Quinnipiac Men’s Hockey Snaps Losing Streak Against Union


Photos: Liz Flynn

Jacob Shiffer

On a colder-than-usual November night, cars in the parking lot of the People’s United Center needed a few minutes to warm up before they could start driving. Inside the arena, the hockey team needed a full first period.

The Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s hockey team overcame a tough first period as it grinded out a 2-1 victory over the Union College Dutchmen to end a three-year, seven-game winless streak against the upstate New York opponent, as well as their own four-game winless streak this season.

“It felt awesome to get out there in front of the home crowd and get a win in the end,” senior forward Alex Whelan said. “We battled those last two periods and luckily we came out with the win.”

The Dutchmen put the pressure on early and struck first when junior forward Sean Harrison turned past Bobcats first-year defenseman Logan Britt and had a clear shot on goal to put the Dutchmen up 1-0 just over three minutes into the game.

The Bobcats couldn’t put together a consistent effort in the offensive zone in the first period, only managing six shots on goal.

“I think Union was better prepared for us in the first period,” Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold said. “I thought they had a great jump, they were winning races, winning battles. We were back on our heels a little bit.”

The Bobcats played faster and stronger in the second period, outshooting the Dutchmen 9-0 in the first ten minutes of the period and controlling possession in the attacking end.

Just over 11 minutes into the period, their aggressive play was rewarded on a power play when a slick pass across the front of the net from sophomore forward William Fallstrom reached the stick of senior defenseman Karlis Cukste who tapped the puck in goal to tie the game.

Cukste led the team with six shots on goal, applying pressure on the Dutchmen which created scoring chances for the Bobcats. His performance didn’t go unnoticed.

“I thought Karlis [Cukste] was probably our best player tonight,” Pecknold said.

The Bobcats struggled early to find clear shooting angles around the Dutchmen, who blocked 26 shots in the game. Their adjustments led to better shot selection the rest of the way.

“I think it was important having net-front presence but also for them having people on the side of the net,” Cukste said. “I thought we started kind of looking for people off the post and I thought that paid dividends down the stretch.”

Their success continued into the third period, as Bobcats junior forward Odeen Tufto laid the puck to his right side to hand off to a speeding Wyatt Bongiovanni who skated across the front of the net and backhanded a shot past the goaltender for his third goal of the season. The Bobcats held the 2-1 lead the rest of the way and earned their first conference win of the season.

Tufto’s assist increased his points streak to seven games. He has earned a point in all but one game this season. Bongiovanni’s goal gives the sophomore forward goals in back-to-back games, as both players boosted the scoring total for a top line that, according to their coach, has yet to play to their usual standard.

“They probably were better last year,” Pecknold said. “They just gotta get a little more confidence and get a little more honesty in their game but I thought they were pretty good tonight in the second and third.”

The game may not have been pretty, but with a game on Saturday against a conference opponent, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers, the Bobcats know the significance of this game will better prepare them down the stretch.

“I think this one was actually really important because it just showed what we have to do,” Whelan said. “First period wasn’t pretty. We came out kind of flat, so we battled harder in the second and third period and I think that kind of proved how we need to play and what our standard needs to be like with the games going forward.”