Bobcats fall short in CT Ice Finals, lose 4-1 to Sacred Heart

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Bobcats fall short in CT Ice Finals, lose 4-1 to Sacred Heart

Mike Dalton

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113 players and 16 coaches consisting of four teams came together for one weekend tournament with one common goal in mind. A goal that didn’t even exist until March of 2019.

The goal was to win the inaugural SNY Connecticut Ice Tournament.

After defeating the UConn Huskies 3-2 on Saturday, the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team faced off against the Sacred Heart Pioneers for the tournament championship. Although the nationally ranked, ECAC Hockey member Bobcats were favored, it was the unranked, Atlantic Hockey conference Pioneers who raised the trophy in the end, beating the Bobcats 4-1.

The victory capped off an impressive tournament showing for Sacred Heart, who handily beat another ECAC Hockey opponent, Yale, 6-2 in their first game of the tournament.

Things started off well for Quinnipiac. Karlis Cukste scored in the first period to give the Bobcats the lead heading into the second, but the Pioneers surged in the second period, scoring three unanswered goals and adding a fourth in the third with an empty-netter.

After the game, Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey head coach Rand Pecknold thought that his team was playing a separate game every period.

“Every night it’s different,” Pecknold said. “I thought the first period was pretty good. The second period was atrocious and the third period was poor.”

The Bobcats only had 22 shots on goal, which is unusually low for a team that has averaged almost 32 shots per game this season. The Bobcats’ power play struggles continued as the team went 0-for-3 with three shots on goal on the man advantage.

For Pecknold, it all comes down to a lack of consistency.

“We need to play a good, hard 60 minutes, and it’s a maturity issue that we’ve had all year long,” Pecknold said. “When I’ve had great teams, we played 60 minutes every night. But it’s a work in progress. Hopefully we’ll figure it out at some point, because it’s getting close to playoff time.”

Meanwhile, the Sacred Heart Pioneers became the first team to win the Connecticut Ice Tournament. Head coach C.J. Marottolo also believed that it was the first tournament win at any level in program history, an incredibly proud moment for a Connecticut program that had been overshadowed by the successes of Quinnipiac and Yale this past decade.

“Where this program was and where it is now, the growth is unbelievable,” Pioneer senior captain Jason Cotton said. “Not only the guys in the locker room, but the senior classes before us and before them, they came in and left the jersey in a better place than where it was. For us, when we walk through those doors it’s what we think about.”

Cotton became the first player to be crowned the Connecticut Ice Tournament MVP, thanks to  two goals and two assists over the course of the weekend.

The idea behind the three-day weekend festival was to help celebrate and promote hockey at the youth, amateur and collegiate levels in the state of Connecticut. Seeing an Atlantic Hockey team topple two ECAC Hockey teams in dominant fashion and celebrate wildly on the ice should only help the tournament grow.

The Pioneers, who haven’t had an overall record above .500 since the 2009-10 season, already have 16 wins, which equals their total from all of last season. Even though the team was ecstatic about winning the inaugural Connecticut Ice Tournament, they have their minds set on winning the Atlantic Hockey championship next.

“That’s something we’re capable of doing,” Cotton said. “I thought we’ve had a pretty good season in-conference so far. The weekend prior to Canisius we got away from our game a little bit, but this weekend we got back to our roots.”

The Pioneers will look to keep the momentum going out west in Colorado, where they’ll face their division foe, the Air Force Falcons on Friday Jan. 31. Meanwhile, the Bobcats will be back at the Frank Perrotti Jr. Arena this Friday, when they’ll face a big test in their ECAC Hockey rival, No.1 Cornell, at 7 p.m.