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Bobcats fend off Saints 3-2, move on to semifinals in Lake Placid

By: Kirby Paulson

Score first: it’s a strategy that has worked time and time again this season for the Quinnipiac Bobcats and it didn’t fail Sunday night.

In a pivotal and deciding game three matchup of the ECAC Hockey Quarterfinals, the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team skated out the victor defeating the St. Lawrence Saints by a close score of 3-2. The win grants them passage to play in the tournament semifinals in Lake Placid, New York.

Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold credited the gutsy performance especially with their backs against the wall to the team’s character.

“I think our character came through the last two nights,” Pecknold said. “Again, it wasn’t perfect but it’s a great group of players, great character; you know it’s our culture. You know, we win with our culture, certainly we have talent but we saw it all the last six, seven, eight years here and we saw it again this weekend.”

After going just 1-for-12 on the power play in the first two games, Quinnipiac got the scoring started early on its first man advantage opportunity.

Just over ten minutes into the opening period, Thomas Aldworth slid a puck to the front of the net. The pass deflected off a Saints defender and slid past goaltender Kyle Hayton giving Quinnipiac an early 1-0 lead.

Freshman forward Alex Whelan highlighted the importance of getting on the board first in such a high stakes game.

“I think it’s very important,” Whelan said. “We get a lot of confidence when we score first and I mean, it definitely puts the other team on its heels regardless of whether they score right away or after.”

Quinnipiac padded the lead in the second period adding two more goals to their initial lead.

Just under three minutes into the frame, Connor Clifton threw an intended pass to the front of the net. The puck was deflected and lofted into the air when a crashing St. Lawrence player’s stick made contact sending it past the goal line. Clifton was credited with the goal for his seventh with assists coming from Bo Pieper and Landon Smith.

Quinnipiac added another less than four minutes later when Whelan picked up a turnover in the neutral zone. Entering the attacking zone, Whelan wasted little time and blasted one past Hayton to make it a 3-0 Quinnipiac lead.

Whelan centered the success of the Bobcats to a willingness to sacrifice and a team mentality.

“I just think that was a great team effort,” Whelan said. “Probably our best game that we came together the whole year; I mean, we’re really starting to click at the right time and everyone just sacrificed; that was our main thing before the series started, we just have to sacrifice to win the game.”

However, St. Lawrence threw itself back into contention while on the man advantage with just 10 seconds left in the period. A pass from the corner found its way to a pinching Eric Sweetman who blistered the puck past Andrew Shortridge cutting the Bobcats’ lead down to two.

The third period was no easier as Quinnipiac found itself fighting tooth and nail to maintain the lead. After sustained pressure and intensity, St. Lawrence was able to bring the game within one at 8:15 in the third period when Mike Marnell converted for a goal on the power play.

Connor Clifton said his team was expecting a battle coming into the game, however.

“Yeah we expected that,” Clifton said. “We were coming in ready to compete and we were going to battle through whatever was thrown our way.”

The third period wasn’t the only adversity the Bobcats faced, though. Already without K.J. Tiefenwerth in the lineup, senior Tommy Schutt left the game after taking an elbow.

“Obviously he’s a huge part of our team especially winning draws and naturally guys just have to step up and I think we battled and we did that,” Clifton said.

However, after a nine save third period performance by Andrew Shortridge and a defensive lockdown, the clock ran out securing the Bobcats’ victory and a punched ticket to Lake Placid, New York.

The team will face yet another challenge on Friday evening at 4 p.m. when it takes on Harvard University for a spot in the ECAC Hockey Championship game.

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