Conn. Brandon Wong's (Victoria, B.C.) overtime goal gave
Quinnipiac a 4-3 win over Merrimack College in the first game of
the Toyota UConn Hockey Classic at the Freitas Ice Forum in Storrs,
Conn. Quinnipiac trailed early, but was able to make a comeback
before Wong's goal at the 1:42 mark in overtime gave the Bobcats
the win over their Hockey East opponent. The junior center was
assisted by Bryan Leitch (Coquitlam, B.C.) and David Marshall
(Buffalo, Minn.). The Bobcats will face Air Force in the UConn
Classic Championship Game on Tuesday, Dec. 30 at 7:15 p.m. The
Falcons defeated host Connecticut, 3-2, in overtime.
"[David] Marshall and [Bryan] Leitch have done a great job offensively for us all season," head coach Rand Pecknold said. "Wong finished off a great play. That goal is a product of how well they've been playing so far."
With the win, Quinnipiac improves to 8-6-1 on the season and will advance to the UConn Classic Championship Game on Tuesday, Dec. 30 at 7:15 p.m. Merrimack drops to 4-9-3 overall and will play in the Consolation Game at 4 p.m.
"We came out slow," Pecknold said. "Our guys really played better as the game progressed."
Merrimack scored to get on the board first at the 2:02 mark of the first period. After Grant Farrell's shot went wide, Jeff Velleca's collected the puck to the right of Quinnipiac goalie Bud Fisher (Peterborough, Ont.) in net. Velleca then found Francois Ouimet who dropped it off to the opposite side of the net to Joe Cucci. Cucci's one-timer beat Fisher glove-side for his first of the season while Oimet and Farrell pick up their fifth and third assists of the year, respectively. Fisher had turned back the first 15 shots he saw on goal up to that point. Fisher finished with 28 saves in the game.
Skating four-on-four, Merrimack took a 2-0 lead just 4:35 into the second period. Warriors' leading scorer Chris Barton fed Bobby Kramer on the right wing, who found Fraser Allen. Allen's shot from the point beat Fisher, who was screened by three bodies in front of the net, to give the Warriors a two-goal advantage. The assists were Barton's eighth and Kramer's first of the year, while Allan also scored for the first time this season.
Quinnipiac cut into the Warriors' lead at the 6:59 mark when Jean-Marc Beaudoin (St. Paul, Alb.) took control of the puck at center ice and fed Greg Holt (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) out on the left wing. Holt handled the puck before drawing a double team and dropping the puck off to Eric Lampe (Madison, Wisc.), who was working his way towards the net between the face-off circles. Lampe faked from the right side of the net, cut across the crease and slipped a backhand past Merrimack goalie Andrew Braithwaite for his third goal of the season. Holt picked up his third assist while Beaudoin picked up his fifth.
The first four minutes of the final frame produced a scoring frenzy as both teams traded goals to a 3-3 tie at the 4:04 mark. Less than three minutes into the third period, Yuri Bouharevich scored his first career goal to tie the game at 2-2. Bouharevich broke up an attempt to clear the puck by the Warriors, skated past the Merrimack defense and tied the game. Merrimack was quick to respond just 26 seconds later at the 2:25 mark. It was Quinnipiac who failed to clear the puck this time as Allan picked off a pass and found Velleca to regain the lead, 3-2.
Marshall tied the game less than minute later with his team-leading eighth goal of the season. Marshall was assisted by Leitch for his 18th assist of the year. The goal was Marshall's 59th career tally, moving him into fourth place at Quinnipiac since moving up to the Division I level and 10th place all-time at QU. It was also his 97th career point.
"Our players kept their composure over the course of the game. We kept grinding it out and it paid off in the end," Pecknold said.
Wong's goal came after Marshall handled the puck along the boards opposite Merrimack's bench. Marshall was double teamed and dumped the pack in the corner. Leitch dug the puck and found Wong waiting in the slot. The assist gives Marshall is ninth of the year and his 98th career point. Leitch's assist is his Division I-leading 19th of the season while Wong's goal gives him seven on the year.