Men’s hockey sweeps Yale with 4-1 win, advances to ECAC Hockey quarterfinals

Juliana Nikac and Juliana Nikac

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Photo: Liz Flynn

Photo: Liz Flynn

After a below-average regular season, the Quinnipiac Bobcats (16-16-4 overall, 9-11-1 ECAC Hockey) showed their true identity in the first round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs, sweeping the Yale Bulldogs (15-15-1 overall, 10-12-1 ECAC Hockey) in a best-of-three series. Quinnipiac will move on to the quarterfinals after a 4-1 victory at Ingalls Rink Saturday night.

The Bobcats completely dominated the first period. Quinnipiac held down Yale’s offense by applying their own offensive pressure for the majority of the first 20 minutes. The only thing that stood in their way of a goal was Yale goaltender Corbin Kaczperski, who stopped all 11 shots he faced in the first period.

Much like in game one, Quinnipiac didn’t let up on the pressure in the second period. After going 0-for-2 on the power play last night, the Bobcats capitalized on their third power play of the game just under five minutes into the second. Odeen Tufto spun around and sent a no-look pass from behind the net to a wide-open Chase Priskie, who didn’t miss the one-timer. Tufto’s assist on Priskie’s goal gave him 40 points on the season, the first freshman to do so since Sam Anas in 2013-2014.

Six minutes later, poor defensive coverage by Yale led to Tanner Macmaster sending a cross-crease pass to Odeen Tufto, who buried the puck top shelf to give Quinnipiac the 2-0 lead. Tufto had two points on the night.

“It’s nice. When you have good teammates and good coaches who give you opportunities like that, it helps make y0u successful,” Tufto said on his freshman year success.

Quinnipiac continued to control play heading into the third period. Just after the ten-minute mark, Joe Snively missed the net at one end of the ice and the Bobcats rushed up the other end. Kevin Duane found an open Brogan Rafferty entering the offensive zone. Wide open, Rafferty used his silky mitts to slide the puck through Kaczperski’s five-hole and extended Quinnipiac’s lead to 3-0.

Three minutes later, Yale applied the pressure and took advantage of a sloppy Quinnipiac line change. Kevin O’Neil fired a wrist shot past Keith Petruzzelli to cut the Bobcats’ lead to 3-1 with less than seven minutes left in the game. The Bulldogs struggled to find the back of the net again, even with their own net empty. With less than a minute left, Alex Whelan sealed the deal for Quinnipiac, scoring his second empty-net goal of the series.

Overall, Quinnipiac ran the show in nearly every facet throughout both games. The Bobcats outscored Yale 9-2, outshot them 62-43, blocked 40 shots to Yale’s 23, and won 52.3 percent of faceoffs.

“We’re really happy with the effort tonight,” head coach Rand Pecknold said. “I thought our battle level was great and our compete level was great. We really hunted the puck down north, south, east and west. I think that’s a trait of Quinnipiac and we keep talking about playing to our identity and we’ll get a reward. We got our reward tonight.”

Quinnipiac almost limited Yale’s key players, Joe Snively and captain Ryan Hitchcock, to just four shots over six periods. The only point between the two was recorded by Hitchcock, who scored the first goal of the series.

“We just kept it simple,” Brogan Rafferty said on the key to defending Yale’s top players. “We’re focused on the defensive side of the puck first and then the offense will come on the turnovers. We know Yale has a couple of really good forwards up front, so we needed to shut them down and we were successful.”

The Bobcats will begin the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals Friday, March 9. Their opponent has yet to be determined.