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.

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.

ECAC Preview: #1 Harvard Crimson

In our final ECAC team preview on the BobcatsHockeyBlog we look at our projected 1st place ECAC finisher, the Harvard Crimson who finished tied for 1st a season ago in the ECAC standings.

Harvard Crimson 2016-2017 Results:

Overall: 28-6-2

ECAC: 16-4-2 (1st place with Union)

ECAC Tournament: Won ECAC Championship 4-1 over Cornell

NCAA Tournament: Lost in NCAA Frozen Four semifinals 2-1 to Minnesota Duluth

Team History:
NCAA Tournament History: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 1994, 1993, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1986, 1985, 1975, 1974, 1971, 1969, 1958, 1957, 1955
NCAA Frozen Fours: 2017, 1994, 1989, 1987, 1986, 1975, 1974, 1971, 1969, 1958, 1957, 1955
NCAA Championships: 1989

Departures: Luke Esposito (F), Alexander Kerfoot (F), Sean Malone (F), Tyler Moy (F), Devin Tringale (F), Phil Zielonka (F), Clay Anderson (D), Victor Newell (D)

Additions: Jack Badini (F), Henry Bowlby (F), Jack Donato (F), Mitchell Perrault (F), Benjamin Solin (F), Reilly Walsh (D), Nick Azar (D), Benjamin Foley (D)

The Harvard Crimson returned to the Frozen Four a season ago for the first time in 23 years but finished the season two wins shy of the program's first National Championship since 1989. Expectations are high once again in Cambridge as the Crimson look to return to the Frozen Four in consecutive years for the first time since the 1986 and 1987 seasons. The host of the Frozen Four this season is St. Paul, Minnesota which was the site of Harvard's only national championship back in 1989. It's current head coach Ted Donato, was the most outstanding player of that tournament.

For Harvard to have similar success as a season ago it must find players to replace its three leading scorers who graduated in Tyler Moy (45 points), Alexander Kerfoot (45 points) and Sean Malone (42 points). Sixth leading scorer Luke Esposito (36 points) also graduated. 54% of the Harvard goals scored will have to be replaced but they have the players in place to get that done. Junior Ryan Donato (40 points) will be expected to carry the load and is a potential Hobey Baker candidate. Fellow junior Lewis Zerter-Gossage (25 points) and sophomore Nathan Krusko (17 points) will have to have increased production for the Crimson. Freshman Jack Badini is the prized freshman of the Harvard freshman forwards being a 3rd round pick of the Anaheim Ducks and having 28 goals with the Chicago Steel in the USHL. Other freshman that will be expected to contribute immediately are Henry Bowlby and Ben Solin. Harvard will need to generate some increased offense from its defense as well to make up for the loss of so many top forwards.

There is no better defenseman in the ECAC than Adam Fox who exploded on the scene with 40 points (6 goals, 34 assists) in his freshman season. The Calgary Flames draft pick is an elite pucker mover who creates offense from the blue line. The defense lost only Clay Anderson from its starting lineup. However they return a ton in sophomore John Marino (Edmonton Oilers draft pick) and senior Wily Sherman (Boston Bruins draft pick) along with senior Jake Horton and two sophomores Viktor Dombrovskiy and Jacob Olson. They also add Reilly Walsh a 3rd round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils who should a bunch of minutes on the blue line as well. The defense is deep and loaded to help make another run at a championship for the Crimson.

Harvard got an important piece back when Merrick Madsen came back for his senior season instead of signing with the Philadelphia Flyers. He started every game for the Crimson and finished with a 2.11 goals against average with a .923 save percentage and 3 shutouts. Madsen will be expected to be a workhorse once again for Ted Donato's team.

In closing the Crimson should be the cream of the crop along with Quinnipiac in the ECAC this season. While the offense may see a bit of a drop off, they have more than enough on defense and with their goal-tending to compensate for it in order to make another deep NCAA run.

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

ECAC Preview: #2 Quinnipiac Bobcats

Today on the BobcatsHockeyBlog we look at our projected 2nd place ECAC finisher, the Quinnipiac University Bobcats who finished 5th a season ago in the ECAC standings.

Quinnipiac Bobcats 2016-2017 Results:

Overall: 23-15-2

ECAC: 13-8-1 (5th place)

ECAC Tournament: Lost in ECAC Semifnals to Harvard, 4-1

NCAA Tournament: None

Team History:
NCAA Tournament History: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2002
NCAA Frozen Fours: 2016, 2013

Departures: Tim Clifton (F), Tommy Schutt (F), K.J. Tiefenwerth (F), Joe Fiala (F), Connor Clifton (D), Derek Smith (D), Chris Truehl (G)

Additions: Matt Forchuk (F), Odeen Tufto (F), Matthew Creamer (F), Devin Moore (F), D.J. Petruzzelli (F), Dan Nybondas (F), Brandon Fortunato (D) [transfer from BU], John Furgele (D) [transfer from UNH] Joe O'Connor (D), T.J. Brown (D), Keith Petruzzelli (G), Josh Mayanja (G)

Despite winning 23 games and reaching Lake Placid for the 5th straight year, some would call last year a down season in Hamden as the Bobcats missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Expectations the past few years have been raised in part due to two Frozen Four appearances so a season without an NCAA berth almost surely left a sour taste in the mouth of the players and the coaching staff. The team welcomes 12 new faces including two transfers that become eligible this season.

The Bobcats offense had a Jekyll and Hyde feel to it last season as they couldn't build consistency at times.  Quinnipiac averaged just a shade over three goals per game which was down from 3.79 when they went to the Frozen Four in 2016. Part of why that number was down was the fact they got cleaned out with players departing early (Anas, Toews) along with graduating players. Quinnipiac returns some important forwards in Landon Smith, Tanner MacMaster, Bo Pieper, Craig Martin, Thomas Aldworth and Alex Whelan up front. Nick Jermain showed flashes of great skill and will also be looked upon to take the next step. Six new forwards join the team with the most prominent being Matt Forchuk who led the AJHL in scoring with 97 points and Odeen Tufto who had 48 points in a tough USHL. Three New England born forwards also come aboard in Matt Creamer (RI), Devin Moore (NH) and D.J. Petruzzelli (MA) while the Bobcats bring in their first ever recruit from Finland in Dan Nybondas. The team will have to improve upon its power play which struggled at times a season ago after being one of the better ones in the country two years ago. In the exhibition opener the Bobcats were killed in the face-off circle so that will bear watching as the season takes shape.

The strength of the Bobcats will be on the blue line as they return a lot of talent including captain Chase Priskie (26 points), Karlis Cukste (15 points), Brogan Rafferty (24 points) and Kevin McKernan (14 points). Luke Shiplo is a defenseman by trade but is playing forward now but has the ability to swing back and forth which is a valuable weapon. Transfers Brandon Fortunato (BU) and John Furgele (UNH) join the team after sitting out a season ago. Fortunato is a player with a lot of talent that was pretty much shoved out the door at BU when they brought in a boat load of talented draft picks on defense. He will give the Bobcats someone who can quarterback a power play and bring some much needed offense from the blue line. Furgele has 73 games of experience in the Hockey East and brings depth and stability on the blue line. Freshman Joe O'Connor and T.J. Brown round out the defensive corps. 

Quinnipiac is expected to have one of the strongest goal-tending tandems in the country with sophomore Andrew Shortridge and freshman Keith Petruzzelli who is a 2017 3rd round pick of the Detroit Red Wings. Petruzzelli is the highest incoming freshman NHL draft pick in Quinnipiac history while Shortridge was great down the stretch for Quinnipiac a season ago helping to lead the Bobcats to Lake Placid. He finished 13-7 with a 2.08 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. Petruzzelli comes in with a lot of hype and upside so it will battle between the two for starts. I'd can see coach Pecknold going back and forth between the two for the first month or so of the season to see who takes off and gets hot. Freshman Josh Mayanja was a late add to the recruiting class in August when Chris Truehl departed for a professional contract.

This team has high expectations of returning to the NCAA tournament after a one year absence. They will need contributions of some of the new freshman along with some of the veteran players to elevate their game further. If the offense can return close to what it was two seasons ago then this team can make a deep NCAA tournament run and possibly reach St. Paul. As always the team will need health and some luck along the way but all the pieces are in place to have another great season in Hamden.

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Austin Spiridakis commits to Quinnipiac

Austin Spiridakis (photo by Chris Colbourne/St. Albert Gazette)
Quinnipiac has dipped back into the recruiting pool in Western Canada this time picking up a verbal commitment from 2002 forward Austin Spiridakis out the St. Albert Raiders Midget AAA program out of the Alberta Midget Hockey League according to a source. He is the second commit in the last week from Western Canada as Ethan de Jong committed last week to the Bobcats out of the BCHL.

Spiridakis is listed at 5'9 172 pounds for a 15 year old so there is a good chance he has not yet fully grown. Last season he had 58 points (30 goals, 28 assists) in 35 games played for the St. Alberts Sabres Bantam AAA program and had another 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) in 10 playoffs games for them. After the season he was selected by the Everett Silvertips in the 12th round of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. He is the third 2002 born player commit to Quinnipiac following forwards Victor Czerneckianair and Jacob Quillan. It's likely that Spiridakis will arrive in Hamden for the 2021-2022 season. 

Here is a short scouting note on Spiridakis from October of 2016.

02 Austin Spiridakis looks like a keeper going into the draft strong skater poise and a great release good size too.

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

ECAC Preview: #3 Cornell Big Red

Today on the BobcatsHockeyBlog we look at our projected 3rd place ECAC finisher, the Cornell Big Red who are coming off an 3rd place finish in the ECAC a season ago. Zach Silver of the Cornell Daily Sun who covers Cornell men's ice hockey was gratuitous enough to write a guest preview for the BobcatsHockeyBlog on Big Red this season. You can follow Zach on twitter @ZachSilver.

Cornell Big Red 2016-2017 Results:

Overall: 21-9-5

ECAC: 13-4-5 (3rd place)

ECAC Tournament: Lost in ECAC Finals to Harvard, 4-1

NCAA Tournament: Lost in NCAA First Round to UMass Lowell 5-0

Team History:
NCAA Tournament History: 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2017
NCAA Frozen Fours: 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1980, 2003
NCAA Championships: 1967, 1970

Departures: Jake Weidner (F), Jeff Kubiak (F), Matt Buckles (F), Eric Freschi (F), Patrick McCarron (D), Holden Anderson (D), Mitch Gillam (G), Ryan Coon (G)

Additions: Cam Donaldson (F), Kyle Betts (F), Tristan Mullin (F), Morgan Barron (F), Brenden Locke (F), Alex Green (D), Cody Haiskanen (D), Matt Cairns (D), Austin McGrath (G), Matthew Galajda (G)

With hardly any home games during the first half of the season, in addition to numerous injuries to key players along the way, Cornell, by and large, far exceeded any expectations set out for its 2016-17 campaign. After being selected to finish fifth and sixth in the media and coaches’ poll, respectively, Cornell ended its regular season third in the ECAC, advancing to both the ECAC championship game against Harvard and the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Even though Cornell will have to replace eight seniors this year — almost all of whom were major contributors at their positions — the team can rest assured knowing it returns its top three goal-scorers from 2016-17. Mitch Vanderlaan — who led the team in both goals and points last season — will look to build upon his stellar sophomore year along with classmate Anthony Angello, who started slow but scored seven of his eight goals last year in the team’s final 14 games. Now-senior Trevor Yates was a power play machine with eight of his 12 goals last year coming on the man-advantage.

The Big Red’s offense will be bolstered by welcoming five incoming freshmen to the attack, including Morgan Barron, who was drafted in the sixth round of this year’s NHL draft by the New York Rangers. Head coach Mike Schafer has made clear his intent to switch from the traditional mark of the Cornell program — large in size and an overpowering stature — to a roster built on speed and shiftiness. This year’s freshmen class is evident of that evolution.

Meanwhile, the loss of Patrick McCarron to graduation is significant on the defense, but the Big Red can breathe knowing essentially the entirety of the defensive corps returns. Headlined by reigning All-Ivy first-team selection Yanni Kaldis, the blue line also welcomes back the always-solid Alec McCrea, along with Brendan Smith and Matt Nuttle for their junior seasons. The latter two really emerged last year as dependable nightly blueliners, though Smith had to sit out the postseason after sustaining an injury in the regular season finale. As if that amount of return was not enough, Ryan Bliss, who played top-four minutes his sophomore year before missing out on all of 2016-17 due to injury, returns to the program.

Three freshmen defensemen will compete for spots in the lineup, headlined by Edmonton Oilers draft pick Matt Cairns. With the addition of Barron and Cairns, Cornell’s draft pick total rises to six.

Goalie appears to be the one question mark for the Big Red as the season approaches. Hayden Stewart is the only returning goaltender after the graduation of Mitch Gillam and Ryan Coon. Stewart, now a senior, has only 15 games of collegiate experience since Gillam was the steadfast starter the past several years. The team welcomes two freshmen goalies into the mix — Austin McGrath and Matthew Galajda — and it’s unclear who will get the starting nod come opening night.

Cornell will be an interesting case to follow over the course of the year. Expectations are much higher this year than last, but how the team performs after losing a valuable senior class, especially at the goalie position, will be critical. But with so much talent returning, many of whom now have deeper postseason experience, it’s not hard to imagine at least a return to the NCAA tournament for the Big Red in 2017-18.

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

ECAC Preview: #4 Clarkson Golden Knights

Today on the BobcatsHockeyBlog we look at our projected 4th place ECAC finisher, the Clarkson Golden Knights who are coming off an 6th place finish in the ECAC a season ago.

Clarkson Golden Knights 2016-2017 Results:

Overall: 18-16-5

ECAC: 10-9-3 (6th)

ECAC Tournament: Lost in ECAC Quarterfinal series 2-1 to Cornell

NCAA Tournament: No

Team History
NCAA Tournament History: 2008, 2007, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1990, 1984, 1982, 1981, 1970, 1966, 1963, 1962, 1958, 1957
NCAA Frozen Fours:  1991, 1970, 1966, 1963, 1962, 1958, 1957

Departures: Sam Vigneault (F), Troy Josephs (F), Jordan Boucher (F), Perry D'Arrisso (F), A,J. Fossen (F), James de Haas (D), Steve Perry (G), Ville Runola (G)

Additions: John Carter MacLean (F), Kevin Charyszyn (F), Grant Cooper (F), Josh Dickinson (F), Jack Jacome (F), Jere Astren (D), Connor McCarthy (D), Chris Janzen (G), Nicholas Latinovich (G)

Clarkson had their first back to back winning seasons since the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons when they won 20 plus games and reached the NCAA tournament. This is the 7th season of the Casey Jones era and has four winning seasons in his first six years at the helm in Potsdam. Expectations are high in North Country for the Golden Knights who are looking to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years.

The team lost its top four leading scorers and a total of 47% of their goals from a season ago. Leading scorer Sam Vigneault departed a year early to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent while Troy Josephs, Jordan Boucher and defenseman James de Haas all graduated. All three of those seniors were big offensive contributors. However, Clarkson had a handful of freshman contribute last season who are expected to be major contributors this season. Sheldon Rempal (23 points), Devin Brosseau (21 points), Nico Sturm (21 points) and Haralds Egle (17 points) all had very good freshman years and will be looked upon to pick up the majority of the production as sophomores this season. Clarkson has four incoming freshman forwards who produced a lot of offense in juniors last year. Kevin Charyszyn had 30 goals and 50 total points for Waterloo in the USHL while Grant Cooper was the CCHL's 7th leading scorer with 67 points. Jack Jocome lead the OJHL in scoring with 91 points (34 goals, 57 assists) and Josh Dickinson had 66 points in the OJHL. All four should factor prominently in the Golden Knights offense this year. The recruiting class took a hit when Vegas Golden Knights 6th round pick Nick Campoli could not clear NCAA Clearinghouse requirements and had to go back to the OJHL instead for this year. He is expected to be with Clarkson in the 2018-19 season.

The Golden Knights return seven defenseman who saw action in 15 games or more last year headlined by seniors Kelly Summers and Terrance Amorosa. The other four returning players are one junior (Aaron Thow) and three sophomores (Shane Kuzmeski, Greg Moro and Jordan Schneider). They welcome two freshman in Jere Astren and Connor McCarthy. Clarkson gave up 2.87 goals per game so that number will have to drop a bit if they want to see improvement from a season ago.

Goal-tending should be a strength of the team as Clarkson returns starting goaltender Jake Kielly who was strong a year ago as a freshman posting a 2.56 goals against average with a .911 save percentage and 3 shutouts in 36 games played. He will be backed up by two freshman in Chris Janzen and Nicholas Latinovich. I expect Clarkson to have a much improved defense with the amount of veterans they are returning plus Kielly manning in between the pipes.

Its very possible this is a Clarkson team that returns to Lake Placid and possibly a chance at an NCAA berth for the first time in 10 years. Casey Jones and his staff have the pieces in place and they just need to execute and stay healthy for their hard labor to come to fruition.

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