Quinnipiac Men’s Hockey Can’t Find Identity in 4-2 Loss to Maine


Photo credit: Liz Flynn

Jacob Shiffer

Everything felt familiar at the start of this chilly October night. The Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s ice hockey team wore their familiar yellow jerseys. They were back at home on familiar ice after a one-game stint on the road. But ask head coach Rand Pecknold, and he’ll tell you the Bobcats team that lost 4-2 to the University of Maine Black Bears, was anything but familiar.

“We’re struggling to have buy-in to our identity, which is something that last year we had so much success,” Pecknold said. “I thought tonight we were a poorly coached team and in the end that falls on me. I need to do a better job of getting these kids to buy in.”

The lack of buy-in was apparent from the start of the game where the Bobcats were out-hustled by the Black Bears. They jumped out to a 1-0 lead midway through the first after Black Bears freshman defenseman Levi Kleiboer intercepted a clearance attempt and put a shot towards the goal. Junior forward Eduards Tralmaks smashed the rebound into the net for his second goal of the season and Kleiober’s first career point.

The Bobcats had two powerplay opportunities in the first but only managed to take two shots on goal.

“I think it was just a lack of urgency in the first, so we kind of wasted away two powerplays early on,” sophomore forward Wyatt Bongiovanni said. “They came at us hard and I think we weren’t out-competing on the powerplay. It got better later on, but we can’t have those mishaps. “

Just 46 seconds into the second period, Tralmaks struck again as he scored a wraparound goal to put the Black Bears up 2-0 and earn his third goal of the season.

The Bobcats weren’t done, as they responded just over a minute later with a goal from junior forward Joe O’Connor who put in the one-timer off an excellent pass from sophomore forward Michael Lombardi. O’Connor, who made his season debut as a replacement for senior assistant captain Alex Whelan, earned his first goal of the season. Freshman forward Skyler Brind’Amour was also credited with the assist, the first of his career.

Near the halfway point of the second period, the Bobcats finally took advantage of a powerplay opportunity. Sophomore defenseman Peter DiLeberatore sent a pass to Bongiovanni who ripped a one-timer into the top left corner of the net to tie the game.

“At times we had good spurts where we competed and battled and played to our identity but it just wasn’t consistent,” Pecknold said.

The key moment of the game occurred just two minutes later, as the Bobcats created a breakaway on their penalty kill and Brind’Amour one-timed a shot into the crossbar off a pass from senior forward and captain Nick Jermain. That sound echoed through the arena, as did the shouts of Bobcats players who thought the puck went in the net and clamored the referees to review the call at the next stoppage.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, that next stoppage came when the Black Bears scored on their own breakaway. Senior forward Tim Doherty earned the goal off a pass from senior forward Mitchell Fossier. After a lengthy review, the referees confirmed the Bobcats’ no-goal call and made the Black Bears goal official.

The third period provided a glimpse of Quinnipiac’s missing identity, as it took 35 shots in the period, just two less than Maine took all game, but failed to capitalize on their chances.

“I think we take away our compete level in that period and that instance and we have to do that for a whole 60. There’s no reason we can’t,” Bongiovanni said.

Black Bears’ junior goaltender Jeremy Swayman was the key to the victory as he made 17 third period saves, which contributed to the 31 he made for the game

“Swayman was the best kid on the ice,” Pecknold said. “He was excellent. He was by far the best player.”

The Bobcats struggled to put pressure on Swayman. He made a number of saves, but the Bobcats rarely made him fight through screens to find the puck.

“You can shoot the puck as much as you want but if he sees everything then it doesn’t matter,” Bongiovanni said.

The game was sealed halfway into the third period when a Black Bears powerplay resulted in a goal for Sophomore forward Adam Dawe. His second goal of the season was assisted by Tralmaks and Fossier, who finished the game with three points each.

“I thought it was sloppy. We got what we deserved,” Pecknold said. “Maine deserved to win tonight.”

The Bobcats don’t have much time to find their identity, as they face the Black Bears again on Saturday night. Pecknold’s message of buying in has less than 24 hours to sink in. Lucky for him, it only took one hour for the players to preach his words.

“I think it’s just the overall buy-in,” Bongiovanni said. “I think we got to play to our identity, and we’ll be successful tomorrow.”