By MIKE ANTHONY, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
11:19 PM EST, December 30, 2013
HARTFORD — Making mistakes on offense, Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold tells his players, means having to play defense.
"We don't want to play defense," Pecknold said Monday night at the XL Center. "If we have the puck, we don't need to."
The Bobcats took home a trophy Monday for winning the UConn Hockey Classic. They also might want to frame the second period stat sheet from their 5-0 championship game victory over Sacred Heart and put that on display somewhere, too.
For that mind-boggling 20-minute stretch, Quinnipiac had to play virtually no defense. The Bobcats spent nearly the entire period in the Sacred Heart zone and outshot the Pioneers 25-0. It was an emphatic example of how and why Quinnipiac entered the game leading the nation with the fewest shots-on-goal allowed per game (20.15) and in shots-on-goal differential (plus-14.45).
"It's not that we play prevent defense," Pecknold said. "We go, we play offense, we compete. We had the puck a lot. … The intensity was great in the second in all areas. We won races, we won battles, kids were diving to make plays. It was a pretty good display of hockey, that second period."
All around, it was a pretty good couple of days for Quinnipiac (14-3-4), which also won the Classic the only other time in participated, in 2008. The Bobcats tied UMass on Sunday night and advanced in a shootout. They dominated Sacred Heart, posting a 54-12 advantage in shots on goal (35-3 over the final two periods) and attempting 102 shots to Sacred Heart's 25.
Quinnipiac, which scored on 4 of 9 power plays, gave Pioneers goalie Alex Vazzano quite a workout. Vazzano, a sophomore from Trumbull, made 29 saves in a 3-0 shutout of UConn Sunday night — Sacred Heart's first shutout victory since March 2010 — and a career-high 49 Monday. He was named tournament MVP.
"If it wasn't for Alex, it could have been a lot worse," said coach C.J. Marottolo, whose team falls to 5-13. "He was terrific. He was our backbone. I feel bad we put him in such tough circumstances, but he was great."
Also named to the all-tournament team were Kellen Jones, Tim Clifton and Jordan Samuels-Thomas of Quinnipiac, David Iacono of Sacred Heart and Billy Latta of UConn.
Bryce Van Brabant, Clifton, Connor Jones, Travis St. Denis and Soren Jonzzon scored for Quinnipiac in the championship game. The Bobcats led 1-0 after the first period, 3-0 after the second on goals by Clifton (a freshman who had his first two collegiate goals in the tournament) and Connor Jones.
"I think the first period we were just OK," Samuels-Thomas said. "We took a lot of things for granted. We knew we had to pick up our intensity and compete level and I think it showed. We moved the puck, and we moved the puck with urgency. We picked up the energy level and let everything else take care of itself. Any time you can hold any team to three shots in two periods, that's something you can be proud of."
Quinnipiac, ranked No. 8 in the latest uscho.com national poll, went into a three-week break having gone 1-2-2 in a five-game stretch.
"Winning this tournament boosts morale within the locker room, and the boys are excited to be moving forward for the remainder of the season," Clifton said.
Pecknold praised his team's effort.
"We didn't play a great first period, but I thought we were really good in the second and took over the game," he said. "I knew we were good the whole period. Seeing that number now [25-0], that kind of shocks me. That doesn't happen a lot. We've had good periods before, but … We also were fortunate to have a lot of power plays, too, but we earned them because we were working hard."
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