NEW YORK – Seven days ago, No. 1/2 Quinnipiac tied Northeastern, 3-3.
All that did was tick the Bobcats off.
After hanging a five-spot on Union College Thursday, Quinnipiac (19-1-3) skated onto the Madison Square Garden ice and scored three goals during a 36-second span of the first period, before hanging on for dear life during a 5-4 overtime win over No. 4/5 Harvard (8-3-3) during the “Rivalry on Ice.”
After Quinnipiac blew a 4-0 first-period lead, defenseman Derek Smith slapped home a rebound from the near-side faceoff circle at 2:55 of overtime to set off a wild celebration for the boys in blue and gold.
“That’s something you dream of. This big of a rink, in that situation,” Smith said of his fifth-career collegiate goal. “It was awesome.”
“He’s been great all year,” longtime Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold, now in his 22nd season, said of Smith. “He’s a great kid, just gets better and better each season.”
The Bobcats, who outshot the Crimson 11-1 during the first 11 minutes, got on the board when Alex Miner-Barron skated into the offensive zone and went top shelf on Harvard goaltender Michael Lackey at 7:29.
Twenty-three seconds later, the Bobcats entered the zone on a two-on-one. Tommy Schutt’s shot was saved, but the rebound popped right to K.J. Tiefenwerth, who backhanded it past Lackey (28 saves).
Harvard coach Ted Donato immediately called timeout, but the Bobcats struck again 13 seconds later when top-line winger Sam Anas turned a defenseman inside out before beating Lackey.
Still, the barrage wasn’t over. On another odd-man rush, Anas passed to senior center Travis St. Denis, who took the feed off his skates, walked around the defenseman, and backhanded into the gaping net, giving the Bobcats a 4-0 lead at 12:43 of the first period.
Quinnipiac’s senior goaltender Michael Garteig (17 saves), who came into action with the second-best goals-against average in college hockey this season, 1.29, made a number of highlight-reel saves in the first 20 minutes after Harvard finally starting mounting an attack, including an excellent pad stop on Lewis Zerter-Gossage, and a terrific sprawling glove save on Victor Newell.
Harvard answered with three goals in the second period, including a pair of highlight-reel scores. Alexander Kerfoot was left alone in the slot, Tyler Moy skated through the entire Quinnipiac defense, and Ryan Donato scored while falling to the ice.
“We got rattled, and I thought we really got outside our game,” Pecknold said. “We weren’t mature enough to handle that second period when they started to come, and I thought Harvard was really good. They got some energy, started playing hard. That’s the game of hockey.”
Colin Blackwell completed the comeback with a top-shelf wrister halfway through the third period, setting up the frantic finish.
“You get up 4-0, and we talked about it,” Pecknold said. “We had to keep going. They didn’t have a lot of scoring chances, they just finished when they had chances. You have to give Harvard credit. They battled.”
“It’s not the way you write it up,” Smith said. “Up four, we were kind of laid back and they came pretty good. [Harvard] is a good hockey team. We found a way to win, that’s what we’ve done all year. It’s the recipe for success.”
The game was officially a road game for the Bobcats, but the crowd of 12,016 was made up of nearly all Quinnipiac fans. The quickly-growing program from Hamden, Conn. has been No. 1 in the Pairwise rankings for ten consecutive weeks, and is spending its first week atop the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll since the 2012-2013 season, when they lost in the National Championship Game to arch-rival Yale University.
“It was a unique experience,” Pecknold said. “First off, just the whole Madison Square Garden experience was phenomenal. Our fans, that was pretty cool. We still are a relatively-young program. I know we’re in our 18th year in Division-1, but we’re still relatively young. We’re still building that fan-base. Moments like this, moments like three years ago in the Frozen Four, it just galvanizes our University.”
Quinnipiac scored four goals in a period for the fourth time this season.
Quinnipiac swept the season series. They beat Harvard 4-1 at High Point Solutions Arena in Hamden on Nov. 13.
Former Rangers star Mark Messier, as well as current Rangers center Dominic Moore were joined by Quinnipiac University president John L. Lahey for the ceremonial puck-drop.