QU men’s ice hockey storms past Sacred Heart for opening-night victory


Photo: Liz Flynn

Steven McAvoy

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A little over nine months ago, Quinnipiac was on a roll. Then the pandemic happened.

The Bobcats had to delay getting back on the ice all while getting creative in how to acclimate new players to the program.

“Doing Zoom calls with the new guys and not really knowing them on a personal level, it was challenging,” captain Odeen Tufto said. “Those early months, not going to the rink every day, or having to get up and do workouts at your house instead of the weight room that we have [in Hamden] challenges you mentally.”

It took immense effort and time, but after a long hiatus of no college hockey action, the Bobcats hit the ice, and even though a lot has changed, the Bobcats play hasn’t changed a bit.

The Bobcats came out the gates without missing a beat in their season opener, routing the Sacred Heart Pioneers, 9-2.

Defensively, the Bobcats kept the Pioneers on their toes, commanding the puck in the neutral zone and limiting the Pioneers to just 20 shots on net.

The first line of Peter DeLiberatore and Zach Metsa held the fort while newcomers Iivari Räsänen and Nick Bochen made their debuts for the Bobcats. Bochen scored a power-play goal in the third period, the first of his career.

“Bochen showed he can do it offensively,” Metsa said. “He ripped one off the elbow and [Räsänen] was solid all night, he moved the puck well, played good defense. Both of them are going to be really good moving forward.”

Marcus Chorney, who prior to tonight logged a total of four minutes in two years, found meaningful minutes as the Bobcats third-line defenseman, and he made them count. The junior from Rhode Island tallied his first two career points – one assist and a goal on the powerplay – as well as two blocks.

“A lot of guys were pumped up for me,” Chorney said. “A lot of emotions, it’s been a long time and it felt good for sure to get that off my chest.”

“It was great for Chorney,” said Pecknold. “He’s battled, he played only two games as a freshman then a handful last year and he stuck it out, makes the starting lineup. I said go play in the Priskie spot and he found a way.”

Metsa, his roommate and close friend, was just as excited.

“He’s earned everything he’s gotten here,” Metsa said. “He’s battled since the day he got here. I know everything he’s gone through and it means a lot”

While the defensive effort was supreme, it was the offensive showing that stole the show.

Quinnipiac found the net nine times with nine different Bobcats lighting up the lamp.

Photo: QBSN

Wyatt Bongiovanni got the Bobcats on the board halfway through the second period, and from that point forward, the onslaught was continuous.

Guus Van Nes found twine just seconds after Bongiovanni, and Michael Lombardi scored on a wraparound to the far side post to give the Bobcats three goals in three minutes.

Spoiler alert: they weren’t finished.

Sophomore Matt Fawcett, who like Chorney hasn’t played major minutes since joining the team, found his way in the starting lineup and logged his first two points of his career with an assist and a goal to put the Bobcats up 4-0.

Following a Sacred Heart goal by Kevin Lombardi, Quinnipiac kept the momentum rolling with goals by Metsa, Tufto, Bochen and Ethan Leyh to go up by a touchdown.

Sacred Heart would find the net again, this time from the Atlantic Hockey rookie of the year Braeden Tuck, but Chorney finished off the night as the Bobcats strolled to a 9-2 demolition.

“We had a little bit of everything,” Pecknold said. “We had a bunch of guys with their first goal tonight. It was one of those games that pucks go in for you.”

The Pioneers starting netminder Luke Lush, despite the team’s shaky defensive effort, was able to hold off the Bobcats for close to half the contest.

It was redemption night for the Bobcats. The last time they faced off against the Pioneers was back in January, losing in the finale of the CT Ice tournament at Webster Bank Arena.

While Quinnipiac is riding high after the win, coach Pecknold says to expect a different game tomorrow when his squad again faces Sacred Heart.

“It’ll be closer tomorrow night. We’ll have to reload and do better,” Pecknold said. “We had some details where we struggled and [Sacred Heart] didn’t take advantage of them.”

The win continues a four-game win streak dating back to last year, and with game one of Quinnipiac’s unprecedented college hockey season closing on a high note, they’ll look to make it five straight tomorrow night.