Men’s hockey takes game one of best-of-three series with 5-1 win over Yale

Juliana Nikac and Juliana Nikac

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Photo: Liz Flynn

Photo: Liz Flynn

For the first time in 12 seasons, the Quinnipiac men’s hockey team started the ECAC Hockey Tournament on the road. That didn’t stop them from winning the first game in a best-of-three series against Yale. The Bobcats took down the Bulldogs with a 5-1 victory at Ingalls Rink.

Both teams played a fairly even first period with solid chances at both ends of the ice. With a little over seven minutes left, Yale forward Tyler Welsh deked around Quinnipiac defender Brandon Fortunato on a rush into the offensive zone. With no one covering him, Welsh sent a pass to captain Ryan Hitchcock, who buried the puck in the back of the net to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead heading into the second period.

Down 1-0, Quinnipiac didn’t lay back and relax heading into the second. After stealing the puck off a Yale clearing attempt just two minutes in, Tanner Macmaster dropped a pass back to Joe O’Connor, who threaded a beautiful between-the-legs goal to tie the game.

“We’re really happy with his progression,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said on Joe O’Connor. “He’s a highly skilled guy and he’s been a defenseman pretty much all his life. Now, we’ve converted him to forward since we’ve had some issues up front this year. It was a huge goal for us and a great play.”

The pressure by the Bobcats continued to drain the Bulldogs throughout the second period and into the final frame. Quinnipiac capitalized on a turnover by Yale just three minutes after the third began as Scott Davidson burst into the offensive zone with speed and passed the puck back to captain Chase Priskie. Yale goaltender Sam Tucker couldn’t make the stop on Priskie’s snap shot and let the puck trickle into the net, giving the Bobcats a 2-1 lead.

Six minutes later, Matt Forchuk snuck a pass to defender-turned-forward Kevin McKernan, who buried the puck backdoor to extend the Bobcats’ lead to 3-1. This was only the second time McKernan played forward in his collegiate career.

“I don’t mind it,” McKernan said. “Running around the ice a little bit was fun, and playing with [Scott Davidson] and [Matt Forchuk] made it easy.”

Even with a two-goal lead, Quinnipiac refused to ease up on the pressure. The Bobcats did not give up a shot on goal to Yale for the first 12 minutes of the third period and only gave up 22 shots on the game. Quinnipiac also blocked a total of 20 shots Yale attempted.

“We have to go in and play a full sixty. But when we have guys blocking shots, playing hard and bailing each other out, it definitely helps,” Priskie said.

After Yale pulled goaltender Sam Tucker with less than two minutes left in the game, Kevin Duane and Bo Pieper worked together to send the puck up the ice with Alex Whelan lingering behind. Whelan tossed the puck in the empty net to extend Quinnipiac’s lead to 4-1. While the Bulldogs gave up on the game, Scott Davidson added another goal for the Bobcats and sealed the win.

“I thought we really battled and played a good, honest game tonight. We had good habits, kept it simple and the passion was there. If we’re going to do that, we’re going to win games,” Pecknold said on the win.

Quinnipiac will look to close out the series tomorrow night while Yale looks to force a game three. Puck drops at 7 p.m. at Ingalls Rink in New Haven.