Perets, Van Nes Stifle Yale as Bobcats Earn Eighth Straight Heroes Hat


Photo: Kaylyn Terry

Michael LaRocca

In front of a sold-out crowd at the People’s United Center, the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team out-paced rival Yale Bulldogs 4-0 in the first installment of the Battle of Whitney Avenue played in Hamden since Feb. 29, 2020. 

The student section was standing room only as the puck dropped, erupting at every ounce of contact players made with each other throughout the first period. The initial play seemed to consist of all players making an effort to release their pent-up energy through the productive medium of excellent defense. 

The teams combined for two total shots on goal halfway through the first period before Quinnipiac graduate student forward Oliver Chau buried a one-timer past Yale sophomore goaltender Nathan Reid off an excellent feed from junior forward Skyler Brind’Amour to give Quinnipiac a 1-0 lead with nine minutes left in the period. 

“Oliver, he’s a big game player,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “He’s got a national championship under his belt with UMass, and I think he’s been one of the best forwards in our league this year.”

In spite of the physical nature both sides brought to the ice, no penalties were assessed through the first 25 minutes of game time until Quinnipiac junior forward Ethan Leyh committed a hold, putting the Bulldogs on the power play. The man-advantage for Yale was swiftly put to a close as Quinnipiac’s top-ranked penalty kill (.929) went to work. 

The Bobcats imposed their will on the contest halfway through the second period as senior forward Desi Burgart doubled Quinnipiac’s lead after netting home a goal set up by a Guus Van Nes breakaway with 11:15 left in the frame. 

Quinnipiac freshman goaltender Yaniv Perets worked in symphony with his defense, saving all of the weak Yale scoring opportunities. The Bulldogs squandered their major opportunities by whiffing on the puck on multiple occasions. Perets finished the game with 21 saves, securing his 12th shutout on the season, the NCAA record for most by a freshman in a single season and tied for the most by any player. 

“He’s been obviously exceptional,” Burgart said. “You look at games where we haven’t had our legs or our energy and he’s always there to bail us out. Obviously that’s what you need to be a top-tier team, someone who’s always stable in the net and just a guy we can lean on to make big saves in big moments.”

The make-or-break moment for the game came with 14:53 left in the third period when Quinnipiac senior forward Wyatt Bongiovanni was called for an illegal hit to the back, earning himself a game misconduct. This major put the Bulldogs on a five-minute power play, much to the dismay of the crowd, who serenaded the officials with boos from all directions. 

Nearly three minutes into the penalty, Quinnipiac lost another man as Chau was called for tripping, forcing the Bobcats to kill off a full two minutes of five-on-three hockey. The following penalty kill was one of the key moments of the 2021-22 season for Quinnipiac as a sweet concoction of stellar defense, Hobey Baker Award worthy goaltending from Perets, an obnoxious crowd and overall offensive ineptitude from Yale left the Bulldogs empty-handed. 

“We didn’t agree with the (Bongiovanni) call,” Van Nes said. “We were all saying, ‘let’s go put them away’ and I think that’s what we did after that.”

“Put them away” was exactly what Quinnipiac did after the penalty kill as the Bobcats scored two goals in a three minute span, including a sensational wrap-around goal from Van Nes and a power-play goal from junior forward Joey Cipollone assisted by Van Nes and Burgart. These two goals put Quinnipiac ahead for good, leading by four with seven minutes remaining. 

Van Nes finished the game with a career-high three points as Quinnipiac put the finishing touches on its 26th all-time win against Yale and eighth straight dating back to February 2018. 

Despite the victory, Quinnipiac did not underestimate the heart its opponent played with.

“I was really impressed with Yale tonight,” Pecknold said. “They gave us everything we could handle, but I was impressed with them, they did a nice job tonight.” 

The first sold-out crowd for the People’s United Center this season got its money’s worth, witnessing the 4-0 Bobcats win in the Battle of Whitney Avenue.

“Obviously, it was the best crowd we’ve had all year,” Burgart said. “We expect that to continue through a deep playoff run, so that’s a good experience for the younger guys who haven’t experienced that yet.”

Both teams will look forward to making that playoff run after the conclusion of their regular seasons. Quinnipiac will close out its regular season this weekend at the People’s United Center against No. 18 Cornell and Colgate, while Yale will finish things off on the road against No. 17 Clarkson and St. Lawrence.