CANTON — St. Lawrence University hockey coach Mark Morris has been preaching the value of communication to his team all season.
Apparently with only one game left in the regular season, the Saints haven’t learned that lesson yet.
After leading for most of the game, St. Lawrence surrendered two goals in the final seven minutes and eight seconds of the game — capped by Nick Jermain’s gamer winner with 1:24 remaining — in a 3-2 ECAC Hockey loss to Quinnipiac on Friday night before a turnout of 1,358 at Appleton Arena.
“It’s happened too many times is what it amounts to,” Morris said. “We took a lead going into the third (period) and poor communication and a couple of bad bounces turns a fairly solid effort into a loss.”
With the setback, the Saints, which slipped to 7-24-2 on the season, including 3-17-1 in league play, are assured of finishing in last place in the conference — becoming only the third team in program history to do so.
“It definitely sucks,” said St. Lawrence junior goalie Arthur Brey. “We have to learn to be better.”
St. Lawrence has lost six of its past seven games — all this month — and its fourth straight.
“Yeah, this one stinks,” Brey said. “I thought we deserved to win, but mistakes we’ve been making all year, we made them again tonight. Taking penalties, not getting pucks out, not blocking shots — and it bit us in the butt.”
With St. Lawrence leading 2-1 on sophomore Ryan Garvey’s goal early in the second period, the Bobcats clawed their way back in the final minutes.
“It’s just exasperating,” Morris said. “These are winnable games and it’s happened again and again. These are hard lessons to learn and certainly not much fun when you’re chasing your tail late in the game. What it boils down to is having better communication.”
Chase Priskie scored the tying goal while Quinnipiac (14-15-4, 9-10-2) was on the power play 12:52 into the third period.
“We had full possession of the puck and had a chance to clear it,” Morris said. “We had two guys with the puck on their sticks and those pucks have to go down 200 feet on a clear. We turned it over twice with full possession on the tying goal.”
Then Jermain, who also scored in the first period, was credited with the deciding goal as his shot from the left point deflected off a St. Lawrence defender’s skate and through Brey’s legs with 1:14 left in regulation.
“If you look back on it, we gave them a lot of chances, they hit a lot of posts,” Brey said of Quinnipiac. “So it’s kind of fitting that’s how that game-winning goal goes in, it’s just bad luck. But the events that led up to that … Guys have to step up in those high-pressure situations and someone needs to take charge.”
The latest loss by the Saints occurred in all but familiar fashion to the team and Morris as well.
“It seems like we’ve had a lot of these games this year already,” said junior forward Michael Laidley, who scored St. Lawrence’s first goal of the night. “I thought we played well for the majority of the game and we put some pressure on them, but some mental mistakes cost us at the end.”
Heading into the game, St. Lawrence received considerable reinforcements on the injury front as forwards Jacob Pritchard and Michael Ederer, as well as defensemen Nolan Gluchowski and Dylan Woolf all returned to action.
“I definitely think we had a full lineup for the first time in a while,” said Brey, who finished with 32 saves. “So we had a lot of energy, guys were jumping, guys who hadn’t been in the lineup brought energy to the other guys. I just think we’re a young team and we learn things the hard way.”
After Quinnipiac struck first on Jermain’s first goal of the night as he scored only 2:19 into the game, Laidley tied the game at 1-1 with his goal with 3:03 left in the opening period, with freshman Jake Stevens assisting.
Stevens also assisted on Garvey’s go-ahead goal on a rebound 5:13 into the second period.
Sophomore goalie Andrew Shortridge finished with 28 saves, including stopping all 10 shots he faced in the third period, for the Bobcats.
“We were resilient,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “We just stayed the course, we found a way as Chase scored that big one to tie it up and then won it late. We had a big penalty kill at the end and had some big blocks. I thought the guys played well and deserved to win.”
Only two previous Saints teams finished last in the conference — in the 1964-65 season when the team finished last among 15 teams — and in the 1979-80 campaign, when the squad finished fifth in the ECAC West Division and also with the worst record in the league that campaign.