Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Q&A with Andy from @Yale_HockeyBlog

Quinnipiac vs Yale earlier this season (photo copyright BobcatsHockeyBlog)

In anticipation for the first round ECAC playoff series between local rivals Quinnipiac and Yale, @QHockeyBlog had a chance to catch up with Andy from @Yale_HockeyBlog about his thoughts on this series with analysis from the both of us along with our predictions of how it is going to play out. Thanks to Andy for taking the time out of his schedule to do this. Give him a follow on twitter for everything related to Yale Hockey @Yale_HockeyBlog.

@QHockeyBlog: Ok Andy. What are are your initial thoughts on this series between local rivals?

@Yale_HockeyBlog: It's a tough match-up for Yale but fortunately it's at Ingalls. Yale has always had problems with Quinnipiac. For years Yale has struggled to solve Rand Pecknold's system. Overall, I'm excited as a fan because there's always a little extra excitement when the two teams meet.

@Yale_HockeyBlog: I will direct that same question to you.

@QHockeyBlog: Outside of the location I think this is a good match-up for Quinnipiac. I think with how this season played out so far has obviously been a bit of a disappointment but to face a team like Yale in the ECAC first round is exciting for both fan bases and outside of the 2013 national championship loss and the game in early February at Ingalls this season, Quinnipiac has had a lot of success against Yale which I think helps.

@QHockeyBlog: In your opinion does Yale winning against Quinnipiac at Ingalls get the monkey off the back a bit or is it not even a factor?

@Yale_HockeyBlog: I'm not sure. I was just thinking about that. Yale's players do care a lot about games against Quinnipiac, though not as much as against Harvard or as much as Quinnipiac players do. Honestly, I'm not as big a believer in those type of psychological elements but it certainly felt like there was something particularly difficult with Quinnipiac. I can envision scenarios in which it's hugely consequential and other scenarios in which it's meaningless. Part of the problem is that neither Keith Allain nor the Yale players ever let on how they feel about games against Quinnipiac. They openly acknowledge the the Harvard game is big for them. But they never say the Quinnipiac game matters more than any other game which I don't really believe.

Funny story about this. Yale winning this year was a monkey off my back. Before the 2013 national title game, I made a deal with god that I'd be totally okay if Quinnipiac beat Yale in every game for the next 10 years as long as Yale won in Pittsburgh. And when they won, I actually began mentally preparing myself for the next 10 years of losses. Turns out, it only took 5 years for them to finally beat Quinnipiac again! I got off light and I'm still ready for another 5 years if necessary.

@QHockeyBlogWhat are some of the match-ups in this series that interest you the most?

@Yale_HockeyBlog: Honestly, I would have taken any of the other non-bye teams before Quinnipiac. Match-ups have been really important for Yale in the past few years because of the differing levels of skill and style of play on each line. Since the line shake-ups in January, Yale has matched Stevens-Hitchcock-Welsh with opposing teams top line. They've gotten killed in opposing rinks where teams have been able to change the match-ups. Most notably Princeton who matched Verroneau-Kuffner against the Smith brothers who simply couldn't handle the assignment. However, when they've been able to match the Hitchcock line with the opposing #1 line, they've been pretty effective shutting them down. My guess is that line will take the ice every time Tufto's line is out there. The added bonus is that this means Allain is able to match Snively-DeMontis-O'Neil with a less talented line making it much more difficult to shut Snively down. And I think Allain is pretty comfortable matching Palecco-E. Smith-T. Hart with just about any third line in the league.

@Yale_HockeyBlog: I will redirect that same question to you.

@QHockeyBlog: Honestly my my biggest match-up concern is Yale having the last change. Keith Allain will be able to as you said match up on the Tufto line along with putting the Snively line in a good situation against the 3rd and 4th lines of Quinnipiac which have not been very good at times. Rand Pecknold is going to have find ways to get the Tufto line favorable match-ups in this series because that has been the most dependable and dominant line for Quinnipiac this season.

@QHockeyBlog: Would you say that Yale's biggest concerns are who is going to be in goal and will they get enough scoring in this series?

@Yale_HockeyBlog: Those are two of the top ones. With regards to the goalie situation, it depends on how Allain plays it. My hope is that he goes with Kaczperski. Since January, the goalies have been splitting time with Tucker playing on Fridays and Kaczperski playing on Saturdays. And Kaczperski has been pretty definitively better. It's not pretty but he gets the job done. He is 5th in the nation with a .936 save percentage and is 9th in goals against at 1.92 per game. Further, his rebound control has been a big upgrade over Tucker. In fairness, Kaczperski's numbers have been buoyed by playing weaker teams (though he has done very well against Princeton and Cornell the past two weekends).

If, however, Allain splits time again, I'll be a lot less comfortable. Tucker will start the series on Friday, Kaczperski will play on Saturday and whoever Allain likes more will play Sunday. It's also conceivable that Allain will go with whoever looked best in practice during the past week. It's unlikely but he's done it before.

I'm not all that worried about the scoring. Snively has been burning hot and they have so much depth that at least 1-2 players will contribute. Hitchcock, T. Hart, Stevern, the Smith brothers, Palecco and O'Neil are all capable of contributing. Actually my top two concerns are 1.) situational defense and 2) the power play.

@Yale_HockeyBlog: What are your top 2-3 concerns for Quinnipiac going into the series?

@QHockeyBlog: For me my top 2-3 concerns are who is going to score outside of guys like Tufto, MacMaster, Whelan, Pieper and Priskie. They need others to step up especially if the Tufto line is matched up with Yale's best defensive line. The 3rd and 4th lines for Quinnipiac have not been consistent all year and I would say the 2nd line has struggled at times. Players that need to step up are Nick Jermain, Matt Forchuk and Craig Martin. This team struggles when they don't score goals as it has a trickle down effect to the defense and the goal-tending. The defense has to help with the offense at times which can leave them giving up odd man rushes and struggles with gap control at times. Also is Quinnipiac going to get consistent goal-tending in this series because they are going to need it if they are going to win. This was suppose to be a team strength with both Shortridge and Petruzzelli backstopping them and they have both struggled at times.

@QHockeyBlog: What type of crowd atmosphere should we expect in this series? I'm expecting a good amount of Quinnipiac fans as tickets were still available as early as Monday.

@Yale_HockeyBlog: It should be decent turn-out. Most Yale fans are families with young kids and retirees. However classes will be in session. In years when they get a first round bye, it's spring break and no students show up. That said, it's midterm season so the student turn out might be a bit depressed. I'm hopeful for the Yale band on Friday but we'll see. I'm sure Quinnipiac fans will come out in force.

@Yale_HockeyBlog: Who do you expect to start in goal? And what should Yale anticipate from him?

@QHockeyBlog: That's an excellent question and frankly we probably won't know the answer until Friday evening when warm-ups take place. Rand Pecknold never tips his hand and never puts the goaltenders in the order of starting on the line charts. Both Shortridge and Petruzzelli played against Yale this season with Shortridge shutting out Yale in Hamden and Petruzzelli giving up 3 goals in a loss at Ingalls. If I had to guess I think Shortridge gets the start on Friday night due to a better season. He also has playoff experience from a season ago that probably will be factor as he helped lead the team to the semifinals in Lake Placid.

@QHockeyBlog: What are your three keys for Yale would in this series?

@Yale_HockeyBlog: 1. Situational defense. This team has struggled on defense the past two years largely because of this. What I mean by this is that they don't make many mistakes but when they do, they're big. It's like all of a sudden the defense collapses. And Quinnipiac has been phenomenal at taking advantage of this over the past 4 years. Pecknold's system seem to cause these breakdowns more than any other team. Last week against Dartmouth was BRUTAL. I actually wasn't all that impressed by what Dartmouth had to offer but Yale kept shooting themselves in the foot allowing for A++ opportunities. It's been a huge problem for them.

2. Passing. Over the past two years, Yale has been playing much more individualistic, run and gun hockey. They rarely pass on odd-man rushes and don't create plays as a unit. But a few weeks ago that changed. They started passing and playing as a team. As a result, the offense has been much, much more dynamic. It's as simple as one-touch passes to create plays as a unit, not a single individual trying to do everything on their own.

3. Secondary scoring. Somebody other than Snively needs to step up each game. O'Neil did it against Harvard. Ted Hart did it against Union. Evan Smith did it against Princeton. Palecco did it against St. Lawrence. Honestly it doesn't matter who, as long as someone steps up.

@Yale_HockeyBlog: Pushing that same question to you with regards to the three keys for Quinnipiac in this series?

@QHockeyBlog: 1. Quinnipiac must get strong goal-tending whether it is from Andrew Shortridge or Keith Petruzzelli. Whenever Quinnipiac has had success in the past its due to the goal-tenders they have had starting with Eric Hartzell in 2013 and Michael Garteig in 2014, 2015 and 2016. One of them needs to be a rock in this series especially if this is a low scoring series in which it could be.

2.  Quinnipiac has to be able to find favorable match-ups in this series especially with that Tufto line along with finding other players that can step up and score for the Bobcats. Timely line changes are going to be key and catching Yale in a bad change could swing a game. They also need to identify weaknesses on the Yale that they can exploit for their advantage.

3. Play smart, disciplined hockey and stay out of the penalty box. Even though the Yale power play is the worst in the country, you don't want to give any team man advantages especially when they are at home and have the last change.

@Yale_HockeyBlog: It time for the predictions so who do you have.

@QHockeyBlog: While I think the talent level is pretty close between these two teams and the fact that Yale has the ever important final change, I am going to go with Quinnipiac in 3. This series should go the distance. Somehow I think Quinnipiac finds a way offensively to get some timely goals. I feel the crowd could help Quinnipiac out as well and the past success to me is a factor and that they just match up really well against the Bulldogs.  It won't be easy but nothing in the ECAC ever is.

@Yale_HockeyBlogI agree totally with everything you said. And for my prediction: the fan in me wants to say Yale in 3. But if I were putting money on it, I'd say Quinnipiac in 3. Yale has always struggles with Pecknold's system. They haven't solved that riddle since 2013 and, if I'm really being honest, since 2011.

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