Saturday, October 12, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 3-2 opening night win over AIC

Quinnipiac won a hard fought 3-2 game against AIC on opening night

The 2019-2020 Quinnipiac men's ice hockey team kicked off its season on Friday night in Hamden when they took on defending Atlantic Hockey regular season and tournament champion American International College. Quinnipiac came out on top in a closely contested 3-2 victory and now these two teams will head up I-91 to play at the Mass Mutual Center on Saturday night. Here are my thoughts and observations from game number one.

- The young Quinnipiac Bobcats team which is loaded with underclassmen played well against an experienced, talented and well coached AIC team on Friday night. It was a good debut for the Bobcats as there are high expectations in Hamden this season being a team ranked in the top ten in the preseason. The young players held their own and showed that Quinnipiac has a talented roster. It will be interesting to see how these young kids respond to a back to back.

- Two freshman recorded their first collegiate points in the opener. Ethan Leyh scored the first Bobcats goal of the season just 5:58 into the game while fellow freshman Jayden Lee had the secondary assist on Peter Diliberatore's eventual game winning goal. In all seven freshman played on Friday night and they are going to need every single one of them to step up this season if they want to return again to the NCAA tournament.

- Senior captain Nick Jermain had a very good game. He scored a goal, led the team with five shots and also drew two penalties on AIC. This could be the year Jermain puts it all together especially if he stays healthy. He's never had more than 15 points in a season but he has always had the talent to do it. He just needs to stay healthy and continue to show consistency.

- William Fallstrom was a force on the face-off dot. The sophomore won 15 of 19 face-offs on the night which was key to establishing possession and transition for Quinnipiac. Those numbers on the face-off dot are re-mindful of when former Bobcat Tommy Schutt use to dominate face-offs.

- Odeen Tufto had a scare when he left the ice but returned to the game and finished with two assists on the night. Tufto is one of the Bobcats most important players and one of the best players in the ECAC period. They can't afford to lose him because he does so much for the Quinnipiac offense and on the power play as well. Good thing it was only a scare.

- After Brandon Fortunato got hurt last season the Bobcats power player really suffered and its offense took a dip as well so it was good to see Quinnipiac get off on a good start with the power play converting on two of five chances on the night when they got a goal from Leyh early and a bomb from the point by Peter Diliberatore at the four minute mark in the second period. Its now Diliberatore's time to shine on the man advantage with key cogs having graduated and moved to the professional level. Jayden Lee got his assist on the man advantage and is really solid at helping to quarterback a power play.

Jayden Lee recorded his first collegiate assist on Peter Diliberatore's goal

- Keith Petruzzelli was really good for Quinnipiac on Friday. He made 25 saves but the way he rose his game in the second period when AIC had a flurry of a few grade A chances gives the Bobcats a lot of hope and confidence that he can be the guy going forward. He had to make 22 saves in the final two periods of action and they needed every one of them to beat a very competitive AIC team.

- The young Bobcat defense also held up well in front of Petruzzelli making his job easier to see pucks. I thought Zach Metsa played well on the night and forced a huge turnover in the neutral zone that led to Nick Jermain's late first period goal. I didn't notice a ton of breakdowns from the young players and Quinnipiac did a solid job in transition. Its still a long way to go but they passed the first test of the season.

- The penalty kill was also strong shutting out AIC on three chances. One chance was over within ten seconds when the Yellow Jackets took a penalty but the other two Quinnipiac did a good job killing especially one in the middle of the third period with AIC only trailing by a goal at that point.

- Expect another tight and physical game tomorrow night in Springfield just like it was tonight in Hamden. These teams are pretty even though Quinnipiac might have a slight edge in skill and in goal. I glad that AIC is no longer a pushover and is giving Quinnipiac competitive games now as this will help in the pairwise and the Bobcats when they are in future tight games. You definitely learn a lot more about a team in close games than you do a blowout.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Weekend Preview: American International College Yellow Jackets

Assistant captain Karlis Cukste will have to lead a young Bobcats defense against AIC

AIC Head Coach: Eric Lang (4th season) 46-57-13

2018-2019 AIC record: 23-17-1 (Atlantic Hockey regular season & tournament champions, lost in NCAA West Regional Final to Denver)

All-time vs. AIC: Quinnipiac leads series 25-4-1

AIC Key Players: Blake Christensen (F), Kyle Stephan (F), Martin Mellberg (F), Tobias Fladeby (F), Martin Mellberg (F), Luka Maver (F), Brennan Kapcheck (D), Nicolas Luka (D), Patrik Demel (D), Zackarias Skog (G)

This opening weekend features a match-up of two teams that fell one game short of the Frozen Four. Yes AIC was that close to the Frozen Four. After falling 3-0 to Denver in the regional final, AIC returns its entire team minus two seniors but most importantly its coach Eric Lang who turned down the St. Lawrence head coaching position to continue to build his alma mater. This is the first year for Lang in which he has all the kids he recruited on the roster. The Yellow Jackets are the preseason favorite in Atlantic Hockey as they are now an experienced team with talent returning. No longer a punchline these will be important games especially for Quinnipiac to get off the season on the right foot.

The Yellow Jackets have a talented offense and return 124 goals and 319 points from last years squad including senior Blake Christensen who had 47 points a year ago. AIC has five players returning with ten or more goals including Christensen.  Now a senior, Christensen led the team with 121 shots on goal so he has to be the player accounted for the most on the ice by Quinnipiac. Tobias Fladeby led the Yellow Jackets last season in goals with 18 as a sophomore while Kyle Stephan and Martin Mellberg had 27 and 26 points respectively. Those two join Christensen as the seniors to watch up front. The AIC power play a year ago was solid at 18.7% and with everyone back of note outside of Shawn McBride up front expect that unit to possibly be even better this season.

AIC's defense is very experienced with their top four defensemen seniors and juniors. Brennan Kapcheck now a junior had 25 points a season ago and was a plus 12 on the blue remains dangerous on both ends of the ice. Senior Patrik Demel led the team as a plus 15 and also had 17 points from the blue line. Fellow seniors Nicolas Luka and Janis Jaks had 14 points apiece though Jaks was a minus 12 on the blue line. The experience the Yellow Jackets had last season should help the defense this season. One area that could be better is on the penalty kill where AIC was only 80.9% which was in the middle of the pack in college hockey.

Junior goaltender Zackarias Skog took over last season from a struggling Stefano Durante and went on to post a 20-14 record with a 2.68 goals against average and an .899 save percentage and five shutouts. His 33 saves in the West Region Semifinals helped propel the Yellow Jackets to the upset of the tournament and the year. Last season against Quinnipiac Skog struggled in two games against the Bobcats giving up eight goals on fifty shots.

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Quinnipiac men's hockey to play in Belfast in 2020-2021 season

Quinnipiac deputy director of athletics Sarah Fraser at the announcement

The Quinnipiac University men's ice hockey team is heading back over the pond. It was announced on Thursday in Belfast, Northern Ireland that Quinnipiac will take part in next years Friendship Four tournament along with Army, Mercyhurst and Sacred Heart all teams from Atlantic Hockey. Quinnipiac deputy director of athletics Sarah Fraser represented Quinnipiac in the announcement.

This will be the second time Quinnipiac will have played in this tournament with the first being in the 2016-2017 season when they faced St. Lawrence and then Vermont in the championship game finishing as the runner up after a 5-1 loss.

Quinnipiac has not faced Mercyhurst since the 2004-2005 season and they were the Bobcats biggest rival in the early years of Division I hockey. The last time Quinnipiac faced Army was the 2004-2005 and Sacred Heart was the 2013-2014 season but there is a chance that they could face the Pioneers in the Connecticut Ice tournament this year.

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Monday, October 7, 2019

Thoughts and Observations from Quinnipiac's 4-4 exhibition tie against Brock

Quinnipiac and Brock played to a 4-4 tie on Sunday in Hamden

The Quinnipiac 2019-2020 hockey season officially kicked off this past weekend and while the game did not count it was still good to see this team back on the ice since we last saw them bowing out in the Allentown regional final to eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth. This game had some good things and some not so good things and areas that they will need to work on. Here are my thoughts and observations from the exhibition game against Brock.

- The team never gave up despite trailing by a goal late and down 4-2 at the end of the second period. That shows to me this team likely has some strong character to make a comeback down from two goals. Trailing late William Fallstrom tied the game with the Quinnipiac goaltender pulled forcing overtime. While they didn't get the game winner in overtime it was still good to see this team put a late effort to tie the game. They will likely have a few more of these types of games this season so its good that they can show a come from behind effort.

- Odeen Tufto was held out of the game with a minor undisclosed injury and from a source, it is nothing serious. He probably could have played from what I have heard but keeping him out against a CIS team was smart. Those teams are notoriously dirty and we saw it again yesterday so keeping the Bobcats best player out of the game was the smart and right call. Get him healthy and ready for AIC this weekend.

- It was another game where Quinnipiac clearly dominated in shots (57-23) but only could muster four goals. These hit some posts but they need to finish there chances better especially some of the younger players. It was the veterans in Cukste, Jermain, Bongiovanni and Fallstrom providing the goals. Only one freshman recorded a point in PJ Fletcher with a lone assist. But the talent is there with the freshman to produce, they just need to show they can.

- The Bobcats have more size than they have had in awhile especially up front which I feel can get against some of the physical teams that the ECAC brings each and every week. Ten of the fifteen Bobcat forwards are six feet over. The Bobcats will need to use there size to out-physical teams especially in the corners to force turnovers that turn into extra possessions and into goals.

- I wouldn't anoint Keith Petruzzelli the guaranteed starter just yet. While Andrew Shortridge is no longer here, this is the season for the junior goaltender to take the reins and have a breakout campaign. However, he was shaky in his two periods of work giving up four goals on 12 shots before giving way to freshman Evan Fear who didn't surrender a goal and made 11 saves through the third period and into overtime. I think Fear is going to challenge Petruzzelli very soon and its possible that head coach Rand Pecknold platoons the two early in the season because it seemed the defense played a lot better in front of Fear than they did for Petruzzelli.

- Speaking of the defense, it was an up and down performance for them. The first two periods were shaky surrendering four goals on just 12 shots. But they improved in the third period and overtime with Evan Fear behind them clearing pucks better and holding Brock to 11 shots in the third period and overtime. It will be a work in progress mixing and matching with the 11 defenders they have on the roster but they should get better over the course of the season.

- Nick Jermain had a highlight reel goal and that's not a first for him as he had one against Brown a few years ago. The senior captain has always had the skills to be a scorer but he just needs to be healthy for a full season. He is looking to close out his Quinnipiac career with a strong season.

- Jayden Lee despite being one of the smallest players on the roster and the smallest Bobcats defensemen looks like he has the ability to quarterback a power play which will be needed on the back end especially with the graduations of Chase Priskie and Brandon Fortunato. I really liked his puck movement on the power play and he has a hard slap shot to boot. He should be a guy that gets a bunch of assists on the man advantage.

- Now its onto the regular season and the opening weekend is no cupcake. A home and home with AIC the defending regular season and tournament champion of Atlantic Hockey. The Yellow Jackets reached their first NCAA tournament and only knocked out top seed St. Cloud State before falling in a closer than the score indicated game against Denver 3-0 in the regional final. AIC is well coached and is a veteran team with a fair amount of upperclassmen and will provide a tough opening weekend test for a young Quinnipiac team.

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Friday, October 4, 2019

2019-2020 Quinnipiac Bobcats Men's Ice Hockey Season Preview

Rand Pecknold's team enters as a top ten program in the pre-season polls
It has been six months since the Quinnipiac men's ice hockey team last took to the ice to play a meaningful game. The 2018-2019 ended just one game short of the program's third Frozen Four appearance of this decade when they lost 3-1 to the eventual two-time national champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 3-1 in the Allentown regional final.

The program lost eight players from last years squad including five starters on the back end including the starting goaltender in Andrew Shortridge who signed with the San Jose Sharks organization foregoing his final year of eligibility. Brogan Rafferty also departed early to the Vancouver Canucks while Chase Priskie, Luke Shiplo and Brandon Fortunato all graduated. Up front the Bobcats lost only two players of note in Craig Martin and Scott Davidson. Martin's 30 points will be tough to replace and the leadership of Davidson along with Priskie will also be missed as well. Freshman Matthew Cassidy also is not returning to the program and has headed to the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms.

Despite the losses on the back end there is a lot of optimism in Hamden this season for another good season on the ice. Quinnipiac also opened as a top ten team in both the and USA Today polls. The team was also picked second in the ECAC coaches poll while they were picked third in the ECAC media poll. Cornell took the top spot in both polls. Junior forward Odeen Tufto was the lone Bobcat to be picked on the ECAC pre-season all league team as he is coming off back-to-back 40 point seasons.

Odeen Tufto is expected to lead a talented Bobcats offense
The strength of the Bobcats is surely with their forwards. They return four of their top five scoring forwards from a season ago in Tufto, Ethan de Jong, Alex Whelan and Wyatt Bongiovanni. Those four combined for 52 goals and a total of 115 points last season so the expectation is they get even better this season. Senior captain Nick Jermain has always had the skill to become a good scorer but he has had trouble staying healthy. Sophomore William Fallstrom had a solid freshman year and should get better along with fellow sophomores Michael Lombardi and Desi Burgart. Quinnipiac adds some talent up front in Edmonton Oilers draft pick Skyler Brind'Amour [son of Hurricanes head coach Rod] and Ethan Leyh who both should see a lot of minutes and become good producers for the Bobcats as freshman. One sleeper to watch out for is red-shirt freshman Guus van Nes. The Netherlands born forward sat out last season and hasn't played in well over a year after aging out in juniors during his final season but he ended up attending the San Jose Sharks developmental camp over the summer.

If there is a potential weakness to this team, its probably on the back end. With Chase Priskie, Brandon Fortunato, Luke Shiplo gone to graduation and Brogan Rafferty leaving after his junior season for an NHL deal with the Vancouver Canucks, the lone upperclassmen back there is senior Karlis Cukste. Quinnipiac has ten underclassmen on the back end. Sophomores Peter Diliberatore and Zach Metsa each got significant playing time a season ago and will need to step up as leaders on the back end and log a lot of minutes along with picking up the point production of the departed Priskie, Fortunato and Rafferty. Fellow sophomores Cam Boudreau and Marcus Chorney saw 21 games and 3 games respectively last season and the hope they can crack the lineup full time this year. Rand Pecknold has moved back forward T.J. Friedmann to defense which on the surface of it doesn't bode well for the defensive corps. In this bloggers opinion that screams of desperation early especially when this team has ten other defensemen on the roster. There are likely to be four scratches a night as coach Pecknold will likely play with seven defensemen on game days. Freshman Logan Britt, Wyatt Head and C.J. McGee should expect to factor highly into the mix. Each of them had successful junior seasons in the USHL, BCHL and NAHL respectively. Britt won the Clark Cup after getting traded to Sioux Falls. Fellow freshman Jayden Lee while undersized was accelerated to Quinnipiac this season after playing in the BCHL a year ago. He was expected to be part of the 2020-2021 recruiting class. It remains to be seen if he is ready for the collegiate level or if he was rushed to Quinnipiac when he could have used another year of seasoning in junior hockey. It may take the Bobcats a half season to get the defense settled out but they have good coaches on the staff who will figure out which parts fit where on the roster.

Keith Petruzzelli will need a strong season if QU wants to reach the NCAA tournament
Goal-tending is another concern in my opinion for Quinnipiac but to a lessor degree. While I have no doubt the talent is there for the position to be very good it all depends on the continued development of junior Keith Petruzzelli. With Andrew Shortridge having departed a year early for a pro contract with the San Jose Sharks, the spotlight now falls onto the shoulders of Petruzzelli who has yet to live up to the hype as a third round pick by the Detroit Red Wings. However, I have heard from a source that Petruzzelli has made big strides this off season and in practices. We just need to see if it translates in success in game action. Freshman Evan Fear is expected to be Petruzzelli's back up and will likely push the veteran goaltender. Fear was strong down the stretch after a trade to Waterloo in the USHL. He posted a 1.99 goals against average along with a .922 save percentage in four playoff games. Josh Mayanja will likely be the third goaltender once again.

Those three goaltenders will have a new goal-tending coach as Jared Waimon has moved on to a scouting position with the Tampa Bay Lightning that was well deserved. He has been replaced by former Bobcats goaltender and goal-tending coach Justin Eddy ('04), who returns to the program for a second stint after coaching back in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons for the Bobcats.

This will be a big challenge for Rand Pecknold and the coaching staff. While the talent is there, along with expectations high being a top ten team in the country, we have to remember this team has 22 underclassmen on the roster and there are expected to be some growing pains. Quinnipiac has the benefit of great coaches who will work to figure out how to put it all together and once they do it wouldn't surprise me to see this team competing for the Cleary and Whitelaw cups this year along with another NCAA tournament berth. 

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

2003 born forward David Hymovitch commits to Quinnipiac

David Hymovitch during his time with the North Jersey Avalanche

The Quinnipiac Bobcats continue to build their future recruiting classes as another 2003 forward has committed to the program in David Hymovitch, a native of Phoenix, Arizona. The 5'10, 170 pound forward is in his second consecutive season with the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes program. He is off to a strong start in the 2019-2020 season with a goal and three assists in four games played. Last season with the Coyotes 15U team he had 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 24 games. This past summer he was part of United States roster for the 2019 Under-17 Five Nations tournament in which he was a teammate of fellow Bobcat commit Jack Silich. In four games played, Hymovitch had four assists an was a plus three for the tournament. He spent one bantam season on the east coast with the North Jersey Avalanche program in 2017-2018 in which he had 45 points (24 goals, 21 assists) in 32 games played.

Hymovitch was drafted in the 7th round, 97th overall in the 2019 USHL Futures Draft by the Sioux City Musketeers. In 2018 he was selected in the 4th round of the WHL Bantam Draft by the Calgary Hitmen. The scouting service Neutral Zone is high on Hymovitch as a 4 star prospect. They describe him as someone who is effective in all situations, blocks shots and has great hockey sense. These are all traits that head coach Rand Pecknold looks for in a player they want to play for the program. Quinnipiac's last high end player they had from Arizona was Jeremy Langlois who was part of the 2013 Frozen Four team.

He becomes the fourth 2003 forward for the Bobcats which is starting to look like a strong forward class with Jack Silich, Matthew McGroarty, Sam Lipkin and now Hymovitch all verbally committed to Quinnipiac. He is expected to be part of the 2022-2023 recruiting depending on how he develops.


Elite Prospects Player Page

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Friday, August 16, 2019

Q&A with Quinnipiac commit Sam Lipkin

Sam Lipkin with La Salle

Quinnipiac recently picked up its fourth 2003 born commit in Sam Lipkin this past Tuesday. A native of Lafayette Hill, PA, Lipkin is a 6'1, 186 pound left shot forward who recently played for the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers U-16 program. Set to move to the North Jersey Avalanche program this coming season, the BobcatsHockeyBlog caught up with Lipkin to discuss his recruitment, hockey life and off ice interests. Thanks to Sam for taking the time out of his schedule for this Q&A.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: First off congratulations. What are your emotions like after making this decision to commit to Quinnipiac?

Sam Lipkin: I was really excited and filled with joy, it’s a great opportunity for me and my family.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Tell us about your overall recruiting process with Quinnipiac. When did they first reach out to you to show their interest in you as a future player for the program?

Sam Lipkin: They started showing interest about three weeks weeks ago. Then from that point, I visited the campus on August 3rd. After that they gave me all the time I needed to make my decision.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Were there any other Division I programs showing interest in you as a player and if so which ones ?

Sam Lipkin: There was definitely some other Division I interest from schools such as Providence, Penn State, UMass Amherst, Merrimack and Cornell.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: What separated Quinnipiac from some of those schools, which made you want to commit to the Bobcats over those others?

Sam Lipkin: Quinnipiac just felt right to me. It’s a great place for hockey along with getting a great education. The atmosphere at all the games is great and I felt really comfortable with the coaching staff.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Tell us about your overall game as a player? What are some of the things you do well as a player?

Sam Lipkin: I think that I do a little bit of everything as a player. I’m a full 200 foot player that can score and make plays. I also make everyone around me better, and I like to lead by example.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: What are some of the areas that you want to improve upon before you reach the collegiate level?

Sam Lipkin: I would like to work on extending my stride and working on my first three steps. Another area I would like to work on is my shot. But obviously, to get to the collegiate level, I will need to get bigger, stronger and faster overall.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: You played last season for the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers and your high school program La Salle College High. This year you are heading to the North Jersey Avalanche program. What went into that decision to move to a new program?

Sam Lipkin: The North Jersey Avalanche are a top program every year. Every coach wants to help you get to the next level. It was a no brainer decision when the opportunity was presented to me.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: So with the move to the Avalanche program are your days over with the La Salle program as will you be putting a full commitment with North Jersey?

Sam Lipkin: Yes my days with La Salle are over. The past two years with them were the best years of my life and I learned so many lessons. To maximize my development I am going to fully commit to the North Jersey Avalanche program by billeting up in North Jersey. This will allow me to really develop as a player and a person.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: You were drafted in the second round of the USHL Futures Draft by the Chicago Steel. Do you have plans on attending their camp before going back to North Jersey?

Sam Lipkin: I actually got to go to their camp this year earlier in the summer.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: What was that experience like and what did you take away from it?

Sam Lipkin: The experience was awesome, Chicago is a first class organization that I’m very happy to be apart of. I took away what I need to work on to go to the next level. The speed and strength is at another level there. But it was good to see what I have to do to get myself ready for the USHL.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Is your plan to have a strong development year with North Jersey this year in preparation for making the jump to Chicago in the 2020-2021 season?

Sam Lipkin: Yes that is the plan. Obviously a lot of hard work has to be done and a lot of things have to go right but if I keep developing I hope I can make the team.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Is there a player in today’s game that you model your game after?

Sam Lipkin: Jonathan Toews. I think that we are both winners and both help our teams in all areas of the game. He comes up big when his team needs him the most and I try and do the same.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Who to this point in your life, would say is your biggest influence to get you to this point of an NCAA Division I commitment?

Sam Lipkin: I think my parents for sure. They have taught me everything that I know and they are always there supporting me and cheering me on. Without them, I don’t think I would be the same player.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Tell us what type of person that the Quinnipiac community will get in Sam Lipkin on and off the ice?

Sam Lipkin: I think on the ice the community is getting a winner and someone who loves to win big hockey games and someone who leads by example. Off the ice the community is getting a leader in the classroom and someone who likes to get everyone involved. I am also an outgoing kid who will treat everyone with respect.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: What does Sam Lipkin like to do when he is not playing hockey?

Sam Lipkin: I love hanging out with my friends and having a good time. I also enjoy playing video games and hanging out with my family.

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