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HAMDEN, Conn. — The comeback is a familiar place to be for Quinnipiac, but for the nation’s top team, the late-game heroics came on the other end Friday night.
No. 17 Cornell tied the game on Mitch Vanderlaan’s goal with 2:42 left in the game and the two teams settled for a 2-2 stalemate.
The tie proves to be the third tie in as many games for the Big Red, and the third tie in four games for the Bobcats. Quinnipiac has sent five of its seven games into overtime since the start of 2016.
“I think we were playing hockey at a better level, but we’ve been playing good hockey since Christmas,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “Part of the issue we’re dealing with is we’re No. 1 in the country and we’ve got a big target on us. Teams are fired up to play us.”
Quinnipiac opened up the scoring in the first, with a Landon Smith deflection of a Tim Clifton shot from the top of the faceoff circle on the near side. It was one of the two conversions on three power-play opportunities for the Bobcats.
“Our power play was good tonight [and] I think we had two power-play goals,” said Pecknold. “We only had three power plays tonight, I can’t comment on that. I’m not allowed to comment on the officiating.”
The Bobcats took three penalties late into the second period and into the third off of undisciplined plays, including an elbowing call on Connor Clifton and a boarding call on his older brother, Tim.
Power-play opportunities helped to fuel the Bobcats’ 41 shots on goal, but had 39 turned away by Mitch Gillam in net for the Big Red.
“I thought tonight was their goaltending, it was fantastic,” Pecknold said. “We had tons of chances, [but] we’ve gotta score more than two goals.”
The tie is another notch in associate head coach Ben Syer’s belt, who filled in for head coach Mike Schafer tonight. Syer, a former Quinnipiac associate head coach under Pecknold, is now 4-0-1 in his career, with a lone win coming from his tenure with QU.
“If you look at our opponent, the fact that we haven’t won in six games, dropping our last four,” said Syer. “I mean, I think they’re a national championship contender. Obviously, I’m kinda familiar with the program. In my opinion, that’s the best team I’ve seen them have. It’s right up there with the team that went to the championship game three years ago.”
For Syer, the biggest adjustment came in the second period when his team worked to tie the game early.
“I think that changed at different periods, but particularly that third period where we started to have second guys to the puck and third guys to the puck, traveling in packs,” Syer said. “We didn’t see one red shirt against three gold shirts. We had two or three guys working to get into the scrums.”
For Cornell’s top-line center Jeff Kubiak, sticking to the system was the biggest facet to push for the tie.
“I think we have a good mix of both speed and physicality,” Kubiak said. “When both of those are going, we’re moving our feet, being physical, it puts a lot of pressure on the other team’s defense. We have to be playing that style to be successful and have any chance at winning. We can’t be playing any other way, because that’s not how our team is built.”