Quinnipiac Men’s Hockey Beats AIC in Overtime


(Photo: Quinnipiac Athletics)

Patrick Flatley

The No. 5 Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team took down AIC in an afternoon game at the People’s United Center on Saturday.

Both teams had plenty of shots but this game needed overtime to decide the winner. Zach Metsa was the hero for the Bobcats, but it wasn’t an easy path to victory. Three storylines stuck out today in Hamden.

Sloppy First Period

It might have been the 4 p.m. start time but both teams came out of the gate slowly. The pace for the majority of the period was low in energy and full of turnovers.

“It was a sloppy first period,” sophomore forward Ty Smilanic said. “I couldn’t really tell you why.”

It was filled with players on both teams not having sticks on the ice ready to make a play and if they were, pucks bouncing off resulting in more turnovers.

“The bigger problem for us is we’re just gripping that stick a little tight,” head coach Rand Pecknold said. “Guys are fanning on one (timers), missing empty nets. Not too many hits either in the first frame. There was no real urgency to finish checks.”

That all changed with a very aggressive Bobcat penalty kill that gave the team a jumpstart toward the end of the first period. The sudden jolt of energy lead to more offensive zone time for Quinnipiac.

Metsa made his best Cale Makar impression, walking the blueline and through a defender, drawing attention and finding Smilanic backdoor.

“We went to the (intermission) and coach didn’t want to rip into us,” Smilanic said. “He just wanted us to cool down. We know how good we are and I think we responded great in that second period and even the third period.”

Puck Watching

Although the Bobcats did respond in a second period that featured better play than the first, some lingering aspects carried over.

On a couple of occasions, Quinnipiac players were caught puck watching in the defensive zone. They didn’t get burned on it in the first 20 minutes, but it came back to bit them in the second.

Senior defenseman CJ McGee made a great play on a makeshift 2-on-1 rush, keeping a good gap and diving to the ice to prevent the pass getting though. The backchecking Bobcats got caught admiring the play instead of picking up the F3, trailing the play.

The puck found its way back to AIC’s Luca Maver and he found a wide-open Justin Cole who found his way to the front of the net because of the defensive miscue.

This was a turning point in the game. The Bobcats were starting to dominate play and one mistake let AIC back into the game.

“I think when everything isn’t going our way you need a good reset button,” Pecknold said. “You can’t dwell on that last shift. That’s what the elite players do at the NCAA level, at the NHL level.”

A reset button would be helpful. The Bobcats defensive zone play has been slightly subpar to start the 2021-22 season whether it be turnovers or missed coverage. Cleaning up simple mistakes like this will make the Bobcats a much more dangerous team down the stretch.

Chances Galore

With 17 Quinnipiac shots in the third period, chances were not hard to come by. If it wasn’t for Alec Calvaruso standing on his head in net for AIC in his first start of the season, this game wouldn’t have required extra time.

“We had a ton of zone time,” Pecknold said. “They did a really good job of packing it in. Their kids are willing to eat pucks, they blocked a lot of shots.”

It was a standout game for junior defenseman Jayden Lee on the offensive side of the puck. The crafty blueliner had five or six quality chances of his own, many of them coming in the third period.

“I thought Jayden was outstanding tonight,” Pecknold said. “I might argue that that’s the best game Jayden Lee has ever played for us. He created a lot and just has a lot of confidence right now.”

In typical Bobcat fashion, Quinnipiac outshot AIC by a total of 42-15 and the 42nd one was the shot that ended it. Metsa in overtime finally solved Calvaruso.

2-1 Quinnipiac is your final. Next up for the Bobcats is a trip down Whitney Avenue to Yale on Nov. 5.