Bobcats fight back, force decisive game three

Bobcats fight back, force decisive game three
by Seth Rothman
March 15, 2008

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Both games of the ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series between Quinnipiac and Harvard have featured 11 goals.

Game two, on Saturday night at the Bright Hockey Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts saw the Quinnipiac Bobcats (20-14-4) net seven in a 7-4 triumph over the Crimson of Harvard (15-12-4) to even this best-of-three series at 1.

Game three is Sunday night at 7 pm in Cambridge.

Special teams were huge for the Bobcats on Saturday, and they capitalized early. Fifty-nine seconds into the contest, Harvard junior defenseman Brian McCafferty took a holding penalty.

16 seconds before the penalty was to expire, Bobcats captain Jamie Bates pounced on a loose puck and sent it into twine to give Quinnipiac a 1-0 lead. His tally was assisted by junior defenseman Dan Henningson and junior winger Bryan Leitch, and started a 4/6 night on the man advantage.

Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said that first goal was huge for his Bobcats.

“My staff and I were talking, we knew we needed the first goal tonight. There’s no question we needed the confidence from that,” Pecknold said. “I thought our power play was great last night when it was a game; we just didn’t score. The last time we played here, our power play was great, we just didn’t score. The power play was phenomenal tonight.”

Quinnipiac wasn’t done in a high-scoring opening frame.

Just over eight minutes into the game, sophomore Eric Lampe came in on the left side. His centering pass was partially blocked by traffic in front, but it somehow got to the stick of senior center Ben Nelson, who roofed the puck over the shoulder of Harvard netminder Kyle Richter, off the pipe, and into the net.

“There’s no question we played hungrier. Our competitiveness was excellent — we were fired up. We didn’t play a perfect game, but we competed,” Pecknold said. “Those kids battled, and you can compensate for a lot of mistakes. Not just mistakes, but you can make a lot of little plays, do a lot of good things with picks off faceoffs and things like that.”

“The key to playoff games is winning little battles all over the ice all game long. If you want to win the game, you’re going to have to win most of the battles,” Bates said. “We wanted to focus on every man winning each battle they got in, and go from there.”

Exactly five minutes after Nelson tallied, Pier-Olivier Michaud scored in the slot off a pretty feed from senior Dave Watters, who was battling behind the net. Michaud’s shot went blocker side on Quinnipiac goaltender Bud Fisher, who made 41 saves in the winning effort.

“I didn’t play as well as I’d like last night. I just tried to put it behind me and try to focus on some key things. I wanted to battle through everything, they get a lot of traffic,” Fisher said. “Not giving up on any pucks, and I just came out and tried to give it everything I had. The guys had a great day tonight.”

“He was much better tonight. He’s a good goaltender. Last year in the playoffs, he was the big man for us,” Pecknold said. “He’s tied with [former Cornell goaltender David] McKee for the record for [ECAC] playoff shutouts [with three], and he’s only a junior. I thought he responded well tonight.”

With just over three minutes left in the frame, Dan Henningson capitalized on a loose puck in the slot. The junior defenseman pinched into the slot on the power play, and sent a snipe through traffic and Richter to give the Bobcats insurance. His extra-man goal was assisted by Bates and Leitch.

After Harvard ended the period by scoring on a 5 on 3 with 1:41 left, the Bobcats came right back to start the second.

Henningson blasted it from the point, through traffic, and off the stick of Bates. His redirection fooled Richter, allowing the puck to find the net and give the Bobcats a 4-2 lead just 19 seconds into the middle frame.

Two and a half minutes later, Henningson blasted away again from the same spot. This time, his laser didn’t hit anyone, and Quinnipiac had a three goal lead.

“There was no question we were going to have to deal with some adversity tonight to beat a team like Harvard,” Pecknold said. “We jumped out to that lead at 3-1, and they get a five on three for 1:51. That’s a long one. Obviously we didn’t kill it, but we battled back from that and talked about being able to handle adversity in a positive manner which we did tonight.” 

“We just wanted to focus on the positives,” Bates said. “We know we’re a good hockey team, and last night just started spiraling and got out of control. You never like to have that happen in the playoffs, but it happened and you just have to forget about it and try to get back to doing the basics again.”

After Harvard senior Alex Meintel cut the lead to 2, sophomore Greg Holt took a hooking penalty with exactly two minutes left in the stanza.

The penalty kill was no problem for the Bobcats.

After the Harvard offensive attack was broken up in the neutral zone, sophomore Eric Lampe took the puck at center ice and came in on Richter all alone, still shorthanded, poised to get the Bobcats their three goal lead back.

Lampe switched from his forehand to the backhand and slipped the puck under Richter’s pads, setting off a raucous celebration near the Bobcats bench, and sending the Quinnipiac fans behind the team’s bench into delirium with 26 seconds left in the middle stanza.

“Our power play was a big reason we won. We still have to clean up a couple things defensively, but we bought in. We’re still not where we need to be to get to Albany, and advance from Albany, but it was a good step,” Pecknold said. “I think the thing that happened tonight, when we made mistakes, our competitiveness was there to compensate for those mistakes.”

After Harvard’s Meintel scored with 7:35 left to cut the Bobcats lead to two, junior defenseman Andy Meyer ricocheted the puck off the boards from his own zone, angling it perfectly so the puck would roll effortlessly into Richter’s vacated net with 27 seconds left. The tally was the third of Meyer’s collegiate career, and 2nd into an empty net.

In that third period, Harvard put a barrage on Bobcats goalkeeper Bud Fisher, sending 22 shots his way. But the goaltender was up to the task

The junior netminder, who gave up five goals in nearly 37 minutes of action on Friday, was much more confident, attacking the puck-carrier and being much more mobile in his net.

“That’s something that I have to do to be effective, and I knew that coming in,” Fisher said. “It was probably something I didn’t do as well last night. We went through video, coach and I, last night after the game and we had a chat. That’s something we wanted to focus on.”

“We were obviously embarrassed on Friday night, the worst loss we’ve ever had in Division-I,” Pecknold said. “We needed to respond and to be quite honest with you, I was 100% confident that we’d play well tonight. I was worried we’d get a bad bounce or two. Harvard’s a great team; I’m not saying I was 100% confident that we’d win, but I was confident we’d play well. I knew our guys would respond.”

The win gives Quinnipiac new life. Just as quickly as they lost the momentum in this three-game series, they now have it back just in time for Sunday’s decisive game three.

“We just went out there, and it’s pretty hard to be pissed off at yourself. Harvard [on Friday], they didn’t hold back, which they shouldn’t, and that kind of eats at you a little bit,” Bates said. “We were a little pissed off and worked hard tonight.”  

Game three is on Sunday night at 7pm at the Bright Hockey Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After Friday’s game, most observers didn’t think Quinnipiac had a chance against the Crimson. Now, this series — and a ticket to the ECAC Final Four in Albany, New York — is anyone’s.

“There was definitely a pretty sour taste in the dressing room last night,” Bates said. “We wanted to come out and play like a better hockey team than we showed [on Friday].

NOTES: The win is the Bobcats 20th of the season. It is their 9th 20 win season in the last 10 years. … Henningson had 4 points in the win, and the top line of Bates, Nelson, and Leitch had 8 points. … After scoring five points on Friday, Harvard senior Dave Watters added three assists on Saturday. … The Bobcats were outshot 22-5 in the third period after being outshot only 23-22 in the first two stanzas. … Saturday’s win is Quinnipiac’s first ever at the Bright Hockey Center. They are now 1-4-0 in the facility. … Quinnipiac improves to 11-4 over the last three years in the ECAC playoffs.

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