HAMDEN, Conn. – Two teams that pride themselves on defense ended up in a shootout Saturday, as Quinnipiac beat Nebraska-Omaha 5-4. Jordan Samuels-Thomas scored two goals for the Bobcats, including what proved to be the game-winner 3:47 into the third. Just three minutes after UNO’s Ryan Walters tied the game at 4-4, Matthew Peca led a 4-on-2 and found Samuels-Thomas in the high slot for the goal. Quinnipiac extended its unbeaten streak to 11 games with the win.
Samuels-Thomas and Peca also opened the scoring, as each scored within the game’s first four minutes to give the Bobcats (13-3-2) a 2-0 lead that they would hold until the end of the first. Matt White cut the lead in half early in the second before Ben Arnt restored Quinnipiac’s two-goal lead. The Mavericks (11-7-1) came back to tie the game at 3-3, though, as Johnnie Searfoss and Brian O’Rourke both found the back of the net. It looked like the game would go into the third deadlocked, but a UNO turnover behind the net allowed Kellen Jones to feed Kevin Bui in front to give the Bobcats a 4-3 lead with 1:06 left in the second.
What I saw
-The Bobcats showed a lot less rust after the long layoff, as they came storming out of the gates and scored twice in the game’s first 3:38. Bryce Van Brabant circled around the net before finding Samuels-Thomas at the top of the crease to make it 1-0. Then Peca made it 2-0 on a great individual effort, as he beat a defender 1-on-1 down the right wing before lifting a shot over Anthony Stolarz’s left arm. The Bobcats tallied the game’s first seven shots on goal before Dean Blais called timeout to settle his team. It worked, as the Mavericks played much better for the remainder of the first period.
-The Mavericks got off to a much better start in the second and cut the lead to 2-1 when Searfoss sprung White on a breakaway. Quinnipiac regained its two-goal lead, but the Mavericks answered less than two minutes later when Searfoss scored on the power play. O’Rourke tied the game at 3-3 with a goal right off a faceoff, but then a late goal gave Quinnipiac a 4-3 lead heading into the third. UNO outshot the Bobcats 16-11 in the second, and shots from the grade-A area were 8-3 in favor of UNO after going 6-2 in Quinnipiac’s favor in the first.
What I thought
-UNO was the better team in each of the last two periods (shots were 31-20 over the final 40 minutes), but the Bobcats did a good job answering whenever UNO appeared to be taking control of the game. Arnt scored four minutes after UNO cut the lead to 2-1. Bui scored six minutes after UNO tied the game at 3-3. Then Samuels-Thomas scored three minutes after UNO tied the game at 4-4. The final 16 minutes weren’t the prettiest, but Quinnipiac managed to bend without breaking and hang on for the win.
-Peca’s goal was probably the best I’ve seen in person this season. He faked like he was going to slow up and wait for help, but then he turned on the jets, blew by the UNO defender and tucked a shot under the crossbar. After registering 39 points as a freshman, Peca put up just five points in the first half while also missing three games due to injury. He looked good all game long on Saturday, though. He had another great rush in the second when he put the puck through his own legs to get around a defender, but he wound up having the puck get poked away at the last second that time. He also led the rush that resulted in Samuels-Thomas’ game-winner.
What they said
-Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold: “It was good to get up 2-0, but we didn’t play very well after that. Nebraska called the timeout and then they kind of took it to us for a while. I thought the second period was real sluggish. It was an ugly game from us. It was probably one of our worst efforts on the year, but there’s a lot of character in the locker room and the guys found a way to win.”
-UNO coach Dean Blais: “They scored the first goal, then got another one right away. Now you’re on your heels and you don’t have a real good chance to get back. But we fought our way back and had some good opportunities. It felt like the team with the last shot was going to win. We played a little bit better after the first period and settled down. We knew we’d be rusty. Usually it favors the home team when you haven’t played for a while.”
What else you should know
-The Mavericks were without center Brock Montpetit, who is out until the end of January with a broken ankle. Montpetit has one goal and 12 assists this season.
-These two teams conclude their weekend series Sunday at noon.