de Jong scores two, Johnson plays hero as Bobcats bring home second consecutive CT Ice title
HAMDEN, Conn. – At the start of the 2022-23 season, Quinnipiac men’s hockey outlined the six trophies it sought to bring home. On Saturday night, the No. 3/4 Bobcats claimed the second of the six, beating No. 12 UConn 4-3 in the championship game of the Connecticut Ice Tournament.
“It’s a confidence booster, especially after the last road weekend,” graduate student forward Ethan de Jong said. “But we can’t get too confident, we’ve got to stay humble here, we’ve got to keep playing to our identity.”
The alternate captain de Jong was a major factor for the Bobcats throughout, tallying two goals and an assist en route to earning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.
His first contribution came on the power play, where graduate student defenseman Zach Metsa found the North Vancouver native in the middle slot for a spinning shot that senior forward Skyler Brind’Amour tipped past UConn freshman goaltender Arsenii Sergeev.
The second contribution came in the period’s dying minutes, as a forced turnover in the neutral zone sent the Bobcats surging towards the Huskies’ net. After corralling a drop pass at the blue line, de Jong toe dragged a defender and rifled one into the back of the net for his 12th goal of the season.
“He’s a great player,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “I’ve been fortunate to have him for a while. He had a big game tonight, he was excellent, I thought he was excellent last night. He was one of our better players on the weekend, so he stepped up in a big moment.”
Sandwiched between those two plays, UConn got on the board. Bobcats’ graduate student defenseman Jake Johnson couldn’t control a bouncing puck on the point, as the puck squeaked between his legs and sprung Huskies graduate student forward Justin Pearson on a breakaway. Pearson took advantage of the opportunity, beating Quinnipiac sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets blocker-side.
Play stagnated for a good portion of the second period. Both sides traded chances on the power play, but each netminder was up to the task, shutting the door on every shot that came their way.
With under two minutes to play in the frame, that changed. Huskies’ senior defenseman Jake Flynn made the Bobcats’ defense look nonexistent as he broke into the zone on the man-advantage. Flynn split two Quinnipiac defenders with ease before dishing a pass to the slot that freshman forward Samu Salminen one-timed bardown.
The Bobcats’ defense fell further back on its heels in the wake of Salminen’s goal, allowing Pearson to cut to the front of the net and put a shot on Perets that was banged home by junior forward Hudson Schandor on the rebound.
Despite the woes of the second, Quinnipiac moved past it to start the third period. The Bobcats came out hard, hunting pucks and finishing checks, which paid off less than five minutes in. Continuing his MVP performance, de Jong broke into the zone and used a Huskies’ defender as a screen to rifle a shot past Sergeev and even the game at three.
“To be honest there weren’t too many adjustments,” Brind’Amour said. “The goals they scored were just kind of bad plays by a couple of guys, including myself on the PK goal there, so it wasn’t so much ‘we’ve got to do things differently,’ it was just get back to the way we need to play in order to win.”
The next fifteen minutes were some of the most back-and-forth hockey Quinnipiac has played all season. Play went north-to-south with consistency as both sides looked for their hero.
Quinnipiac did a great job of keeping pucks away from Perets amid that stretch, holding the Huskies to a mere four shots in the period after giving up 24 in the opening two frames.
That defensive prowess allowed the Bobcats to build momentum on the offensive end, where after finally sustaining zone pressure, the puck found Johnson at the point. The graduate student walked the blue line and sent a soaring shot into the top shelf and gave Quinnipiac a lead that would prove final.
UConn would pull Sergeev with three minutes to play in an effort to send the game to overtime. But it was to no avail, and the Bobcats skated away with their second consecutive CT Ice title 4-3 in front of a packed M&T Bank Arena crowd.
“UConn played hard, and they’re really good. They had us on the ropes for a bit,” Pecknold said. “It was a good battle, I just felt we found a way… I thought the atmosphere at the rink was outstanding both days and we’re looking forward to staying in this tournament for many years to come.”
Coming off of the big win, Quinnipiac heads back into the thick of ECAC Hockey play, beginning with a massive battle against No. 10 Harvard on the slate for Feb. 3. Puck drop is set for 7 pm