in to what we need to do to be successful.”

Quinnipiac was the first team on the score-sheet on Saturday, when they scored the first of three power play goals. After Brown’s Sean Hurley was called for an interference penalty, senior captain Ben Nelson won the faceoff to junior winger Bryan Leitch. He fed sophomore Greg Holt at the point, who’s blast deflected off Bates and into the net for the senior’s 7th goal of the season.

For Holt, the assist marked the first assist of three he would collect on the day. He also added the Bobcats third goal of the game.

“We moved Greg Holt back to the point on the power play,” Pecknold said. “He had a great freshman year, and struggled a litte bit this year. He had only seven points coming into the weekend. He was excellent all weekend, really played well on the point on the power play.”

“We played a really good hockey game tonight,” Bates said. “It’s good to take care of that in two games, and that’s the kind of hockey we need to play to have success in the playoffs. It was good to see it tonight.”

After Brown’s Ryan Garbutt tallied Brown’s goal with 2:36 left in the first, Quinnipiac railed off six consecutive goals to earn the win. They did so thanks to a much more fundamental effort from all twenty players.

“We were doing a lot of little things well: securing the puck, back-checking, and being above the puck,” Pecknold said. “Coach-ability was the big thing. Guys were really buying in to our systems. When we do that, we’re a great hockey team.”

“As a team, we knew we had to get 20 guys to buy in at one time,” Bates said. “Not always the easiest thing in the world, but when your season’s on the line, it’s pretty easy to get guys to buy in. That happened for us tonight. If we keep playing like that, we’ll have some success next weekend.”

“When we play our game we’re a good team,” junior defenseman Dan Henningson said. “What we do best is getting pucks deep. It sounds pretty simple, but when we get away from that we start playing totally different and our confidence falls.”

“I thought we did a better job of helping [goaltender] Bud [Fisher] out. Last night we had a lot of instances when we weren’t goal-side in front of the net, not defending the net,” Pecknold said. “Tonight we did a much better job of being goal-side on the Brown players, making it easier for Bud to see pucks. It was a good team effort.”

Friday’s wild 7-6 overtime win was still on the coach’s mind — and likely because of that — the contest was still on the players minds, too. After Saturday’s series clinching win, however, those thoughts were lost in the shuffle of the good ones floating through Quinnipiac’s heads.

“I need to give a lot of credit to Brown. They did a nice job last night battling back from 5-1 and 6-3 [deficits]. If we don’t win last night, I don’t know how this series is going to go,” Pecknold said. “I give a lot of credit to my guys for being resilient last night and dealing with the adversity, and certainly we played well tonight.”

“Last night we played well, got out to some leads, but I think we learned our lesson last night,”  sophomore center Brandon Wong said. “It was the same situation tonight, up 5-1, but tonight we put them away.”

“We just put the pedal down on them, basically. Yesterday we got out to a 5-1 lead and got a little complacent,” Henningson said. “Today, we just stuck to our game plan. We got the puck deep and finished all our hits.”

This weekend, the Bobcats got scoring from many different sources. From fourth line mucker Dan LeFort, to third line winger Greg Holt. But on Saturday, the Bobcats got a huge contribution from a line they will need if they want to advance to Albany next weekend.

The Bates-Nelson-Leitch line combined for 6 points on Saturday after combining for 11 points on Friday.

“Bryan Leitch and Jamie Bates played the best two games they’ve had all year. Ben Nelson played great — he’s had some great games this year,” Pecknold said. “It was great to see those guys going not only on offense, but I thought they were excellent defensively. Where they’ve struggled this year, they haven’t really bought in on defense. They’ve been spending entire shifts in their end, and it’s cost them offense.”

“It was really good to get some goals from our line again. We been playing OK, not getting good breaks and not working hard enough to get good breaks,” Bates said. “This weekend, we did a really good job supporting each other coming through the neutral zone, down low, and we kept the high guy at all times so we weren’t giving up many 3-on-two’s. If we can keep doing that, I think we’ll be alright.”

“The forwards did a good job cycling. That makes our job much easier,” Henningson said. “When we’re playing in their end we can roll four defensemen without getting gassed, but when we’re in our own end, we need all six of us and we get tired easy. I credit our forwards for getting the puck deep, cycling, and doing their job there.”

After stopping their six game losing streak on Friday, Quinnipiac now has a winning streak to speak of. What’s even more important to the blue and gold is their confidence level. Right now, it’s sky high.

“There’s a lot of confidence that we take out of this weekend. We dealt with adversity, which is great. Any time you want to win in the playoffs you need to deal with adversity,” Pecknold said. “We learned our lesson last night and really battled through it. As mad as I was to blow a 5-1 and 6-3 lead, it was pretty impressive to come out and have an overtime like that.” 

“When we play our game we’re a good team. What we do best is getting pucks deep. It sounds pretty simple, but when we get away from that we start playing totally different and our confidence falls,” Henningson said. “It’s do-or-die. I’ve been fortunate — in the last three years we’ve moved on. We have a veteran group of guys who know what it’s like to be in the playoffs.”

“All four lines are flying right now, and that’s what we need,” Wong said after scoring twice and adding an assist in the win. “We need to get better game by game, and we’ve done that. We’ve just got to get ready for Harvard or Union. We’ll be ready, and just have to keep rolling.”

NOTES: There were nine penalties called in the first period, and only six called over the final 40 minutes. … Senior walk-on goaltender Dan Cullen came on for the final 1:39, making his third appearance of the season. He made one save in the abbreviated stint. … When Fisher was pulled after making 25 saves, the crowd of 1,917 gave him a standing ovation. … Quinnipiac scored 14 goals on the weekend after scoring only nine goals during their six game losing streak. … If Cornell beats Dartmouth in game three of their series at Lynah Rink in Ithaca on Sunday night, Quinnipiac will play Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. However, if the 12th seeded Big Green stun the Big Red, the Bobcats will travel to Schenectady, New York to play Union. No matter what, the Bobcats will start their ECAC  Quarterfinal series on Friday, March 14 at 7pm.

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