Controversy, shorthanded goal help doom Bobcats

Controversy, shorthanded goal help doom Bobcats
by Seth Rothman
March 16, 2008

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – There was no other logical way for Quinnipiac’s season to end other than in the oddest way possible.

With 15:10 remaining in the third period and the Bobcats down by one, junior defenseman Andy Meyer drove to the net. After he put the disk on net, it appeared to slingshot over Harvard goaltender Kyle Richter, and according to Meyer, land five or six inches over the goal-line.

But the goal judge didn’t put the red light on, and none of the referees claimed to see the puck go in.

“I rushed it up the ice. I had [a Harvard defender] wide, so I cut wide, I cut along the goal-line and saw [Richter] kind of falling back into the net, so I tried to put it up high,” Meyer explained. “I saw him falling backwards and I thought it bounced off him, came straight down and hopped over the goal-line. A couple guys in front of the net like [Mark Agnew] said it was in for sure; five or six inches over the line.”

“[Referee John Gravallese] said none of the three [referee and linesmen] were in position to see it, and the goal judge said it wasn’t in,” Bobcats captain Jamie Bates said. “We had four guys on our team all around the net that said it was clearly in.”

“Before you guys ask me questions, was that puck in, or not?” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold asked the throng of reporters before he answered questions. “All my players said it was definitely in. I got no explanation.  [Gravallese] didn’t come down to talk to me. I would have appreciated an explanation, though.”

Just over ten minutes later, Harvard sophomore Doug Rogers took a shot that Fisher saved, but the rebound ping-ponged off the chest of senior captain Mike Taylor and into the net with 4:15 left in the contest. That gave Harvard its final margin of 3-1, and accentuated the Cantabs march to Albany, where they will face Cornell in the ECAC Hockey semifinals Friday evening at 7.

The game started slowly for the Bobcats (20-15-4), who, according to Pecknold, seemed not to have enough energy playing for the 3rd consecutive day on the road at the Bright Hockey Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“First period I thought was awful,” Pecknold said. “I thought we lacked energy and we were tired. Harvard out-played us. We played a lot better in the 2nd and 3rd.”

Harvard outshot the Bobcats 14-3 in the opening stanza, and tallied first on a shorthanded goal.

After Harvard sophomore Ian Tallett took a roughing penalty 11:41 into the opening stanza, freshman Zach Hansen tried to set up the power play on the point with Meyer.

But Hansen’s attempted pass to the junior from St. Louis was intercepted by Taylor. He came through the neutral zone on a 2-on-1, and took care of matters himself. His shot from the left circle trickled past Quinnipiac goaltender Bud Fisher and into the net, giving the home-standing Crimson (16-12-4) the 1-0 lead just over thirteen minutes in.

“I thought we wanted it bad. We came out a little lethargic in the beginning; three games in three nights is tough,” Meyer said. “We have leaders, the seniors are awesome guys. We tried to follow their lead and came out strong in the second and third periods. I thought we played hard.”

Quinnipiac was able to pick up the pace in the second period, and scored on a tough-angle goal by junior Bryan Leitch.

Hansen sent the puck across the zone to Leitch, who was standing by the goal-line on the right side. With Richter out of position, Leitch flung the puck towards the net, scoring on the odd-angle shot.

Just as the Quinnipiac fans behind their team’s bench got into the game, they were taken out of it.

Twenty-two seconds after Leitch’s goal, sophomore winger Mike Atkinson got called for a high-sticking penalty. Harvard made quick work of the man-advantage that was contested verbally by Pecknold.

Sixteen seconds later, Harvard had the game-winning goal. Taylor sent the puck to Rogers, a game-time decision due to an injured leg. He wristed the biscuit blocker side past Fisher to give the Crimson all the scoring they would need, thanks in large part to the goaltending of Richter.

“I don’t think we played our best game. I don’t think Harvard did, either. It’s tough to play three games in three nights,” Pecknold said. “It was a little sloppy out there. Harvard capitalized a little more, they had a better first period. I thought we played better in the second and third, but just couldn’t find a way to score. Richter played great.”

Early in the third, Quinnipiac had a power play, and looked sure to score. Despite three grade “A” chances, Richter proved ambidextrous, stopping everything the Bobcats sent his way, and helping to ensure his team’s win.

But then came controversy, in the name of a puck that may have gone in. All five skaters in blue raised their sticks in celebration, and all five skaters in white stopped playing, expecting the red light to go on. It never did. 

Gravallese signaled no goal after conferring with assistant referees Scott Whittemore and Mark Messier (no relation to the NHL Hall-of-Famer).

Pecknold and his club were sure it went in, though.

“That second non-goal is a big part of the hockey game. We’ll have to look at the video to see whether or not it went in. My guys feel pretty confident that it did,” Pecknold said. “It [would have been] 2-2 with 15 minutes left. It’s a different hockey game right there. Whether or not it was in, I have no idea. I thought it was in, but we’ll have to look at the tape. If that’s a goal, it’s anyone’s game.”

“Playing three games in three nights is tough, but its tough for Harvard, too,” Bates said. “They came out with a lot of jam tonight, we looked a little slow off the get-go, and Bud kept us in it, which is all you can ask of a goaltender. I think from the 2nd and 3rd period on, it was a dogfight.”

For Bates, the senior captain, the loss is a tough pill to swallow. For him and the other seniors on this Bobcats team, it’s the end of their collegiate careers.

“I’m obviously very disappointed. Disappointed in the outcome tonight,” Bates said, appearing to hold back tears. “It’s going to be tough not lacing them up with the boys in that room again. That’s probably the most difficult thing right now.”

“I think it was a good year. I’m real happy with how the guys responded [Saturday] after the thrashing we took on Friday night,” Pecknold said. “That was a big win for us. Would have liked to have gotten one more tonight and gone back to Albany, but you have to give Harvard credit, they were good.”

It’s a tough loss to swallow, but Pecknold was quick to praise his team for an adversity-filled season that saw the team playing without three of its defenseman for long stretches of time.

“It’s tough to [win twice at Harvard]. It’s even harder for us with Matt Sorteberg, Jake Bauer, and Mark Nelson – three of our top six defensemen out of the lineup. We’ve had to deal with injuries all year. Actually, to get 20 wins with all the injuries we had is amazing,” Pecknold said. “Fisher’s been hurt the last month and a half of the season. That’s why I pulled him early on Friday, I wanted to try to save him. Beaudoin’s hurt, we got half our lineup hurt; we’re pretty banged up. To get 20 wins with the amount of injuries we had, I’m pretty happy with that.”

Meanwhile, it is a team that won 20 games for the 4th consecutive season, and 9th year out of 10. It was hard for Pecknold to call the season a disappointment because they didn’t get back to Albany for the second consecutive year. In fact, he refused to.

“I think we had a good year. Any time you can win 20 games is great,” Pecknold said. “We definitely struggled at the end – the injuries caught up to us. We had that 9-0-1 streak, we had a ton of injuries then.”

“I’m extremely proud of the guys,” Bates said. “As a team, we really came together. We keep saying it every year, but this is probably one of the closest teams I’ve ever been on. We had a lot of adversity this year with injuries, and some tough games, late goals to get losses, but we just kept battling back. It was an honor to play with these guys.”

NOTES: Bates, Ben Nelson, Dan Travis, Dan LeFort, Mark Agnew, and Dan Cullen all dressed for the final time in a Bobcats uniform. … Senior Matt Sorteberg was injured for the contest, but might try to apply for a medical redshirt so he can compete against next season. … Quinnipiac outshot the Cantabs 17-8 in the third period. … Friday’s other ECAC Hockey semifinal will pit #2 seed Princeton against #8 seed Colgate at 4pm.

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