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Defense prevails in Quinnipiac and #8 SLU contest

When two women’s hockey teams with explosive offenses meet, one isn’t expecting a defensive and goaltending duel to break out, but #8 St. Lawrence’s visit to Quinnipiac Friday night led to just such a result. The SLU Saints and host Bobcats held each other to one goal apiece in regulation and an exciting overtime sequence would solve nothing award each side the tie.

Shot totals were down as well as SLU mustered only 24, and QU 19, when both teams are fully capable of unleashing a torrent of pucks on net. That being said, Quinnipiac’s Abbie Ives and the New Zealander, Grace Harrison, of the Saints still needed to make critical saves at various points in the game stifling excellent scoring chances.

“It was a fun hockey game today. Playing St. Lawrence is always a lot of fun,” Quinnipiac Head Coach Cassandra Turner said. “It’s impressive to see hockey that entertaining, and you’re wondering when the last shot was. I think that about sums up that entire game. I thought they made some great plays, and Abbie made some big saves for us, and I thought we had some opportunities we could have capitalized on to, so it’s not surprising it ended in a tie today.”

Quinnipiac’s only goal of the game came six minutes into the first when Laura Lundblad came up with the puck behind the SLU net. She sent it out and it bounced around eventually landed on Sarah-Eve Coutu-Godbout’s stick in front with a wide swath of net to target for her ninth goal of the year. Brooke Bonsteel picked up an assist on the play.

About ten minutes later, Buffalo Beauts draft pick Kennedy Marchment of St. Lawrence acquired the puck and fed it out to a waiting Nadine Edney who lurked in front to smack the goal past Ives for her eighth of the year. An assist also went to Hannah Miller on the quick play as Marchment snagged her 19th of the year and Miller her 21st.

The story would be the defense though. SLU’s Marchment and Justine Reyes entered the game with 14 goals apiece, Miller had 11, and Rachael Smith had nine, in addition to Edney’s numbers and their offensive threats hardly ended there. Marchment would generate six shots on the night, and Miller had four with the rest spread out.

Beyond Coutu-Godbout’s numerous goals, QU’s Melissa Samoskevich had 13, Kenzie Lancaster eight, and Bonsteel had ten, with a variety of potential scorers throughout the rest of the lineup. In the game, Samoskevich managed six shots with Coutu-Godbout and Raquel Pennoyer launching three each, with the remaining coming from a variety of skaters. But all of that scoring potential faced the walls thrown up by the keepers and the defensive corps.

Quinnipiac’s Kate MacKenzie led the team in blocked shots with five, and Anna Kilponen, recently of the Finnish National Team, had four accounting for over half of QU’s total of fifteen. Fellow defender Kati Tabin only had statistical block but it was a critical one getting in the way of a shot SLU had lined up point blank. Aside from counted blocks, the Bobcats got their sticks on to numerous pucks to deflect the shot attempts. SLU for their part blocked 13 shots including 3 by Amanda Butterfield. Miller also swept the puck out of the goal mouth area before QU could pounce on a rebound in one hectic play. Both defenses were effective at limiting quality chances and disrupting attacks in the main shooting lanes. It was rare to see so many shots get teed up only to not end up reaching the netminders.

“St. Lawrence has a few forwards that are just so good with the puck, and they can possess it, and they keep pressuring and keep pressuring, you wonder how they still have it on their stick,” Turner said. “I thought our D did a great job of playing stick on stick hockey, and really working to pressure quickly and tried to help each other when they needed to, when someone got beat they were to help, and when they weren’t Abbie was there for us today.”

Ives called the play of the defense “outstanding” and went on to say “we really shut down one of their best shooters, Hannah Miller, she really didn’t get any shots on net so I thought it was outstanding and I think our coach’s did a great job scouting too.”

When quality opportunities did come up, the goaltenders stood firm. Harrison survived a scrum in front of her net early in the third where it looked like the Bobcats were going to find a way to tuck it in, and even more importantly in overtime she turned away a QU two on one break that looked like it was going to be a potential game winner.

Ives had to deal with the incessant attempts by SLU to gain turnovers in the QU zone or to remain with pressure once they had arrived. A variety of plays close to her net required quick thinking and she delivered as the schemes of Marchment, Miller and others were thwarted.

“It’s easy to get caught into the moment so you’re just trying to do whatever you can to keep it out of the net, then afterwards you think about how crazy it was,” Ives said of how she focuses on the at times chaotic action.

Both teams took three penalties in the game, and the netminders and defenses played very solidly in these as well denying their opponent’s too many good chances. With speedy effective scorers on both side, the penalty kill units and goalies really made them look fairly ineffective with a skater advantage.

“We prepared quite a bit on our PK this week,” Turner explained. “I think they were focused, but confident, and sometimes when you prepare like that sometimes you can lose confidence. It was really good to see them gain confidence even as we went through our PKs today.”

St. Lawrence’s record is now 16-9-4 and 12-5-2 in the ECAC. Quinnipiac sits at 15-13-3, and 11-7-1 in the ECAC. The Saints head up to Brown on Saturday, but Quinnipiac faces their second ranked opponent of the weekend hosts #1 ranked defending national champion Clarkson in a rematch from earlier this season.

“We’re playing a Clarkson team that we beat this year,” Turner noted. “They’ve only lost a couple games this year and one of them is to us. There’s no question they’re going to come ready to try to give their best game to us.”

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