To the victor, the spoils: Bobcats come from behind to claim back-to-back CT Ice Championships


Photo: Kaylyn Terry

Zachary Carter

The No. 4/5 Quinnipiac University men’s ice hockey team displayed poise and resilience Saturday night to take down the No. 12 UConn Huskies 4-3, claiming its second Connecticut Ice Championship trophy in as many years.

The two best teams in Connecticut squared off Saturday, and it showed, with a battle to the end that could have tipped the scales in either direction. But it was the Bobcats who emerged victorious, behind a performance of monstrous magnitude from graduate student forward Ethan de Jong. The British Columbia native tallied two goals and an assist in his pursuit of the Connecticut Ice Most Outstanding Player Award. 

Of his three points, he would get the assist first to help the Bobcats get on the board early. A hooking minor sent senior defenseman Roman Kinal to UConn’s penalty box. de Jong and graduate student defenseman Zach Metsa found senior forward Skyler Brind’amour on the man advantage, who stuffed home the first goal of the game. 

The Huskies, knocked back on their heels, rallied to pull the game even rather quickly. Graduate forward Justin Pearson scooped up a neutral zone turnover barrelling toward the net on a breakaway. He made a few moves, and slung the puck blocker-side to beat sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets, tying the game at one goal apiece. 

As the period winded down, Quinnipiac found an abundance of chances in front of the net to break the tie. The Bobcats did just that with just under two minutes to play, with sophomore forward Christophe Fillion finding de Jong for the go-ahead goal. Metsa again was credited with an assist. 

The second period did not favor the Bobcats as much as the first, but rather it was all Huskies for 20 minutes. UConn squandered opportunity after opportunity in the offensive zone, not to mention some neat saves from Perets. However, the Huskies finally cracked through with under two minutes to play. And they did it twice. With de Jong in the box for tripping, senior defenseman Jake Flynn set up freshman forward Samu Salminen for a beautiful one-timer goal to bring the game back even. 

One minute and eight seconds later, junior forward Hudson Schandor batted in a rebounded shot past Perets, giving the Huskies their first lead of the game heading into the final period of play. 

Despite the lead, it was impossible to count the Bobcats out. A team playing on their home ice, in front of their home fans, was sure to put on a show. 

de Jong rejoined the fun about five minutes into the period, beating freshman netminder Arsenii Sergeev high and tight on the power play, giving Metsa his third assist of the night. In poetic fashion, with the game winding down, the hero of the game emerged to be graduate student defenseman Jake Johnson, who struck with a simple yet effective wrist shot from just inside the blue line. The goal gave the Bobcats a 4-3 lead, and eventually the win to become the champions of Connecticut. 

With the Bobcats surrendering two quick goals late, head coach Rand Pecknold attributed the team’s potential downfall to a lack of offense, rather than defense. 

“We sat back a bit and didn’t play our type of offense,” Pecknold said. “We took those two penalties late, and it slowed us down.” 

When it came to the impact of bringing home the trophy in Hamden, de Jong kept it straightforward. 

“It feels real good to bring home some hardware on home ice.”

To secure a tournament victory this late in the season is highly beneficial for the Bobcats, who turn their attention next to Harvard, when they will take on the Crimson Feb. 3 in Cambridge, Mass at 7 p.m.