Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Q&A with the Northeastern Hockey Blog

In preparation of Quinnipiac's two game series against Northeastern this coming weekend at historic Matthews Arena in Boston, Massachusetts we get a glimpse of the Huskies play early in the season from our friends over at the Northeastern Hockey Blog who were gracious to give some time to have a Q&A. You can follow the Northeastern Hockey Blog on Twitter @NUHockeyBlog.

Jonathan Singer: How would assess Northeastern's play three games into the season?

NU Hockey Blog: Northeastern's opening weekend versus Sacred Heart was what we expected- pummeling a vastly inferior team. Both of Northeastern's goalies got a game that weekend, and freshman Cayden Primeau pitched a shutout in his first career start which is exactly what Husky fans have been waiting to see since the day he committed. Against RIT (which I'll address in your next question), the team appeared to underestimate their opponent and fall into a 3-0 hole early in the second period, but the offense, which is as potent as any in the nation, roared back to score 3 goals in roughly 30 minutes of action, proving that they can score really at any time during the game.

Special teams has been underwhelming- this was a power-play unit that scored at a clip approaching 30% last season, and while Sacred Heart couldn't slow them down, going only 1 for 8 against RIT has caused some concern. I expect the power-play success to come at some point, while I hope for more success on the penalty kill as they are currently at 76.9% and over the last few years have routinely been the low-80's. RIT scored a power play goal on them and probably should have tallied more than one. For this team to be as successful as people think they can be, the penalty kill needs to tighten up.

Jonathan Singer: Is there any concern with the fact that the team looked great the first weekend and pulled a 180 against a weak RIT team the following week struggling to just get a tie?

NU Hockey Blog: My concern is more about Northeastern underrating an opponent and thinking they could skate by on talent alone rather than their performance. And let's be real, dominating Sacred Heart is not exactly headline-worthy news. Against RIT, they put up nearly 50 shots on net and vastly out-possessed an RIT team that historically is a good possession team. I actually did not watch the game, but listening to comments about it, only one of RIT's three goals was labeled "soft," which makes me less concerned about Primeau. The defense still is at fault for not maintaining coverage or cleaning up the rebounds and loose pucks in front of him, so that is a concern. But the offense's ability to pot three goals in about 25 minutes of play was a great example of how quick Northeastern can turn the scoreboard back in their favor.

Jonathan Singer: Northeastern has an impressive group of forwards in Sikura, Gaudette, Solow, Filipe and Stevens. Would you say that this is the strength of the Huskies?

NU Hockey Blog: Absolutely. Northeastern's stable of forwards are talented enough to skate with any offense in the nation. There is a strong chance that this team could be a top five offense this season. After losing John Stevens and Zach Aston-Reese, it should have been almost unthinkable that the offense could get even better. But a healthy Nolan Stevens and Grant Jozefek, coupled with growth from Matt Filipe and immediate contributions from Zach Solow (2017 USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year), all in addition to Hobey Baker nominees Dylan Sikura and Adam Gaudette? This forward stable is going to be a nightmare for opposing goal-tenders all season. And that's not even mentioning two transfers who should be eligible for the second half.

Jonathan Singer: The Northeastern defense looks to have some solid talent. Would you look at this is one of the strengths of this team or this is something that might be a bit of a weakness this year?

NU Hockey Blog: The defense returns all six starters from last year, and have a ton of offensive potential that supports the forward corps. Garret Cockerill and Jeremy Davies are the two most active puck movers, with Davies being faster and a better skater. Defensively, however, there are question marks. I worry about their gap control, their speed as a unit, and their ability to stop the rush through the neutral zone. We saw multiple times against RIT where they would get blown past, enabling odd-man rushes by the Tigers. I think defense is the biggest weakness for the Huskies. They will never be a lock-down unit like we see in Lowell and Providence, among other places; heck I wouldn't even say they should be expected to be up to Quinnipiac's standards. But this depth from 1-6 is the best that the Huskies have produced in a long time, and their experience together and individual talents give me hope for improvement over the course of the season.

Jonathan Singer: I really like Cayden Primeau as a prospect and it was stunning to see him fall to the 7th round. Is it time for the Huskies to just hand the reins full time to Primeau who has more upside and ability than junior Ryan Ruck?

NU Hockey Blog: Eventually, yes, I expect Primeau to force Madigan's hand and take the job from Ruck. In the next couple weeks, however, I am expecting the goalies to split time, just as Primeau gets more acclimated to the college hockey game. This weekend in particular I expect a split where I hope for Primeau on Friday which may indicate he is first on the depth chart. His draft fall was shocking from our prospective too, but not totally unsurprising as he struggled in the USHL last year while trying to play through injury. Assuming that was the only mark against him, and it certainly looks that way through his first few games at this level, he has nowhere to go but up.

Jonathan Singer: What are your thoughts on this weekends series against Quinnipiac? Is there anything about the Huskies that should concern Quinnipiac?

NU Hockey Blog: It's a big measuring stick for the Huskies. The Bobcats are easily the best team that Northeastern will have faced so far this season, and these games open a buzzsaw stretch where the Huskies will play four weekends in a row against teams who should compete for the NCAA Tournament. I think a split is reasonable to expect for these teams, given Quinnipiac's offensive struggles and Northeastern's suspect defense. The face-off dot will be an interesting battle to keep an eye on, as both teams seem to struggle equally in that regard. A breakout weekend by either team on draws could be a sign of better things to come in the future.

Jonathan Singer: I have been very impressed with the job Jim Madigan has done with no prior heading coaching experience along with not having been behind a bench in 18 years prior to taking over. Are you surprised at what he has been able to accomplish in a short time there?

NU Hockey Blog: Jim Madigan is the most passionate man I have ever seen walk across Northeastern's campus. He is Husky through and through, and has been a tireless worker since arriving on campus. While he may have his in-game flaws, he has the full confidence of the coaching staff and the players, and he and his assistants have filled the pipeline with legitimate top-tier Hockey East talent, including developing a handful of NHL players and soon-to-be NHL players at a program where that was once just a dream. I grant that Madigan will never be considered one of the best tactical minds in college hockey, but he has been the perfect man for the Northeastern job, and that is exactly what we want and need.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Odeen Tufto named ECAC rookie of the week

Odeen Tufto, bottom left (copyright BobcatsHockeyBlog)
After a two goal performance including the overtime winner against Vermont giving Quinnipiac its first win of the season, freshman forward Odeen Tufto has been named the ECAC rookie of the week as announced in a press release. The Chaska, Minnesota native is off a hot start averaging 1.33 points per game this season for Quinnipiac. He has had a point in all three games that the Bobcats have played this season and leads the team with four points (2 goals, 2 assists).

Tufto came to Quinnipiac by way of the USHL with stops in Sioux City, Tri-City and Fargo. He finished with 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists) in 59 games played along with 11 more points in the playoffs for Sioux City. Prior to playing in the USHL he spent one season with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL where he had 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists) in 57 games played.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Tufto's two goals lead Quinnipiac to overtime win

Quinnipiac vs. Vermont (copyright BobcatsHockeyBlog)
Odeen Tufto scored his first career collegiate goals, the second a game winner in overtime off a rebound from a Brogan Rafferty shot giving the #17 Quinnipiac Bobcats a 3-2 win over the University of Vermont for their first victory of this young season. With the win the Bobcats improve to 1-1-1 while Vermont falls to 1-2. Quinnipiac came out flying in the first period with many quality scoring chances along with hitting multiple posts. For the second year in a row, Vermont goaltender Stefanos Lekkas was strong in net making 34 saves on the night including 17 alone in a scoreless first period.

Vermont broke just 3:23 into the second period when junior Liam Coughlin scored unassisted for the Catamounts. Just 35 seconds later freshman Odeen Tufto netted his first career goal cleaning up a rebound from a Kevin McKernan shot in the slot. Tanner MacMaster also picked up an assist on the Tufto goal. Late in the second period, Quinnipiac regained the lead when Tanner MacMaster (one goal, two assists) ripped a wrist shot in the slot past Lekkas. 

Quinnipiac victory celebration (copyright BobcatsHockeyBlog)
The third period saw the Catamounts up their level of play, tying the score just a little more than halfway through the period on a Craig Puffer goal. Vermont out shot Quinnipiac 12-6 in the period while the Bobcats didn't play as well in the third as they did in the first two periods. The Bobcats had a golden chance to win it on two on none late in the third period with Landon Smith and Tanner MacMaster but they couldn't convert the chance with Lekkas making a huge save for the Catamounts. Tufto finished the game off 2:27 into overtime on his rebound goal and capped off a huge victory celebration skating to the opposite end to the Quinnipiac student section to celebrate. Goaltender Andrew Shortridge returned in between the pipes making 22 saves in the win while the struggles in the face-off circle continued for the Bobcats. Quinnipiac returns to action next week when they travel to Matthews Arena in Boston, MA for a pair of games against Northeastern.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Scouting the Enemy: Vermont Catamounts

The #17 Quinnipiac Bobcats return to their out of conference schedule when they welcome Hockey East foe Vermont to Hamden. These two programs met a season ago in the championship game of the Friendship Four tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland which the Catamounts won 5-1 over the Bobcats. Vermont's Ross Colton was a major factor in that game with two goals and an assist while Craig Martin was the lone Bobcat goal scorer. Goaltender Andrew Shortridge got the start in that game and gave up all five goals. This season, Vermont opened with a split at home against Colorado College winning 3-0 before falling the next night 4-3 while Quinnipiac tied Boston College 1-1 before dropping a heartbreaking 3-2 game in overtime to #2 Boston University last Sunday. Vermont welcomes 12 freshman to its team to replace the 10 departed seniors from a year ago on a team that finished 20-13-5. Quinnipiac is 1-1 all time against Vermont last winning back in the 2007-2008 season at Vermont in the championship game of the Catamount Cup.

University of Vermont Key Players: Ross Colton (F), Brian Bowen (F), Jarrid Privitera (F), Craig Puffer (F), Derek Lodermeier (F), Bryce Misley (F), Liam Coughlin (F), Matt O'Donnell (D), Jake Massie (D), Stefanos Lekkas (G)

Vermont lost three of its top five scorers but returns 70% of its scoring which includes Ross Colton and Brian Bowen who tied for second on the team a season ago in points. Colton, a 2016 4th round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning is off to a hot start with four goals in his teams first two games. Bowen already as three assists for the Catamounts. Vermont will need increased production from  Jarrid Privitera, Craig Puffer and Derek Lodermeier to pick up the slack from the departed seniors. Its also time for Liam Coughlin to show why he was a 5th round by Edmonton back in 2014. Coughlin has mustered only 23 total points in his two prior seasons in Burlington. The Catamount power play is off to a very good start at 33% (3 of 9) with Colton scoring two of them. Shutting down Ross Colton has to be the Bobcats focus especially with his hot start and the fact he torched Quinnipiac a season ago.

The weakness of the Catamounts is probably on the blue line which has only one upperclassmen in senior Trey Phillips. The rest of the defensive core is made up of freshman and sophomore's. Jake Massie and Matt O'Donnell are two of the better defenseman on the Catamounts blue line and will need to up their game from a season ago to help lead a young defense. Quinnipiac will need to have some of experienced forwards try to exploit some of the youth on the Catamounts blue line in order to have success with scoring chances in this game.

Sophomore goaltender Stefanos Lekkas is between the pipes and he has picked up right where he left off after a very solid freshman season. He opened the season with a 33 save shutout of Colorado College before struggling a bit the next night against them, giving up four goals on 27 shots. He was strong a year ago with 40 saves in the win against Quinnipiac and brings good athleticism for a small goal-tender.

Quinnipiac needs to get into the win column especially after last weekend's near misses and end results. Despite these being non conference games these are important for pairwise implications even at this stage of the season. The team needs to be some confidence especially heading into ECAC play soon and a win would help to get that started.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Q&A with Quinnipiac commit Austin Spiridakis

Austin Spiridakis (photo by Dan Riedlhuber/St. Albert Gazette)
Quinnipiac recently picked a commitment likely for the 2021-2022 season in 2002 born forward Austin Spiridakis out of Sturgeon County in Alberta, Canada. Spiridakis is currently playing for the St. Albert's Raiders Midget AAA in the Alberta Midget Hockey League. He is coming off a 58 point season (30 goals, 28 assists) at the bantam level last year with St. Albert's. I had a chance to catch up with him as he graciously gave me some of his time for a question and answer session so Bobcat Nation can get to know one of its future players presumably for the 2021-2022 season.

Jonathan Singer: First off congratulations on your commitment to Quinnipiac. Tell us about your overall recruiting process?

Austin Spiridakis: The Quinnipiac coaching staff scouted me about a year ago when they were out in Alberta and then this past August I flew down to Connecticut for an unofficial visit to check out the arena and the campus. About month after that one of the assistant coaches came to watch one of my games and offered me a verbal agreement.

Jonathan Singer: How much did you know about Quinnipiac prior this whole process?

Austin Spiridakis: I knew they were an upcoming powerhouse in college hockey. Other than that I didn't know much about it until after I was there on my unofficial visit.

Jonathan Singer: What were your thoughts of the Quinnipiac campus and hockey facilities after you visited this past August?

Austin Spiridakis: The campus was beautiful and very well maintained. The technology and resources they have on the campus exceeded my expectations. When I walked into the rink I got embraced by the winning culture in that building. 

Jonathan Singer: Did any other NCAA schools start to show interest in you?

Austin Spiridakis: Other schools definitely have started to show interest in me, especially ones from other ECAC schools.

Jonathan Singer: Tell us about the type of player that Quinnipiac is getting in the future? What are some of your strengths in your game?

Austin Spiridakis: Quinnipiac will be getting someone that is a highly skilled offensive minded player in the future. I am a player that can move the puck well along with having a quick release. Two other strengths of mine are that I’m a very good skater and I never give up.

Jonathan Singer: You are currently listed at 5'9 172. Do you think that you will continue to grow in the next couple of years height wise?

Austin Spiridakis: I’m actually 5’11 and I should also grow a couple more inches along with filling out along the way before I reach Quinnipiac.

Jonathan Singer: What type of role does the Quinnipiac coaching staff envision for you when you reach Hamden?

Austin Spiridakis: They didn't really said anything about that. I am guessing they want me to be similar to what I am now but bigger, stronger and faster.

Jonathan Singer: You were drafted by the Everett Silvertips in the 2017 WHL Bantam draft.  Did the Silvertips try to get you to sign with them after the draft or did you make it known to them that you had interest in playing NCAA hockey?

Austin Spiridakis: The Everett Silvertips didn’t make an attempt to sign me. I did make it known to them that I wanted to play NCAA hockey in the future.

Jonathan Singer: What are some of the things you want to improve upon in you game in the next 3-4 years before you head to Quinnipiac?

Austin Spiridakis: Some of the things I can improve upon before coming to Quinnipiac are working on exploding out of transitions along with becoming a much better defensive player and I can always work on being a better skater.

Jonathan Singer: What are your plans after you finish midget hockey for the St. Albert Raiders? Do you see yourself in the AJHL or BCHL or do you want to head to the United States and play in the USHL to prepare for the next level?

Austin Spiridakis: My plans after midget are not totally decided as of now. All three of those leagues are great options and I would love to play in any of them.

Jonathan Singer: How much has the St. Albert's program helped prepare you in getting this opportunity with Quinnipiac?

Austin Spiridakis: The St. Albert’s program was a huge part of me getting this opportunity with Quinnipiac. They always given me the opportunity of having teams play at the highest level for my age group which helped prepare me to where I am today as a player.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Boston University spoils Quinnipiac home opener with 3-2 overtime victory

Quinnipiac vs. Boston University (copyright BobcatsHockeyBlog)
In a game that featured numerous scrums and physical play, it was the #2 ranked Boston University Terriers spoiling the home opener for the #14 ranked Bobcats with a 3-2 win in overtime. Despite this just the third ever meeting between the teams, the teams played like they were long time rivals with the amount physicality and chirping between the players. The Terriers came into Hamden as one of the most talented teams in the country with 12 NHL draft picks including 3 first round picks (Fabbro, Oettinger and Bowers). 

Connecticut native Patrick Harper (New Canaan) returned to his home state to fuel the Boston University offense with goals in the second and third periods along with creating the scoring chance for Shane Bowers who won it with 41.1 seconds in overtime. Quinnipiac falls to 0-1-1 on the season after a tie on Friday against Boston College. 

Quinnipiac forward Alex Whelan shook off an early injury to return to the ice and score the Bobcats first goal ripping shot high past Jake Oettinger's stick side 13:49 into the first period. Boston University put good pressure on Quinnipiac freshman goaltender Keith Petruzzelli stood tall in his first start with 11 saves in the opening frame.
Quinnipiac vs. Boston University (copyright BobcatsHockeyBlog)
With Boston University getting an early power play due to a cross check by Kevin McKernan the Terriers capitalized just 13 seconds into the man advantage with Patrick Harper's 3rd goal of the season with Bobo Carpenter and another Connecticut native Chad Krys picking up the assists. Ten minutes later Bo Pieper took a Landon Smith pass high in the slot and put a wrist shot past Oettinger's glove side for the goal. Petruzzelli made another 12 saves in the period for the Bobcats.

Just 53 seconds into the third period it was Patrick Harper again who scored unassisted to even the score at two apiece. In overtime Brady Tkachuk had a chance to win it at the but was stoned by Petruzzelli on what was his best save of the night. Late in overtime Harper skated easily around in the Quinnipiac zone before feeding Shane Bowers whose initial shot was saved for taking the rebound and home the game winner. Quinnipiac falls to 0-3 all time against the Boston University Terriers. Quinnipiac captain Chase Priskie missed the game due to an undisclosed injury. The Bobcats return to action next weekend with a non conference home game with Hockey East foe Vermont at 4:00 pm. 

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Scouting the Enemy: Boston University Terriers

The Quinnipiac Bobcats men's ice hockey team opens its home schedule with a match-up with the 2nd ranked Boston University Terriers. This is the third consecutive season these two programs have met with Boston University winning both match-ups, the most recent a 3-0 victory at Agganis Arena a season ago. Expect this Boston University team to be one of the best in the country this year with the amount of high end talent this team brought in. On paper this team should end up in St. Paul at the Frozen Four but as we know games are not played on paper but on the ice. This team will have to earn it this season after coming up a game short of the Frozen Four a season ago in the region of death in Fargo. No program has the amount of high end talent the Terriers do so this will be an enormous challenge for Quinnipiac in this game.

Boston University Key Players: Brady Tkachuk (F), Jordan Greenway (F), Shane Bowers (F), Patrick Harper (F), Bobo Carpenter (F), Dante Fabbro (D), John MacLeod (D), Chad Krys (D), Brandon Hickey (D), Cam Crotty (D), David Farrance (D), Kasper Kotkansalo (D), Jake Oettinger (G)

Out go Clayton Keller, Jacob Forsbaca Karlsson and Kieffer Bellows, in comes Brady Tkachuk, Shane Bowers and Logan Cockerill. The talent just keeps flowing into Commonwealth Avenue in droves and this year is no different. Boston University returns three of its top five scorers in Patrick Harper (37 points), Bobo Carpenter (32 points) and Jordan Greenway (31 points) along with adding 1st round draft pick Shane Bowers and likely 2018 top-five NHL draft pick Brady Tkachuk the son of former Terrier great Keith Tkachuk. Scoring will not be an issue with the Terriers this season when they have the amount of elite talent up front that they do. They already scored four goals on opening weekend in a win over Union with two of them coming by way of the power play which should be once again one of the best in the country.

No team in the country has the amount of talent that BU has on the blue line. The Terriers have seven draft picks with all of them drafted in the third round or higher. First round pick Dante Fabbro is the most talented player of that bunch. Everyone of their starting defenseman is over six feet in height. Other top returning blue liners include Brandon Hickey (3rd round, Calgary), Chad Krys (2nd round, Chicago) and John MacLeod (2nd round, Tampa Bay). They also brought in three more high end talents in freshman Cam Crotty (3rd round, Arizona), David Farrance (3rd round, Nashville) and Kasper Kotkansalo (3rd round, Detroit). This team has no problem dressing seven defenseman as they already did in the Union game this year. That will help keep them fresh throughout the game. There is no denying the fact that BU has the talent to win most games with just its defense.

Throw in 2017 1st round pick Jake Oettinger in goal and the Terriers have someone who can pick up the defense should they struggle at any point. The 6'4 205 pound Oettinger was great down the stretch a season ago for BU and had a memorable performance against North Dakota in the NCAA regional semifinals in Fargo back in March. He will carry the load for the Terriers like he did a season ago when he played 35 games.

This will be a big challenge for Quinnipiac in their home opener and will need to play a clean, crisp game and get some puck luck along the way. This is a great test early in the season to see where Quinnipiac stands against one of the best teams in the country according to many.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.