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Whelan’s Winner Completes Quinnipiac Sweep at Northeastern

BOSTON -- “Good things usually happen when you put pucks to the net” is a hockey cliche, but one that turned out true for a Quinnipiac win Saturday night at Matthews Arena.

With just 37.6 seconds left in overtime, Quinnipiac’s Alex Whelan followed up his own blocked shot and scored over Northeastern junior goaltender Ryan Ruck to lift the Bobcats to a 3-2 win, competing a weekend sweep.

Whelan’s initial try caromed off the leg of defenseman Jeremy Davies at the right crease, but the puck bounced right back onto the stick of the sophomore winger, who popped home his fourth goal and fifth point in five games and improved the Bobcats to 3-1-1 on the young season entering next weekend’s start of ECAC play.

“It was a great play by them, but the puck kind of popped out to me and I was just thinking ‘shoot’ right away,” said Whelan. “I knew there was only a minute left. Good things usually happen when you put pucks to the net, so I was lucky enough to have the rebound pop right back to me.”

Four of Quinnipiac’s five games this season have ended in extra time. This one was a seesaw affair as the Huskies held 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but junior captain and defenseman Chase Priskie leveled the score each time, including 93 seconds into the third period, before Whelan’s winner.

Milestones

After Dylan Sikura, who posted his 100th career point in Friday’s 6-4 contest, buried senior defenseman Garret Cockerill’s shot that bounced off the end wall 16:46 into the first period, the Huskies held a 1-0 lead for most of the next 20 minutes.

Priskie tied the game at 1-1 with 6:30 left in the second period, a play on which Quinnipiac senior Landon Smith, too, reached the century marker for career points. The Greenwood Village, Colo., native fed the puck to freshman Odeen Tufto in the right circle, where he fired a puck at Ruck that created a rebound.

Smith becomes the 24th player in QU’s Division 1 history to reach the 100-point marker, doing so in his 127th career game. Of course, Smith’s main takeaway from the night was a winner, which finished off the Bobcats’ first road sweep in a couple of years.

“Obviously, the 100th point is awesome, but more importantly to get a sweep of the weekend. That’s really all I’m thinking about,” Smith said. “It’s huge for our confidence, for the new guys coming in; we’ve got 10 freshmen, so to win right off the bat like that is big.”

Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold praised Smith’s ability and work ethic.

“He’s a goal scorer,” Pecknold said. “He finds a way, whether it’s goals or assists. He’s been a great player for us for four years and made a huge impact. He had a great summer, came back in really good shape, and he’s picked up a step with his skating. I’m really happy with his level of play so far this year.”

Same Result, Different Stories

While Quinnipiac finished the weekend in sweeping fashion, the paths to victory were completely different. The Bobcats beat Northeastern freshman goaltender Cayden Primeau six times to earn a 6-4 win, despite being outshot by a 41-15 margin, but this night’s 46-26 count swung in favor of the visitors.

Finding ways to win has been a hallmark of Quinnipiac’s success in recent years. It was a difference in this effort, too.

“We struggled a little bit last night and found a way to win, but tonight I’m just really happy with the effort,” Pecknold said. “Guys battled, we stayed within our structure, had great jump. I thought we made plays, had confidence and we executed. A really confident group tonight, a great effort, and we’re excited to beat a really good Northeastern team.”

The four-goal plateau is usually plenty to win college hockey games, but that was not the case for the Huskies in the series opener. This was another negative result for his side, but Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan left please with the process, and that is a key at this time of year as a key stretch of the schedule looms.

Next weekend, the Huskies also jump into league play for the first time and do so in a big way, facing defending Hockey East champion UMass Lowell for a home-and-home pair.

“It was a tough loss. I thought Quinnipiac played much better today. They were harder on pucks and at times had us a little bit in our own zone, but I thought we competed a lot better,” Madigan said. “It was a close game. …

“We’ll learn from it and move on. It’s certainly not going to define the rest of the season, but I liked how we battled, we got good goaltending, and we got some opportunities.

Northeastern wound up splitting its goaltenders on the weekend, and Ruck made a career-high 43 stops to close the weekend, including a whopping 20 in the second period. Despite the loss, Madigan was pleased with his junior’s performance, which creates an even more difficult decision in the first true open competition at the position during his tenure.

“I thought he played really well,” said Madigan, whose team slipped to 2-2-1 on the season with the loss. “He made some real good saves and gave us a chance to win the game. You can’t fault him for any of the goals. We’ve got to get a little tighter in our own zone, but I thought he played really well.”