March 28, 2015 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Bobcats Buried In Fargo

by Dave Berger/CHN Reporter

FARGO, N.D. — The game may have been much closer than a 4-1 count would indicate, but for Quinnipiac, a hard-fought battle was still a loss. Both teams were playing with an edge, that sometimes hurt more than helped. But in a game where Quinnipiac could ill afford any mistakes, penalties and special teams issues were costly.

The result was a first-round exit in the West Regional here. North Dakota advances to play St. Cloud State.

UND’s Drake Caggiula earned a two-minute minor for boarding at 12:29 of a scoreless opening period, and Quinnipiac was poised to go on the power play and possibly quiet the partisan crowd. Instead, Bobcat brothers Connor and Tim Clifton both decided to exact revenge on Caggiula, and QU head coach Rand Pecknold instead found his team down a man.

Thirty seconds later, the puck was in the Bobcats' net behind Michael Gartieg off the stick of defenseman turned right winger turned power-play specialist Tucker Poolman.

That was how it went much of the night for Quinnipiac, which played hard throughout but was left with little to show for it.

“I think we just didn’t have enough traffic tonight and he saw a lot of pucks," QU forward Matthew Peca said about North Dakota goaltender Zane McIntyre. "The ones he didn’t see missed the net and we had a lot of attempted shots and I don’t even think half of them saw the net. We need to learn from that obviously, get up in his grill a little more and get him scrambling and make it harder on him.”

To make matters worse for the Bobcats, top-seeded UND found some measure of puck luck to go along with their depth of talent and the partisan fans (Fargo is less than 80 miles from the University of North Dakota campus). Just over seven minutes into the second period, junior left wing Bryn Chyzyk threw a puck at Garteig from behind the goal line which found its way home and ignited the crowd again.

It was a tough end to a season for Quinnipiac, one that was nevertheless supposed to be a rebuilding year.

"I was happy with (our game) when we were down 2-0 our guys kept battling," QU coach Rand Pecknold said. "We had that fluke second goal that just killed us but we didn’t quit.”

At the 8:41 mark, Tim Clifton turned a power play into a 4-on-4 situation when he couldn’t resist slashing Paul LaDue after LaDue was being shown the gate for roughing at center ice. Clifton, who was whistled for three penalties in the hockey game, was twice responsible for negating power plays.

Twenty-five seconds later, the Bobcats finally did get a power play, but during the 4-on-3 advantage, it was North Dakota which broke through with an odd-man rush. Drake Caggiula finished off a feed from Troy Stecher to put a third UND goal on the board.

At that point, Pecknold was forced to reexamine his plan to limit the minutes of sophomore forward Sam Anas. Pecknold’s plan was to give Anas, who was injured in the ECAC quarterfinals against Union two weeks ago and not expected to play, some power-play time and a shift here and there, but the score dictated otherwise.

“(Anas) wasn’t himself, we got down and he wanted to play," Pecknold said. "He kept telling me he was fine, he was probably like 60 percent but he made some plays and we needed to score some goals. I probably played him more than I wanted to.”

Anas finished with five shots on goal, tying Bobcats center Travis St. Denis for the most on the team.

Hopes of a comeback were more or less thwarted when Brayden Sherbinin was called for a 5-minute major for checking from behind at 3:42 of the third period. But Quinnipiac had a good penalty kill, and then North Dakota's Paul LaDue was whistled for the same thing late in the third.

Quinnipiac managed to get one power-play goal there, but it wasn't enough.

Quinnipiac attempted thirty more shots than North Dakota (73-43), but had 28 blocked by the defense. Remarkably, 15 different UND players blocked at least one shot. Some of that is to be expected since the Bobcats spent almost fifteen minutes of the game with the man advantage.

“(Killing that many penalties) will generate some of the shot blocks that we talked about," North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. "But that’s been kind of part of the nature of our team. Guys are willing to do that.”

Much has been made recently about whether Regionals should remain at neutral sites, given the small crowds in some years and some venues. Despite technically being a neutral site, Fargo was no such thing, with North Dakota fans packed into Scheels Arena. But Quinnipiac didn't seem to mind.

“I didn’t think it was intimidating," Pecknold said. "I really thought it was a great atmosphere. I’ve got to give it to North Dakota, they have some of the best fans in the country. Obviously the arena is great, it’s really a good venue.”

Said Hakstol, “(The atmosphere) was awesome. Right from walking in the building a couple of hours before the game, right through the end of the final buzzer. What a tremendous atmosphere for our players to have the opportunity to play in. Tonight we wanted to try and take advantage of this opportunity and I thought our guys acquitted themselves pretty well with that in mind.”

Teams that bus to their regional site (in-state) are now 26-15 in regional games since 2008 (#1 seeds are 10-1); teams that fly are 39-55 over that same time period. But head coach Rand Pecknold understands the system that’s in place.

“Having been on the committee before, it is a battle to keep neutral sites and obviously this was not a neutral site but we were the 14 seed so you have to go on the road and take your lumps," Pecknold said. "If we had had a better regular season we wouldn’t have to come here and play, but I thought it was great.”

Quinnpiac’s senior class finishes as the winningest recruiting class in Bobcat hockey history with a record of 97-44-42. Pecknold offered some perspective on how far this program has come and what this particular group of seniors has meant to Quinnipiac hockey:

“In the end, the reason I love my job is players like this senior class, it’s fun coming to the rink every day. You know you hear me talk a lot about Peca and (Danny) Federico and how great they are off the ice and it’s just been an absolute delight to have them for four years. They are awesome people off the ice, and obviously other players, Alex (Barron) and Justin (Agosta), too. I didn’t have them quite as long, Alex had a really good three years for us. Justin had one year from being a transfer but just a great class and it’s one of the things that makes me enjoy my job.

"You know one of the things we’re built on right now and the success we’re having. We certainly have talent, we have talent but not what’s in the other locker room (North Dakota’s) but we have good players, we have great character, we have great kids who come to the rink and work hard and come get better.”

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