By Jamie Palatini
As the Bobcats and Colonials headed into the third period of Saturday night’s game, the two teams were knotted at three. It seemed an exciting, competitive final period was in the works.
That’s when things got ugly for the Quinnipiac Bobcats.
The Robert Morris Colonials exploded for four straight goals in a span of 1:54 early in the third period en route to an 8-5 victory at the TD Banknorth Sports Center on Saturday night in Hamden. With the win, Robert Morris improves to 5-12-4. The loss drops Quinnipiac to 13-9-2.
“I thought our intensity was good in the first period…just no intensity in the second or for most of the third,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said after the game. “We started playing hard when we were down 7-3.”
Things started well for Quinnipiac. They got on the board first at the 13:51 mark of the first period. Junior forward Greg Holt handled the puck by the left faceoff circle and slid a pass to the left side of the net where freshman forward Spencer Heichman was waiting. Heichman made a quick pass across the crease to fellow freshman Scott Zurevinski, who found a wide open net and scored his eighth goal of the season to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead.
Robert Morris was able to tie the game just three minutes later. The Colonials found themselves on the power play following an interference penalty to Heichman, and did not waste time converting. Senior forward Chris Margott made a cross-ice pass through the slot to freshman Trevor Lewis who was all by himself in the left faceoff circle of the Bobcats’ zone. Lewis made a quick pass back sophomore forward Nathan Longpre, who caught Quinnipiac goaltender Bud Fisher out of position and scored his seventh goal of the season to tie the game at one.
The Bobcats jumped out to a 3-1 lead on the heels of a power play goal from Jean-Marc Beaudoin late in the first period and a David Marshall goal just 19 seconds into the second. On that play, Leitch notched his 32nd assist of the season, a number which leads all of Division I hockey. Marshall’s goal was his 14th of the season, and also extended his point scoring streak to 17 consecutive games, a Quinnipiac Division I record.
But similar to last night’s game, RMU would not go quietly. Shortly after the Marshall goal, the Colonials found themselves with a man advantage following a Holt penalty. Defenseman Denny Urban took a shot which was initially stopped by Fisher, but Margott found the rebound in the slot and scored his eighth goal of the season to cut the deficit to 3-2.
With 3:44 remaining in the second period, the Colonials drew even. Sophomore forward Chris Kushneriuk flipped a pass high into the air from the RMU zone which tumbled down onto the stick of senior forward Jason Towsley. After collecting the puck, he came through the neutral zone and separated himself from the Quinnipiac defense. Towsley faked a wrist shot, then slid the puck to his backhand and elevated a shot over Fisher to tie the game at three.
Coming into this weekend series, Robert Morris had been averaging only 2.2 goals per game. The Colonials combined for 12 goals on the weekend, and Bryan Leitch knows that giving up a two goal lead is unacceptable.
“We’re lacking that killer instinct right now,” Leitch said. “We get up two goals on Robert Morris and it should be 5-1, not 3-3. Something’s just not clicking right now.”
The score remained tied at three until the 3:02 mark of the period when a bad turnover in the Bobcats’ zone led to the Colonials’ third consecutive goal. Freshman forward Brandon Blandina intercepted a pass by the left faceoff circle and made a centering feed to Scott Kobialko. His shot went off the left pad of Fisher, but the rebound came right to Cody Crichton who put it home to give RMU a 4-3 lead.
Just 26 seconds later, Kushneriuk’s second goal of the game made it a 5-3 lead for the Colonials, and Pecknold had seen enough, pulling Fisher in favor of Dan Clarke who had struggled in last night’s game.
And the struggles continued.
27 seconds later, RMU increased their lead. The first shot Clarke faced found the back of the net when Margott netted his second goal of the game to make it 6-3. One minute later Trevor Lewis scored his third goal of the season, and before you could say meltdown, the Colonials were up 7-3.
“I thought defensively we gave up too many shots, and our goaltending was an issue tonight,” Pecknold said. “I think we gave up four empty net goals tonight.”
The Bobcats made a comeback attempt after getting goals from Beaudoin and Chris Myers, but the deficit was simply too great for Quinnipiac to overcome. RMU added an empty netter with 25 seconds remaining to seal the deal.
For the second straight weekend, Quinnipiac struggled defensively, and has allowed a combined 21 goals in its last four games.
“It’s been the last four or five games where we’ve played well, but defensively we’ve just been terrible,” Beaudoin said. “Subpar, to say the least.”
At the end of the day, Pecknold described his team’s struggles simply.
“It’s a team game and we need to commit to blocking shots and doing the little things. But we need some saves, and we didn’t get any tonight.”
NOTES – Chris Margott’s empty net goal gave him a hat trick. … Five RMU players had two points or more in the game. … Beaudoin’s second goal was shorthanded, the Bobcats’ second shorthanded goal of the season. ... Brandon Wong, who left Friday night’s game due to injury, did not play tonight. His status for the Bobcats’ next game is uncertain.