PITTSBURGH — The 14th-ranked Quinnipiac Bobcats made their way to the championship game of the fifth annual Three Rivers Classic with an impressive 3-1 victory over the sixth-ranked Boston College Eagles on Thursday evening at PPG Paints Arena.
Sophomore left winger Craig Martin’s low, hard shot from the right circle during a third-period power play proved to be the game winner in a game in which it took some time for both teams to shake the rust off following Christmas break.
“It’s tough when you take three weeks off. You have to get back after it after Christmas with limited practice time but we seemed to get better as the game went along,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “We had a little bit of a slump going into the break, which was unusual for a lot of our players who weren’t used to that. I thought we battled today, I didn’t think we played our best hockey. I thought both teams were rusty through two periods. I thought we had a great third period, our compete level was excellent, guys were blocking shots, selling out and making plays.
The two teams shook off the rust in a stoppage-filled first period that saw the best scoring chance of the frame go to Boston College forward Austin Cangelosi, who was awarded a penalty shot at 4:21. However, Bobcats netminder Chris Truehl made the pad save on Cangelosi’s attempt to keep the Eagles from drawing first blood.
The game got smoother as it went along, with the Bobcats holding the edge in both shots and territory through the halfway point and eventually on the scoreboard. Junior forward Tanner MacMaster got Quinnipiac off and running at the 10:43 mark of the second when he found a rebound in the slot from a Kevin McKernan shot from the point and patiently waited out Boston College goaltender Ryan Edquist, putting the puck behind him for his fifth goal of the season.
The Eagles answered with a late second-period effort from Graham McPhee, who had just finished serving a tripping minor. Following a mishandled puck from a Bobcats defender near his own blue line, McPhee filled in to make an instant 2-on-0 break with Cangelosi which McPhee finished at 19:25 to knot the score going into the dressing room.
But any momentum lift the Eagles might have experienced went away quickly as Quinnipiac drew two critical penalties and capitalized on both with Martin’s game winner at 6:04, and a goal from Bo Pieper at 12:31 that gave the Bobcats an insurance tally.
“I thought Quinnipiac capitalized on those two power plays in the third period and it was the difference in the game,” Boston College coach Jerry York said. “I thought our team as a whole played holiday hockey. We weren’t finishing our checks, we weren’t moving our feet. Hats off to Quinnipiac, they did some of those things tonight. I thought our goaltender played well. If I had to pick one player of our team that really competed hard and played well, it was Ryan Edquist.”
Meanwhile, Truehl was quick to credit his teammates for the effort they gave in keeping the Eagles attack at bay. The senior goaltender allowed one goal on 22 shots, and never allowed Boston College a chance to come back into the contest, especially in a late third-period flurry of attempted shots.
“When the guys are blocking shots and doing things like that it makes my job easier and lets me know that I can focus on the shot and no matter what happens those guys will be there for me,” Truehl said.
The win pushed the Bobcats to 11-7-2 on the year while the Eagles fell to 13-7-1.
Robert Morris 1, Ferris State 0
It wasn’t for lack of effort, or lack of chances that led to a low-scoring affair between Robert Morris and Ferris State in game two of the Three Rivers Classic.
It was the clinic that was put on between Colonials goaltender Francis Marotte and Bulldogs netminder Darren Smith. The two combined for 67 saves as the Colonials advanced to the championship game with a 1-0 victory over the Bulldogs.
“It was a good hockey game for coming off Christmas break,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. “I thought both teams played hard and competed. I thought at times it was sloppy, but there was also a lot of intensity and energy and a lot of chances. I thought their goaltender was outstanding and ours was outstanding, too. We played pretty solid defensively. Ferris gave us some problems in some certain situations, and when we had breakdowns, Frankie was good and getting the first goal tonight meant that we didn’t have to end up chasing the game.”
Marotte stopped 32 Bulldogs shots en route to his first career shutout.
“It’s a good feeling,” Marotte said. “It was a team effort. The rebounds I did give up, my defensemen were able to clean them up and make the job easier for me. This feels good, but it would feel even better to get one tomorrow, and that’s what we’re looking to do.”
Breaking the deadlock was no easy chore as both teams took turns putting shots on their opponent’s netminder in a game that was entertaining with plenty of close calls at both ends of the rink.
Colonials forward and alternate captain Daniel Leavens broke the tie at the 4:01 mark when he took a crisp pass from the team’s leading scorer Brady Ferguson, and deposited it past Smith, finishing a 2-on-1 break to put Robert Morris in the lead for good.
“We like to play a cycle game and like to get pucks behind the other team’s defense no matter who we’re playing and in the first two periods, we did a good job of that,” Leavens said. “We had a lot of opportunities off the cycle and a few off the rush. Pucks weren’t going in as often as they do for our line, but I thought all four lines had a lot of chances, we just have to start capitalizing a little more.”
The Colonials held a sizable shot advantage through two periods, but in the third frame the Bulldogs got to their game with more consistency, outshooting the Colonials by a 14-7 margin while nearly producing the game-tying goal with the extra attacker in the closing minutes. Marotte stood tall, putting the Colonials into the championship game. For Ferris State, it was a case of too little, too late.
“I want to congratulate Robert Morris on an extremely well-played game,” Ferris State coach Bob Daniels said. “I thought they were very sound defensively and I thought they created a lot of chances. We started playing better in the third period and we started to create some opportunities of our own but their goaltender had a strong game and we just didn’t create enough. We fumbled some pucks that we normally wouldn’t, we didn’t handle the puck very well and our attack through the neutral zone didn’t generate enough speed.”
The Bulldogs will face Boston College Friday afternoon in the consolation game while the Colonials will play Quinnipiac for the Three Rivers Classic championship afterwards.
“We haven’t seen Boston College since we played them in the national championship title game back in 2012,” Daniels said. “I thought they were like us a bit in their game earlier in that they mishandled pucks. They obviously have a lot of talent but their offense was somewhat hindered. They’re missing some players and have had to juggle some lines. Nobody wants to play in a consolation game but it is an honor to play against them and we’re excited about that.”