Placid Bound: Bobcats beat Bulldogs 6-2, advance to semifinals


Photo: Connor Coar

Clever Streich

When Zach Metsa took the ice Saturday night, he knew it would be his final game at M&T Bank Arena, a rink he has called home since 2018.

The fifth year captain of the Bobcats channeled the emotions of the evening to lead his team to a dominant 6-2 victory over Yale in Game 2 of the ECAC Quarterfinals, sweeping the best of three series. 

“This place has been home for five years, and we’ve made incredible memories here, so to end it on a win is obviously the way you want,” Metsa said. “It’s a pretty special feeling.”

The game had the makings of another classic in the Battle of Whitney Avenue from the start. Michael Lombardi opened the scoring for the Bobcats in the first frame after redirecting a shot from the point by senior defenseman Jayden Lee.

Feeding off the energy of the crowd, Lee also went on to a multi-point night. The Bobcats have thrived when playing in Hamden, as they stayed unbeaten at home for the first time in program history with a record of 15-0-1.

“We take a lot of pride and passion playing in our own barn, we don’t let other teams come in here and walk on us,” Lee said. “A lot of pride as a group and as a whole.”

The Bobcats doubled the lead late in the first on the man advantage. One night after passing the 50 point plateau, Colin Graf slapped a one-timer past Bulldogs goalie Luke Pearson for his 20th of the season, the first time a Bobcat has netted at least 20 goals in a campaign since Sam Anas and Travis St. Denis in 2015-16.

Early in the second period, Lee wired another wrist shot on the power play that was tipped in by Christophe Tellier for a 3-0 Quinnipiac lead, showing the Bobcats’ willingness to crash the net and find the right bounces in special teams situations. 

“We’ve got a real mature group, and we’ll buy in,” Lee said. “It works. We got more traffic to the net. Their goalie plays a little deeper, he can’t see as much, and we’re able to bang in some goals.”

Later, Jacob Quillan found twine off a Graf pass to keep the offense rolling and push the Bobcats lead to four, but Yale was not done fighting. Less than a minute after Quillan’s tally, Quinton Ong found a way to beat Yaniv Perets, getting his team on the board for the first time in the series. 

Entering the third period, the Bobcats wanted to take care of business with a three goal lead, but were blindsided by a shorthanded tally from Reilly Connors, who brought the Bulldogs back within striking distance. 

“We’ve dealt with it before with adversity, so we talked about it early in the week,” Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold said. “It comes in different shapes and forms all season long and it gets intensified in the playoffs, and we just had to stay the course. Keep the game plan simple.”

Not wanting to give Yale an opening back into the series, Quinnipiac’s veteran leadership took over. Facing a penalty kill, Metsa initiated a turnover, giving Skylar Brind’Amour the opening to rush up ice and feed Ethan de Jong, who buried a short handed goal of his own to re-take command of the game 5-2.

And in a fitting end to his time playing at ‘The Bank’, Metsa had the last laugh in his 10th and final Battle of Whitney Avenue, a matchup he has never lost. He provided the exclamation point, scoring on a shot through traffic from the blue line to make the game 6-2, the final score that ended the Bulldogs’ season. 

With the quarterfinals and his days playing at Frank Perrotti Jr. Arena behind him, Metsa will clear out his stall in the locker room and pack his bags for another trip to Lake Placid. 

But the focus does not shift for himself or his team: play every game like it could be your last, and keep winning. 

“At the end of the day, your career could be over, your season could be over,” Metsa said. “But that’s playoff hockey. We’ve got to expect that and if anything, enforce that moving forward.”

The Bobcats will take the ice in the ECAC semifinals against the fifth seeded Colgate Raiders on Friday, March 17 for a chance to play in a third straight ECAC championship game.