Friday, December 23, 2016

Grading the Bobcats: First Semester Report Card

Quinnipiac ended the first semester by going 1-4-1 over its final six games capped with being swept in a home and home series against the Princeton Tigers to finish the first half with a record of 10-7-2. The Bobcats raced to a 9-3-1 start with a win over Harvard to boot before their late semester slump knocked them out of the top 15 of the NCAA Pairwise Rankings. There were ups and downs from all across the roster. It's time to grade the Bobcats on their first half performance as a team and on an individual basis.

Offense - B-

Over the first half the Bobcats average three goals per game but that number was much higher until the last six games of the season when they had four games by scoring two goals or less. The team lost a lot of fire power in the off season with the departures of Sam Anas, Travis St. Denis and Soren Jonzzon up front so it was expected there would be some drop off in offense from the Bobcats. Even with the expected drop off the team doesn't have one player in the top 80 in scoring in the country.

Tim Clifton (Sr.) - B+

I am not sure where Quinnipiac would be offensively if the older Clifton did not return. He has 15 points (10 goals and 5 assists) in 19 games played this season with three game winning goals and five power play goals. He is off his scoring pace from a season ago where he had 43 points (19 goals and 24 assists) and his shooting percentage is down 6% but his return has been enormous with his leadership up front for some of the younger players. He will likely be a priority NHL free agent at the end of the season.

Craig Martin (So.) - B+

The sophomore forward has got off to a good start this season tripling his entire freshman year production in the first 19 games of the season. He is second on the team in points with 12 (5 goals and 7 assists) and has two game winning goals and two power play goals this year. He is playing on a line with Tim Clifton which has helped his production but he has been one of the sophomore's showing the most improvement this year.

Bo Pieper (Jr.) - B+

Pieper has surpassed his production from a season ago in only 19 games played. A year ago he had 9 points (5 goals and 4 assists) in 43 games and halfway through this season he already has 10 points (6 goals and 4 assists). His shooting percentage has doubled from a season ago and he sees time on the Bobcats power play units. He has been a solid contributor so far this year.

Luke Shiplo (So.) - B

This grade while listed under an offensive player is really a combination for Shiplo playing both offense and defense for the team. He only has 3 points on the season but he earned the B grade for his work on the power play along with playing a new position as a forward and along with being able to go back to defense when the team needed him with injuries and suspensions on the blue line.

K.J. Tiefenwerth (Sr.) - B

Tiefenwerth has been one of Quinnipiac's better forwards this year. He has 10 points (1 goal and 9 assists) in 19 games played and see time on the power play as well. He isn't flashy but has been solid in the last two seasons for the Bobcats.  He is halfway to last years point total when he had 20 points on the season.

Tommy Schutt (Sr.) - B

Another solid performer has been Schutt, who is one of this teams hardest working players on the ice. He does a lot of quality work on the penalty kill and is a very solid defensive forward. He has chipped in with some more offense this season with 7 points (5 goals and 2 assists) in the first half of the season.

Landon Smith (Jr.) - B-

Smith is off his scoring pace from a season ago he he had 37 points (12 goals and 25 assists) in 43 games games. He has 15 points (5 goals and 10 assists) but three of those goals came in the game against Dartmouth earlier this season. He is another player where his shooting percentage has dipped from a season ago. I expected a bit more production out of him especially with the departures of Anas and St. Denis. He finished the first semester with a goal and five assists in his last four games.

Tanner MacMaster (Jr.) - B-

It's been a tough season health wise for MacMaster as he has been in and out of the lineup twice with lower body injuries. He got off to a nice start with 5 points (3 goals and 2 assists) in his first 8 games. He got hurt in the Dartmouth game and missed the next 5 games returning against RPI before getting hurt again and missing the next 3 games. Due to the injuries he just hasn't been able to find consistency in terms of production. The hope is he can get healthy and increase his production in the second half.

Alex Whelan (Fr.) - B-

This grade is based more on what I have seen out of Whelan than what his point production has been.Whelan has been a good presence up front playing on a line with Tim Clifton and Craig Martin and while he has only two assists on the season he has shown to play physical and has a willingness to get dirty in the corners for loose pucks. He's worked hard to get first line minutes and eventually he will be rewarded for it on the stat sheet. I can see him having a good second half in terms of points.

Andrew Taverner (Jr.) - C+

Taverner got off to a hot with 5 points (3 goals and 2 assists) in team's first 5 games. Two of those games were multi-point games. Since then in 14 games he has been pretty cold with only 3 assists. The expectation was that Taverner a solid scorer back in the AJHL would increase his production from his sophomore year when he had 15 points (6 goals and 9 assists). He is on a similar scoring pace as he was last year. The Bobcats need more out of Taverner in the second half if they are going to make a run in the ECAC.

Scott Davidson (So.) - C-

I really expected a breakout season by Davidson who had 15 points (9 goals and 6 assists) as a freshman. In only 18 games played this season he has only six assists with half of those assists coming in one game against Colgate. Last season he had a shot percentage of 16.7%. He was on a line with Tim Clifton and Craig Martin but now freshman Alex Whelan is playing with those two. They need to get Davidson going in the second half if this team is going to make a run to Lake Placid and make a run towards the NCAA tournament.

Thomas Aldworth (So.) - C-

Aldworth is another player that I thought would take the next step as a sophomore. As a freshman last year he got off to a fast start but cooled towards the end of the season. He finished the year with 13 points (6 goals and 7 assists) in 32 games played. It was expected that he would help pick up some of the offensive production with the departure of Anas and St. Denis and that has been far from the case. In 16 games played he has only 4 points (3 goals and 1 assist). There have been just too many times this season where you don't even notice him on the ice.

Kevin Duane (Jr.) - Incomplete

This grade is based on the fact that Duane missed 10 games due to a lower body injury in the middle part of the first semester. If I was giving him a grade on his last four games only, I'd grade him a B+ as he was very good causing traffic in front of the net and he close out the first half with 4 points (3 goals and 1 assist). This is the way they need Duane to play all the time out there on the ice.

Nick Jermain (Fr.) - Incomplete

The freshman has played in 9 games this year making his season debut on November 4th against Clarkson. He has not recorded a point on the stat sheet but did have the lone goal in the shoot-out win against Saint Lawrence in the Friendship Four tournament. Jermain was accelerated a season early to Quinnipiac due to the early departure of Sam Anas. He has skill but is not fully developed yet and would have developed from another season in junior hockey.

Logan Mick (Fr.) - Incomplete

Mick played in two games in the first semester recording zero points. He was ejected in the Boston University game for a hitting from behind penalty and was suspended for an additional game. He is 5th on the team in penalty minutes despite playing in only two games.

Joe Fiala (Sr.) - Incomplete

Fiala has played in one game this season at forward against UMass Amherst on October 25th. He did not record a point that night. He has played in 10 games over the last three seasons but is a player that can play both forward and defense as well.

Defense - B

Expected to be one of the teams strength's entering the season, the Bobcats defense has been up and down at times this season. Down the stretch in the first semester they really struggled in their last five games surrendering 20 goals. That affected this grade from being either a B+ or A-. This season the Bobcats have had five games this season where they have surrendered more four goals or more per game. What we saw the four of the last five games in the first half cannot happen again in the second half or this team can book some tee times for some early golf in the north in late March instead of playing in the NCAA tournament.

Brogan Rafferty (Fr.) - B+

Rafferty is tied for the team lead in scoring which is impressive for a freshman but especially someone that plays on the blue line. He has not been perfect defensively as I have seen games where he has had some turnovers but he has been a pleasant surprise and really hard working fun player to watch who is starting to attract attention from NHL scouts.

Kārlis Čukste (Fr.) - B+

Cukste is another freshman who has been very good on the blue line this season. The San Jose Sharks draft pick was a late pickup for Quinnipiac who has played well defensively for the Bobcats this season. A bigger defenseman than what Rand Pecknold usually brings in, Cukste has been a power play threat and plays on the penalty kill as well giving the defense a lot of versatility in many situations. Already with 9 points in 19 games he also is the team leader with 39 blocked shots. He will be apart of the Latvian team for the Under-20 World Junior Championships in Canada at the end of the month.

Kevin McKernan (Jr.) - B

The junior defenseman has been a steady and solid presence on the Bobcats blue line this season. His offensive production has increased in each of his three seasons. He is already on pace to eclipse his 2015-2016 point production early in the second semester. McKernan is not a flashy player on the blue line but he rarely makes mistakes and that is all you from a someone who is more of a defensive defenseman. He's tied for fifth on the team with 17 blocked shot.

Chase Priskie (So.) - B

The talented sophomore has had a little bit of a drop off from his breakout freshman season when posted 26 points (4 goals and 22 assists) with a plus 16. Due to an upper body injury he missed two games in the first semester. He's been solid defensively and is still a weapon on the power play with 10 of 11 points coming via the man advantage. After only have two penalty minutes the entire 2015-2016 season, Priskie has 14 already in the first semester of this season. If the Bobcats can get more of the Priskie we saw from a year ago in the second half that should bode well for the defense.

Connor Clifton (Sr.) - B-

After having a career junior season with 28 points (7 goals and 21 assists) and a career low of 42 penalty minutes and being a plus 20, Clifton has taken a bit of step back this season. At times he has struggled defensively. He has already amassed 50 penalty minutes included with two major penalties and a one game suspension from the ECAC stemming from a hit in the Vermont game. He has five points (2 goals and 3 assists) in 18 games played and is a minus eight from the blue line. He is second on the team in blocked shots with 34. He brings leadership in the locker room as the captain of the team. If he can have a big second half that would bode real well for Quinnipiac's chances.

Derek Smith (Sr.) - B-

The senior co-captain got off to a bit of a slow start defensively but has picked it up in the later stages of the first half. He is third on the team in blocked shots with 21 and while not a flashy player from the blue line he is as steady as they come. His statistics don't stand out but he brings more than just that with leadership, penalty killing ability along with the ability to play on the power play. His presence was missed in the Friendship Four tournament especially in the Vermont game when the team didn't play well defensively.

Goaltending - B-

It was a position that brought a lot of question marks at the start of the season especially with the loss of Michael Garteig one of the best goaltenders in program history lost to graduation. No matter who took the job, those shoes were going to be tough to fill given what Garteig meant to this program in the last three years he was the team's starter.

Chris Truehl (Jr.) - B-

Truehl has been solid in goal for the Bobcats this season. The Air Force transfer is 8-5-2 with a 2.40 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Those are solid numbers for him in his first season with the Bobcats. He has had trouble with rebound control which has hurt the Bobcats at times. Truehl has made some flashy saves but isn't a goaltender that can absolutely win a you a game when you need it the most. If the Bobcats are going to have plans for late March and into April, Truehl needs to get better with his rebound control and start stealing some games for the Bobcats.

Andrew Shortridge (Fr.) - B-

Shortidge had really one poor start against Vermont in the final of the Friendship Four tournament when he surrendered five goals in the loss. However his defense did not give him any help that day. He has played in seven games with four of them being starts and he has a 2-2 record. His save percentage is under .900 but it skewed due to his one poor start against Vermont. He was very good in a loss on the road against a very talented Boston University squad. His last two games he relieved Chris Truehl in blowout losses. It remains to be seen if Shortridge will see increased action in the second semester if Truehl continues to struggle.

Sean Lawrence - Incomplete

Lawrence did not see any regular game action in the first semester and just recently news came out that he was transferring to Division III Colby College for the second semester.

Coaching Staff - B-

Finishing the first semester with four losses in the last five games contributed to this grade especially when surrendering 20 goals in those games which is very unlike Quinnipiac hockey. One of the early season struggles was the coaching staff trying to find the right pieces for the power play. They seemed to get that fixed to a degree by the end of the semester. Pecknold and the coaching staff need to get more out of these players in the second half if they are going to make a run to the ECAC crown in Lake Placid.

The coaching staff didn't bring in the best recruiting class in this season and they were very lucky to land Kārlis Čukste so late due to the San Jose Sharks making a call to the Quinnipiac staff. The team was already playing with a short deck of cards to begin with as the team only carried 25 players compared to the usual 28. That number now dropped with the loss of Sean Lawrence transferring. The team also didn't prepare for the loss of Sam Anas very well either as he graduated a year ahead of schedule. The lack of depth and high end talent up front is sorely lacking on this team and could come back to bite them in the second half of the year.

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

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