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.

Bobcats open season with hard fought tie

Quinnipiac vs. Boston College (copyright BobcatsHockeyBlog)
In what was a defensive struggle for most of the hockey game, the #14 ranked Quinnipiac Bobcats men's ice hockey team earned a hard fought 1-1 draw in its season opener against perennial Hockey East power #13 Boston College on Friday night in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. It was a game that featured both goaltenders as the best players on the ice with Quinnipiac's Andrew Shortridge (25 saves) and Boston College's Joe Woll (28 saves) with both making big time saves at critical times throughout the game.

As predicted this was a low scoring game with both offenses struggling at times leading to the tie. "For a game on October 6th I thought it was great game. Both teams battled hard and the two goalies were the best players on the ice. We made some mistakes and some bad changes at the end which cost us a win in the end, said Rand Pecknold."

The first period saw six penalties combined from the two teams with each having three. Neither team capitalized on any of their power play chances but Boston College was awarded a penalty shot after a delay of game penalty when Brandon Fortunato covered up a loose puck in the crease. Andrew Shortridge made the save on David Cotton preserving the game scoreless in the first period which saw each team get nine shots a piece on goal.

Quinnipiac vs. Boston College (copyright BobcatsHockeyBlog)
Quinnipiac took it to the Eagles in the second with 11 shots to the Eagles 5 and numerous good looks that Woll made saves upon. At the three quarter mark of the second period is when Alex Whelan broke the scoreless tie with a rocket over the shoulder of Woll from the top right circle. Freshman Odeen Tufto and junior transfer John Furgele were credited with the assists on Whelan's goal who led the Bobcats with five shots on goal for the game.

In the third the Bobcats struggled a bit with some mistakes especially on a late line change which led to an Eagle power play which they capitalized on when Jacob Tortora finished one home on the doorstep after a face-off win and a puck kicking off a player's skate right to Tortora. Both Alex Whelan and Nick Jermain rang iron late in the period with a chance to win it. Quinnipiac went 0 for 4 on the power play for the night. "I thought we struggled on the power play as we did in the exhibition. We had no chemistry and we lost a lot of battles. In order to have a good power play you need to win battles, said Rand Pecknold."

In the end the Bobcats came out with a tie against a quality opponent. They are now 2-0-1 all time against Boston College. The team returns to action on Sunday at 2:00 pm when they welcome the #2 ranked Boston University Terriers to Hamden for the team's home opener.

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Scouting the Enemy: Boston College Eagles

The Quinnipiac Bobcats men's ice hockey team kicks off its 2017-2018 campaign with a road trip to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts Friday night to face off against perennial power Boston College. It will be a much different Boston College team than what many have been accustomed to seeing in the past. Gone are the teams top five scorers from a season ago with sophomore Colin White the lone underclassmen departure of that bunch. Boston College enters the season without a single senior on its roster which is a first for Jerry York in his 46-year collegiate head coaching career. The Eagles enter the season as one of the youngest teams in the country so their will be some growing pains naturally. This is a team that should be better in January, February and March than they are right now.

Boston College Key Players: Christopher Brown (F), David Cotton (F), JD Dudek (F), Julius Mattila (F), Aapeli Räsänen (F), Logan Hustko (F), Jacob Tortora (F), Casey Fitzgerald (D), Michael Kim (D), Joseph Woll (G)

Early on this season it might be a challenge for Boston College to score goals especially after losing their top four scoring forwards who scored 30 or more points a season ago. Coupled with the fact that prized recruit Eeli Tolvanen a 1st round NHL pick could not get past admissions at Boston College this years team took a hit before the season even started. Tolvanen ended up signing a professional contract with Jokerit of the KHL but his loss with definitely be felt. The Eagles will have to rely heavily on Christopher Brown, David Cotton and JD Dudek who had 26, 24 and 22 points respectively a season ago. Newcomers Aapeli Räsänen, Logan Hustko and Jacob Tortora are expected to contribute as freshman. Hustko and Tortora are alums of the US National Developmental Program.

The Eagles defense should be its strength this season as it returns five starters from a season ago including Casey Fitzgerald and Michael Kim who had 22 and 21 points respectively and were a combined plus 25. Collectively the Eagles returning defenseman were a plus 52 last year. Sophomores Luke McInnis, Connor Moore and Jesper Mattila should continue to improve. Jerry York will need to rely on the defense to win this team some games in the early part of the season until they can get the offense going.

Boston College is strong in goal with returning starter Joseph Woll only a sophomore. The 2016 3rd round pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs won 17 games a season ago with a 2.64 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. He is backed up by fellow sophomore Ryan Edquist who had a 1.82 goals against average and a .923 save percentage in 8 games played.

Quinnipiac is 2-0 all-time against Boston College winning in the 2016 Frozen Four semifinals in Tampa and winning a season ago in the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh. This is the first campus game between the teams and Boston College will make a return to trip Hamden next season.

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