The last time the No. 10/9 Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team lost in conference play was on Dec. 6 at the hands of now-No. 16/15 Harvard. Since that day in late autumn, the Bobcats have not blinked in their quest to go into the conference tournament with the number one overall seed, going into Friday night’s game undefeated in its last 12 ECAC matchups.
Quinnipiac showed no signs of slowing down in Cambridge.
Three first period goals—including two in the first nine minutes—paved the way to a 5-2 victory for the Bobcats at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center, cementing their spot atop the ECAC standings heading into the playoffs.
“I thought we came out in the first five or six minutes pretty strong,” co-captain Max Everson said. “They got that power play and made a nice play, and then we kind of stopped skating.”
After surrendering an early goal, the Crimson (14-11-3, 10-8-3 ECAC) looked to stop the momentum of Quinnipiac’s first goal of the night, but such an attempt was unsuccessful. Sophomore Devon Toews sent a shot in from the point which hit pipe and bounced fortuitously right back to fellow sophomore Sam Anas. Last year’s ECAC Co-Rookie of the Year corralled the loose puck, deked junior goaltender Steve Michalek by going to his backhand, and flicked the puck into the back of the net to extend the lead to two goals for the Bobcats (21-8-4, 16-2-3).
Quinnipiac added its third goal of the first period with less than three minutes remaining. Toews sent a wrister past a screened Michalek to further silence the already quiet Crimson crowd and jump out to an early three-goal lead.
Anas added another one 13:34 into the second period. The second-year star has become familiar with the back of the net during his stint in college hockey, increasing his goal total to 19 on the year, trailing only two other forwards in the conference.
Anas’ second goal of the night quelled any momentum Harvard gained from its power play goal at the end of the first period after the score gave the Crimson a jolt of energy going into intermission. Junior forward Jimmy Vesey redirected a shot from junior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo for his 21st goal of the year—good for second in the ECAC. Sophomore Sean Malone added another one less than eight minutes into the third period on a wraparound to beat junior goaltender Michael Garteig, but it was too little, too late.
The Bobcats opened with a power play goal of their own early on in the contest. Senior Matthew Peca found junior Travis St. Denis open at the left faceoff circle, who sent a cross-ice pass to freshman Landon Smith just to the left of the crease. The rookie had plenty of open net and plenty of time as he knocked it home.
Quinnipiac capped off its scoring by adding a third period goal for good measure. Peca and freshman Tanner MacMaster broke out on a two-on-one, with the senior feeding the rookie, who beat Michalek over the left pad.
Junior Colin Blackwell skated for the first time since his one appearance this season on Nov. 21 against Bentley. The third-year forward averaged 16.5 points in his freshman and sophomore years before being sidelined for all but one game this season. He was held scoreless in this contest.
“We’re taking our cue from him and how he feels,” Harvard coach Ted Donato ’91 said. “It’s been a couple of years minus a game, but I think he played excellently for someone who hasn’t played.”
With the loss, Harvard is no longer projected for a first-round bye in the ECAC tournament. Dartmouth beat Princeton on Friday night, while Colgate skated to a tie against Yale, bumping the Crimson in the conference standings to the sixth-seed. Since Valentine’s Day, Harvard has only won one of its last five games as the team has slowly slid down the conference rankings and national standings.
“I don’t think it changes anything for us,” Everson said. “It doesn’t change our goal. Our goal is still to play in Lake Placid and win the ECAC tournament.”
—Staff writer Kurt T. Ballard can be reached at email@example.com.