By Jamie Palatini
(HAMDEN, Conn.) – The lights in the TD Banknorth Sports Center dimmed; The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” filled the arena. Quinnipiac’s student section was raucous as usual, and the Bobcats were set to open up their home schedule for the 2008-2009 season.
The home team did not disappoint.
David Marshall scored twice, and freshman Nick Pisellini notched his second win of the season as the Bobcats beat the University of Connecticut 4-1 Saturday night in Hamden. With the win, Quinnipiac evens their record at 2-2-0. The loss drops UConn to 2-4-0. After a 4-1 loss just two nights ago at UMass-Lowell, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold was satisfied with his team’s performance against the Huskies.
“Ultimately, our competitiveness was much better. We’ve struggled in every game we’ve played this year, even in our exhibition game,” Pecknold said. “We’ve just been flat – it’s been a little frustrating, but tonight was great. Competitiveness was the reason we won the game.”
UConn got on the board first at the 11:28 mark of the first period. Steve Bergin took a pass from Justin Hernandez, then moved in from the blue line and put a slap shot past Pisellini to give the Huskies the 1-0 lead.
Quinnipiac had 14 shots in the first period, but couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities. They finally got on the scoreboard 5:33 into the second period. Freshman Spencer Heichman worked to get the puck behind UConn’s net, and then fed a pass out in front to linemate Scott Zurevinski. His shot sailed over the right shoulder of UConn goaltender Beau Erickson to tie the game at one. It was Zurevinski’s first collegiate goal, and it was a huge momentum boost for the Bobcats.
“I think the biggest goal (of the game) was Zurevinski getting his first goal of the year, making it 1-1,” Marshall said. “We were playing well, we were getting chances, and then Zurvie gets that goal – that’s what jumpstarted us.”
Pecknold echoed that sentiment, and acknowledged that while both Zurevinski and Heichman been impressive, he’s not surprised by their early success.
“They’ve both been very good. This was actually the first time they’ve played together on a line, and they did well with (Mike) Atkinson tonight. They’re coming from very good junior leagues, and we expected them to make an impact right out of the gate.”
Two minutes after Zurevinski tied the game, Marshall gave Quinnipiac a lead they would not relinquish. It started when Marshall forced a turnover while forechecking in the UConn zone. After battling behind the net for the puck, he was taken down and drew a penalty. Before UConn could touch up, Marshall found a rebound on a shot from Atkinson and scored to give Quinnipiac the 2-1 advantage.
UConn had their chances to tie the game early in the third period. Sean Erickson had a shorthanded opportunity and came in on Pisellini who stuck out his right leg to preserve the lead.
The Bobcats sealed the deal midway through the third period. While on the power play, Bryan Leitch intercepted a clearing attempt and made a pass to Jean-Marc Beaudoin. Beaudoin found Brandon Wong in the slot, whose one-timer beat Erickson to give Quinnipiac a two goal lead. Marshall added his second goal of the game two minutes later, also on the power play, and the Bobcats came away with a solid 4-1 victory over their in-state rival.
Not to be forgotten in the victory was the consistent play between the pipes by Nick Pisellini. Many fans expected to see senior goaltender Bud Fisher in net in the Bobcats’ home opener, but Fisher has struggled early on this season, allowing nine goals in his last 56 minutes in net. Pisellini has been impressive thus far, allowing just three goals in 165 minutes in net, and may continue to get starts as the Bobcats head into conference play.
“I thought tonight he was excellent. The goal he gave up he didn’t really have a chance on,” Pecknold said. “It’s early in the year, but obviously if someone’s playing well we’re going to go with them.”
This was the first time Quinnipiac had played UConn since 2005. But these two teams are quite familiar with one another, having been conference rivals before the teams moved to different conferences. Despite that, Pecknold knows that there’s certainly a little something extra at stake when his team plays the Huskies.
“Well, we used to play them four times a year back in the early days of the MAAC. It was definitely a huge rivalry. Our guys were pumped up to play UConn, there’s no question.”
Quinnipiac will look to build off of Saturday’s win next weekend when they host Colgate to open up ECAC play. The game will be broadcast on the WQAQ sports stream, and game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.