HAMDEN, CT -- The Quinnipiac University women's hockey team didn't let the word "exhibition" in Saturday afternoon's game deter them from their mission at the People's United Center.
Putting the exclamation point to a lot of positives, the Bobcats scored twice within the last eight minutes and prevailed 3-1 over a tough University of Connecticut squad in the only pre-season tune-up.
With 7:55 left to play, graduate student Olivia Konigson took a perfect feed from Maya Labad during a two-on-one break into the offensive zone and beat UCONN freshman goalie Megan Warrener over the blocker.
Konigson, who hails from Stillwater, Minnesota, picked up speed as she crossed the blue line and Labad's pass found her stick at precisely the right time for the decisive score.
"We've been really emphasizing (in practice) the 'D' getting into the plays, and when we see that opportunity we want that fourth girl going in," Konigson said. "I saw the open space and (Labad) made an awesome pass."
It was then Labad's turn to light the lamp when her quick blast from just inside the left circle got under Warrener's glove for the insurance tally.
The matinee contest served as a prep for both teams heading into next week's start to their regular collegiate campaigns.
The Bobcats host the University of Maine next Friday at 6 p.m. in Hamden, while UCONN takes on the University of Long Island in a 6 p.m. faceoff at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum in Storrs.
The visiting Huskies struck first at the 9:56 mark of the opening period when graduate student forward Morgan Wabick converted an initial shot from Coryn Tormala as the two found room through traffic for the 1-0 advantage.
UCONN sophomore Alex-Anne Boyer had actually set up the play with a nice dump-in toward Bobcats' starting goalie Catie Boudiette, who had made the initial pad save.
Quinnipiac sophomore Kendall Cooper supplied the equalizer less than two minutes later (11:53) when she ripped a one-timer past UCONN starting netminder Samantha Carpentier-Yelle from the top of the right circle.
"We didn't go into this looking at it as an exhibition game," Cooper said. "It's the little things like blocking shots, going into the corners hard and getting shots to the net that are very important and we're going to play the same way exhibition or otherwise."
Nina Steigauf and Sadie Peart combined with precision passing in UCONN's defensive zone to assist Cooper's goal. Olivia Mobley and Maddy Samoskevich also had assists for the host Bobcats.
Steigauf almost put Quinnipiac ahead with five minutes remaining in the second period when her tip-in attempt from near the left post glanced off the right shoulder of Logan Anders, who took over between the pipes for the Bobcats.
Natalie Snodgrass, another UCONN graduate student, had the first scoring chance of the game when she broke in alone along the right boards for a high-percentage try.
Boudiette had a clear view of the shot and made a pad save.
There were key moments of aggressive waves by both teams over the first 40 minutes that included a scoreless second period but one highlighted by tons of energy and a decent amount of scoring chances.
Huskies junior defender Ainsley Svetek unleashed a shot from the point, while junior Alexa Hoskin and senior Courtney Vorster had solid scoring opportunities for the Bobcats.
Warrener replaced Carpentier-Yelle in the nets midway through the second period, which wrapped up with each team entering the third period with 16 shots.
Graduate student Corinne Schroeder assumed the goaltending duties for the Bobcats in the third period.
Head coach Cassandra Turner was especially pleased with the performance of her first- and second year players who were part of a large number of line changes to give everyone a chance to get quality ice time.
"They were confident with the puck and they showed their skills, and that was a really neat thing," she said. "We want everyone to be comfortable being themselves and bring out their own strengths and skill set."
The visiting Huskies demonstrated their ability to engage in puck battles, and despite the loss showed their resolve to develop many offensive rushes of their own. That was something that Coach Turner saw throughout the game.
"We had a hard time slowing down their rushes," she said. "We didn't pressure the puck the right way. We are pretty good at winning pucks back and we didn't really do that today."
That said, Coach Turner was happy with the way the team handled those rushes.
"We did a pretty good job limiting their chances and kept them to the outside for the most part," she noted.