Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey clinches first round bye with senior night win


Photos: Liz Flynn

Jacob Shiffer

The Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s hockey team’s 2-1 victory over the Brown Bears on Friday night may have clinched a first-round bye and the No. 3 seed in the ECAC Hockey Tournament, but one of the more memorable highlights came before the first puck drop.

The red carpet was rolled out for Senior Night as forwards Nick Jermain and Alex Whelan along with defenseman Karlis Cukste were honored alongside their families.

“You get to see how happy your parents are and how proud they are,” Cukste said. “I got to see the smile on my mom’s face and my dad was happy too, so it just got me going for the game.”

Their impact was seen early. Midway through the first period, Jermain fired a snapshot towards the net where sophomore forward Wyatt Bongiovanni was screening the goaltender and tapped the puck into the net. The goal snapped a six-game scoreless streak for Bongiovanni and gave Jermain the first 20-point season of his career.

The Bobcats have struggled against the Bears in Hamden, going winless against them at home since 2017. Just over a minute into the second period, a neutral zone turnover by Quinnipiac gave Brown a breakaway. Senior Trey Dodd made the cross-net pass to junior Joachim Weberg who slipped it past the stranded junior goaltender Keith Petruzzelli to tie the game.

“I just think right now for whatever reason they get fired up to play us,” Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold said. “We’re ranked in the top 20 and they come to play. I don’t know why their record is where it is because I’m always impressed with them.”

The Bobcats outshot the Bears 16-8 in the second period and won the faceoff battle 34-24 over the game but they struggled to find the back of the net. Two shots off the post and 19 blocked shots by the Bears kept the Bobcats off the scoreboard in the second period and most of the third period.

“Where we were struggling with our forwards weren’t creating any traffic, Pecknold said. “So we just had three guys, our forwards, would work out getting the puck, getting it to the defensemen and then they would just kind of watch.”

With just over five minutes left in the game, Pecknold saw the traffic he wanted. Sophomore forward William Fallstrom slipped past two defenders and backhanded a shot towards the net that deflected off the stick of sophomore forward Ethan de Jong and into the net for the game-winning goal. Fallstrom, who Pecknold said may have been the best forward for the Bobcats in the game, earned his 16th assist on the play.

“He’s had a great last six seven eight weeks,” Pecknold said. “He’s been one of our best players probably since Christmas.”

With a first-round bye and the No. 3 seed locked up for the ECAC Hockey Tournament, the team heads into Saturday’s Battle on Whitney Ave. against Yale University with no outside pressure. But for these seniors, the focus is on making sure this season doesn’t come to a disappointing end.

“After tomorrow night we’re playing for our lives, especially us three. I never want to take this jersey off. We want to go as far as we can obviously, and we’ll do everything we can to do that. I know our teammates will as well. So, it’s pretty much desperation mode from here on out.”