No. 4 Men’s Hockey Handles Crosstown Rival Yale, 4-0

Kevin Higgins

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Photo: Liz Flynn

Beating your rival? That’s always fun.

Crushing your rival? Well that’s about as fun as it gets. Just ask the Quinnipiac men’s hockey team.

In arguably its most dominant performance of the season, Quinnipiac (21-5-1, 10-4-1 ECAC Hockey) pummeled in-state rival Yale (11-8-3, 9-5-1 ECAC Hockey) in the Battle of Whitney Ave on Friday night by a score of 4-0. To say the least, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold was pleased with his squad.

“The rink was rocking, it was a great atmosphere, a fun environment… and we were happy to take advantage of it,” Pecknold said.

About that environment – Pecknold wasn’t lying. The student section at the Frank Perrotti Jr. Arena was filled by 5:30 p.m., a full 90 minutes before puck drop. The Quinnipiac-Yale game is always the most highly-anticipated sporting event of the year for the student body, and the full-capacity crowd was loud all night as fans anxiously waited for some action.

They didn’t have to wait very long.

The Bobcats attacked early in this one, outshooting Yale 15-2 over the first seven minutes of action. After taking so much early pressure, Bulldogs goaltender Corbin Kaczperski finally cracked. Following a few shots in front of a scrum of players at the net, the puck found Nick Jermain’s stick. He lifted a backhander that tipped Kaczperski, but the shot had just enough height on it to trickle through the net to give Quinnipiac a 1-0 lead. In the midst of a trying season while battling through injuries, Jermain’s first goal of the year couldn’t have been sweeter.

“It took a little time getting my confidence back… it was like a monkey on my back. Glad to get it off, especially against Yale,” the junior forward said. “Hopefully it opens the floodgates, and I can get some more.”

Yale eventually found their footing after a dismal first 10 minutes, and the Bulldogs conjured up a number of scoring chances, including a post hit by Dante Palecco. None were bigger, though, than Joe Snively’s golden opportunity to tie it up with about 4 minutes left in the first.

After Yale shot one wide of Quinnipiac goalie Andrew Shortridge, the puck bounced off the boards and right to Snively’s stick. With Shortridge laid out helplessly on the other side of the crease, Snively, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, fired one into a seemingly open net. However, Quinnipiac freshman Peter DiLiberatore threw his body in front of the puck to make a sprawling block, and his team kept the 1-0 lead, which they would eventually take into the locker room after the first.

It was going to be tough for the Bobcats to provide an encore after outshooting Yale 24-7 in the opening period, but they might’ve been even better in the second.

With just over two minutes gone in the period, some tic-tac-toe passing doubled the Quinnipiac lead. DiLiberatore fired a pass from near the faceoff circle to Craig Martin on the doorstep of the goal. Martin then found William Fallstrom to his right for an easy putaway past Kaczperski and 2-0 lead, but the Bobcats weren’t done.

In one of the smoothest goals you’ll ever see, Quinnipiac’s senior defenseman stood still with the puck and drew in a Yale defender. Just as he got there, Shiplo put on the jets and busted it towards the net, leaving his man in the dust. To finish it off, he slid the puck past Kaczperski’s five-hole, and the Bobcats took a commanding 3-0 advantage.

“I mean, you try to do it at practice sometimes, maybe in juniors,” Shiplo said with a laugh. “It all depends on the situation, and I just kind of flowed with it.”

After the goal, something that wasn’t flowing was the game itself. Rivalry games often bring with them a sense of chippiness, especially in hockey, and this game was no exception. Quinnipiac’s Desi Burgart and Odeen Tufto both took huge hits, and each led to large scrums between the teams.

In a culmination of mutual bad blood, the Bobcats’ Scott Davidson was launched into the Yale bench, and there was an eight or nine player melee that followed. Despite an uptick in stoppages and penalties over the final 30 minutes or so, Quinnipiac maintained its poise.

“In a game like that… there’s always gonna be a lot of hits, lot of bumps,” Jermain said. “I thought we handled it well, we stayed out of the after the whistle stuff for the most part.”

While the final frame was mostly quiet, Quinnipiac’s Michael Lombardi put home a rebound to make it a 4-0 Quinnipiac lead with under three minutes left to seal a Bobcat victory. As the final horn sounded, a 50-23 advantage in shots lifted Quinnipiac to its 11th win in 15 tries against the Bulldogs since the 2013 season. As a result, the team will get to keep the “Heroes Hat” trophy – which commemorates those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks – in their locker room.

“It’s special, it’s a special moment,” said Pecknold. “We’re certainly happy we’ve won it again.”

Friday’s win also moves Quinnipiac into sole possession of 2nd place in the ECAC Hockey standings, breaking a tie with the Bulldogs.

“This is a huge win. They were fighting for a spot with us, so this is almost a four-point game here” said Shiplo. “We’re confident, we’re on a five-game heater right now, and you just have to keep flowing with it.”

Quinnipiac’s confidence will be tested once again Saturday night as they host Brown at 7:00 p.m. On the other side, Yale will look to bounce back when they travel to Princeton on Saturday for a tough matchup.