Friday, March 3, 2017

Quinnipiac cruises to opening game playoff win

The Quinnipiac Bobcats men's hockey team opened the ECAC playoffs in resounding fashion with a 6-1 win over the Brown Bears on Friday night before a crowd of 2,857 at the High Point Solutions Arena. Six different Bobcats scored on the night with 12 different players recording at least one point. With the win, the Bobcats have won 20 games for the sixth consecutive season. This breaks the school record of five consecutive 20 win seasons set back in the 1998-99 through 2002-03 seasons when Quinnipiac was in MAAC Hockey. This is also the 16th 20-win season under head coach Rand Pecknold.

Landon Smith (photo by Kim Klement/USA Today)
The Bobcats got off to a fast start when just 32 seconds into the game freshman Alex Whelan put home a rebound off of Craig Martin's initial shot on Gavin Nieto. It was the 4th goal of the season for Whelan and he has now scored goals in back to back games. Martin and Derek Smith picked up the assists with the latter returning to the lineup after missing senior night with an injury. Nine minutes later Landon Smith sniped home his 10th goal of the season from the bottom left circle with Tanner MacMaster and Luke Shiplo picking up the assists. Quinnipiac dominated the possession in the first period along with out shooting Brown 17-4 in the opening frame.

The teams opened the second period scoreless for half the period. A little over 12 minutes into the period Quinnipiac struck again on a two on one chance lead by Alex Whelan with Tim Clifton finishing the puck past a sliding Nieto. Craig Martin picked up his second assist of the game on the goal which was Clifton's team leading 13th goal of the season. Quinnipiac pounded another 17 shots on goal on Nieto in the middle frame. 
Alex Whelan (photo by Jenn Hoffman/Pucs & Rec)
The rout was on in the third period as the flood gates started to open with a power play goal by Thomas Aldworth who dangled the puck past the Brown defender for the goal.  K.J. Tiefenwerth and Tanner MacMaster picked up the assists. Three and half minutes later Connor Clifton took a pass cross ice from Landon Smith and put it past Nieto for the goal. Eight minutes later, Tiefenwerth slipped a shot from a tough angle past Nieto for a 6-0 Bobcat lead. Nieto was pulled and replaced with Connor Maher. Brown got a late goal with under six minutes left when Brown's top line put them on the board. Max Willman scored his 11th goal from Charlie Corcoran and Sam Lafferty spoiling freshman Andrew Shortridge's shutout bid.

Quinnipiac out shot Brown 46-20 and was strong on the penalty kill going six out of six. Brown showed very little on offense but did show some physical play late in the game. Andrew Shortridge made 19 saves picking up his first career playoff win and became only the fourth Bobcat freshman to start a playoff game behind Justin Eddy, Jamie Holden and Bud Fisher. The Bobcats return to action tomorrow night when they look to close out the series against Brown and book a quarterfinal trip to North Country to face Saint Lawrence.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.

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