Bobcats unable to clinch tournament berth after loss in ECAC Hockey final


Photo: Liz Flynn

Jason Hirsch

A disappointing end to a very successful ECAC Hockey season unfolded for the Quinnipiac Bobcats Saturday.

The St. Lawrence Saints (6-8-4) completed their Cinderella run in the ECAC Hockey tournament as they defeated the Bobcats (17-7-4) by a score of 3-2 in overtime to claim the Whitelaw Cup at Frank Perrotti Jr. Arena.

Familiarity was a strength that St. Lawrence coach Brett Brekke said would be an advantage for the Saints heading into their seventh matchup with the Bobcats this season — and as it turned out, he was 100% right.

“We didn’t have a lot of work entering Thursday’s game, so it was a quick turnaround,” Bekke said. “Knowing their tendencies, and knowing their players made a big difference.”

The Saints got off to a fast start by opening up the scoring with 16:53 remaining in the first period.

Junior Kaden Pickering scored his seventh goal of the season off a rebound from the glass that led to him evading Logan Britt and getting past Keith Petruzzelli’s glove side area.

It took the Bobcats awhile to get back in synchronization, but when in trouble, ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and Hobey Baker Award finalist Odeen Tufto answered the call.

Tufto netted his seventh goal of the season off a pass by the boards from Ethan De Jong to level the score at 1-1 with 12:05 remaining in the second period.

The Tufto goal seemed to get the Bobcats offense going, as they found the back of the net once again just 12 seconds later.

Following a turnover in the Saints zone, Skyler Brind’Amour got the puck to assistant captain Wyatt Bongiovanni for his fifth goal of the season to give both the Bobcats the lead.

Bongiovanni had been sidelined since a leg injury he picked up in an 8-3 Dec. 27 win against American International University.

Thanks in part to a strong showing in the second period, coach Rand Pecknold felt great about his team’s chances.

“Our guys came out nervous, which they shouldn’t be,” Pecknold said. “I thought our second period was excellent, and then in the third, we got a little unlucky with that second goal, but we had to put them away.”

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the clock never struck midnight for the Saints.

Desperate to make something happen, freshman Luc Salem fired a slap shot towards Petruzzelli that Justin Paul managed to poke free and tie the game at two with 3:38 left in regulation.

The belle of the ball, with momentum on their side, put the cherry on top of their sundae when junior David Jankowski beat Petruzzelli on a shot over his right shoulder pad 3:44 into overtime to seal the victory for the Saints.

The coaching staff for the Saints had stressed during the intermission before overtime for their players to get into the middle of the zone on the offensive end of the ice, advice that aided Jankowski and helped him send the Saints into the tournament.

“It was near the end of the shift and we were getting a lot of good looks,” Jankowski said. “The puck came to me on the half wall, and I tried to pick a spot.”

For the Saints, they are back into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007 and will wait to find out tomorrow night at 7 p.m. where they will begin their run to get to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.

While the Bobcats were unable to capture their second Whitelaw Cup in school history, Pecknold believes that it’s more than likely that they will see their name as one of the 16 selected teams for the tournament.

“I think we do deserve to be in”, Pecknold said. “We’ll see on the selection show tomorrow night, but we need to be good in big moments.”

If Quinnipiac does make the tournament, we’ll see if the Bobcats can use the frustration from this big moment to propel them towards a run to the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh to the Frozen Four in 19 days.