By Zack Daly, QBSN Staff Writer
The No. 9 Quinnipiac Bobcats defeated No. 12/13 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks 5-4 to extend their unbeaten streak to 11-straight games.
Junior Jordan Samuels-Thomas (Windson, Conn.) scored twice and assisted on another goal, while senior goalie Eric Hartzell (White Bear Lake, Minn.) turned away 32-of-36 shots to lead Quinnipiac.
Despite the victory, time off since Dec. 8 took its toll as Quinnipiac looked sluggish at times, according to head coach Rand Pecknold.
“We were just sloppy, taking shortcuts all over the place, and it’s not the way we want to play hockey,” said Pecknold. “We have a lot of character in the locker room, and the guys will figure out a way to get though this.”
Quinnipiac struck first when Ben Arnt (Oakdale, Minn.) dumped the puck into the zone as Bryce Van Brabant (Morinville, Alberta) chased down a puck and centered it to Samuels-Thomas. Samuels-Thomas then one timed the puck into the back of the net to give Quinnipiac a 1-0 less than two minutes into the game.
Giving the Mavericks little time to recooperate, Matthew Peca gave the Bobcats a 2-0 on his fifth goal of the season within two minutes of the first strike. Peca skated the puck out of the defensive zone, beat the lone defender, and went top shelf to beat Maverick’s goalie Anthony Stolarz.
The Mavericks would fight back in the second period, as Quinnipiac looked slower in the second period, but the Bobcats would hang tough and maintain a one goal into the second intermission.
Nebraska-Omaha would cut the deficit in half early on in the second period. Johnnie Searfoss fed captain Matt White on a breakaway and scored through the five-hole on Hartzell to cut the Bobcat lead to 2-1.
Arnt would push the Quinnipiac lead back to two, scoring on a sharp angle shot on a pass from Samuels-Thomas in the second period, giving Quinnipiac a 3-1 lead.
After a Van Brabant penalty for charging, Searfoss picked up his second point of the game, scoring an unassisted goal, cutting the Bobcats lead to 3-2.
Tanner Lane won the faceoff back to Brain O’Rourke, whose one-time shot trickled off of Hartzell and into the back of the net to tie the game, 3-3.
As time wound down in the second period, Kellen Jones (Montrose, British Colombia) went in strong on the forecheck, causing the turnover. Jones fed Kevin Bui (Edmonton, Alberta) in front of the net, who buried the pass to give the Bobcats a 4-3 on his first goal of the year.
The Mavericks evened the score less than a minute into the third period. Nebraska-Omaha’s leading scorer Ryan Waters scored his team leading 11th goal after a few one-time passes from Dominic Zombo and Josh Archibald.
Samuels-Thomas picked up his third point of the afternoon after he skated the puck into the zone on a 3-on-2 rush. Samuels-Thomas fed Peca down the right side. Peca passed back to Samuels-Thomas for the Bobcats’ fifth goal of the game.
“It was definitely big,” said Samuels-Thomas. “In the second period, coach said whether they score the first goal or we score the first goal. We needed to come out on fire and compete, so it was definitely big to score that fifth goal.”
“He just has the ability when he wants to compete to be a dominate player,” said Pecknold.
The Bobcats improve to 13-3-2 on the season, while the Mavericks fall to 11-7-1. The two teams will return to action at noon on Sunday, Dec. 30 at the TD Bank Sports Center.