In the first semi-final game of the inaugural Connecticut Ice, the Quinnipiac Bobcats squeaked out a 3-2 win against the UConn Huskies, but despite the result, both head coaches were jubilant that the festival's first game was so successful.
"I'm excited we started this tournament," Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. "(Former Yale head coach) Tim Taylor and I talked about this 15, 16 years ago. We were all talking about it, it just never happened - and it happened. Excited to have it come to fruition. Just looking in the room here, this is like the Frozen Four with the kind of media attention we have here."
Quinnipiac and UConn fans filled Webster Bank Arena and turned a non-conference matchup into a playoff-like atmosphere.
With a 2-2 tie and 14 seconds left in the first period, a scramble at the net allowed the puck to sneak through the legs of UConn goaltender Tomas Vomacka. The puck was inches from breaking the plain before Vomacka swatted the puck away. Vomacka skated towards the UConn fan section that erupted with cheers.
Quinnipiac captain Nick Jermain, who grew up in Norwalk, Conn., scored the game-winning goal with 12:03 left in the second period.
"I wish this was around when I was a little guy," Jermain said. "I see all the little guys running around in tracksuits representing their teams. This would have been awesome to come to as a little kid but I'm really happy to be a part of the first one. Obviously, it's a great turnout. Today was a great game I'm sure tomorrow will be as well. I can only see it getting bigger and better from here."
UConn had an opportunity to tie the game late when Vladislav Firstov missed a wide-open shot. Both teams played with a physical playoff-like intensity until the final buzzer.
"[We're] certainly disappointed because I thought we played a good hockey game," UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh, though, hopes to have another chance at the Connecticut Ice trophy in the future.
"I'm disappointed that we're not going to be playing in the finals tomorrow, but this [tournament] is something that needs to happen every year."
Pecknold echoed that feeling as well.
"We should run this tournament every year for the next 30, 40, 50 years," Pecknold said.