Monday, March 18, 2019

Diliberatore & Bongiovanni named to ECAC All-League Rookie Team

Peter Diliberatore was name to the ECAC All Rookie team

Two Quinnipiac freshman were named to the ECAC All-League Rookie Team as announced by the league office on Monday. Peter Diliberatore and Wyatt Bongiovanni were honored for their outstanding freshman campaigns by being selected to the All-League Rookie Team.

Diliberatore, a native of Bedford, Nova Scotia, Canada burst on the scene directly from the prep school ranks with 19 points in 36 games with a plus 23 rating the latter which led the Bobcats this season. The sixth round draft pick of the Vegas Golden Knights, should be a staple on the Quinnipiac for the next couple of seasons in order to mature for the NHL. Diliberatore won one ECAC Rookie of the Week honors this season and was named as the ECAC Rookie of the Month for December.

Bongiovaani also was named to the ECAC All Rookie team

Bongiovanni, a native of Birmingham, Michigan finished 8th on the Bobcats in scoring with 23 points but was third on the team in goals with 14. He had six power play goals to go along with three game winning goals this season. He earned ECAC Rookie of the Week honors three times this season and was named the ECAC Rookie of the Month for February.

Quinnipiac with a record of 25-9-2 will return to action on either March 29 or 30 in the NCAA Tournament. The field will be announced on March 24 at 7 pm but Quinnipiac is currently a lock for the NCAA tournament and it is just a matter of whether they will be a #2 or #3 seed and in what region they will land in.

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 4-3 Game 2 loss to Brown

Brown became the first ECAC team to win a playoff series in Hamden

Quinnipiac was bounced out of the ECAC quarterfinals with a stunning 4-3 loss to Brown in Game 2 of on Saturday night at the People's United Bank Center. After jumping to a 2-0 lead behind two Alex Whelan goals, Brown scored four unanswered goals until Craig Martin scored an extra attacker goal with a little more than two minutes left in the game. But it was not enough as Brown now moves on to the ECAC semifinals for the first time since 2013 next weekend in Lake Placid while Quinnipiac awaits to find out where it will be seeded for the NCAA tournament next Sunday. Here are my thoughts and observations from Game 2.

- You have to give a ton of credit to Brendan Whittet and his team. Brown was prepared this series and never strayed away from their game plan. Even when they got down 2-0 in the first period,  they stayed the course and played within their game with relentless fore-check and excellent defensive play. They found another gear in the third period just like they did the previous night and frankly they wanted it more than Quinnipiac. Tonight they threw some hay-makers at Quinnipiac in which the Bobcats couldn't respond from. It took a late Craig Martin goal with an extra-attacker to bring some life back into the building and Quinnipiac just couldn't get that equalizer of a goal.

- Brown was great in this series in five on five play. Every one of the goals tonight was on five on five as they scored twice in the first two minutes of the third period when they did an excellent job of keeping the puck deep into the Quinnipiac zone as the the Bobcats struggled to clear the puck. This gave Brown a ton of life and momentum as they really pushed the pace against Quinnipiac. Brent Beaudoin put Brown ahead on a breakaway goal right after killing off a penalty while Tommy Marchin added what would be the game winning goal under two minutes later. It was another back breaking stretch of play for Quinnipiac in the third period.

- The leadership of Brown showed up tonight as co-captains Tommy Marchin (2 goals) and Max Gottlieb (1 goal) helped lead their team to the ECAC semifinals for the first time since 2013. There are no flashy players on Brown, just hard working battlers that don't ever give up. They will be a tough out against anyone when they reach Lake Placid as they are playing with confidence, nothing to lose and they are getting very good goal-tending from Gavin Nieto. Good luck to the Bears up in Lake Placid.

- Brown won three of four games against Quinnipiac and all three games it played at the People's United Center in Hamden. It was stunning to see

- It was really stunning to see how poorly Quinnipiac played in the third period tonight. I had previously thought that the second period on senior night against Clarkson was Quinnipiac's worst period of the season but this third period tops that as they were horrendous. Brown came out fast and aggressive and Quinnipiac couldn't get a clear out of its own zone. Before you looked the game was already tied at two due to Gottlieb and Marchin. The next two goals were the knock out punches from Beaudoin and Marchin again and it was just too much for Quinnipiac to overcome.

- There were tons of struggles across the board most notably the Lombardi-Burgart-Jermain line in Game 2. That line was a combined minus eight on the night and really had problems with the Brown fore-check. The Quinnipiac top line also was a no show on the night as Tufto, Bongiovanni and de Jong were held scoreless in back to back games. Brown put a ton of focus into shutting that line down this series and it worked to perfection as they weren't a factor in the series. They are going to need to be a factor if Quinnipiac has plans of getting past the first round of the NCAA tournament.

- Not having Chase Priskie was a killer in this series and just too much to overcome. He covers up a ton on this defense along with the leadership he brings and that was just flat out missing in this series. The ramifications from the Yale game came back to haunt Quinnipiac as they just didn't show a ton of discipline against a team that was going nowhere in the ECAC this season. This probably cost the Bobcats a trip to Lake Placid and they need to remember going forward that they can't do stuff like that without some sort of ramifications coming against them.

- Alex Whelan was Quinnipiac's best player on the ice tonight. He was relentless in hunting the puck and was rewarded with two goals and assisted on Martin's goal in third period. He also led the team with seven shots on goal. Craig Martin also played a solid game as well as that line of Whelan, Martin and Fallstrom was probably the best line of the night for Quinnipiac.

- Andrew Shortridge deserved better tonight. His defense in the third period was atrocious in front of him and couldn't clear pucks with any consistency. They also couldn't clear the traffic out in front of him in Game 2 as well. Shorty has saved this team many times this season and it would have been nice to see the defense play better in front of him and not look as bad as they did in the third period. 

- Not only was Quinnipiac knocked out of the ECAC playoffs but this was the first home series loss ever at the People's United Bank Center along with the first time that Quinnipiac didn't win one playoff series since entering the ECAC which was a league record. All good things must come to an end but its tough to see when the team was the #1 seed in the tournament. I for one did not see the Brown Bears being the team to end this streak but you have to give them all the credit in the world for what they accomplished this weekend.

- Not making it to Lake Placid will have ramifications for Quinnipiac. They no longer can get a #1 seed as that is now gone with the Brown sweep. They are currently holding on to a #2 seed but its possible they could even drop to a #3 by next weekend as well. They might have also played their way out of the Northeast possibly. Had they got to Lake Placid and possibly at least the championship game, I think they probably would have been a lock for either Providence or Manchester but now I could honestly see them out in Fargo depending on how things shake out next weekend. That is clearly on the table now but the hope is that this teams stays in the east whether it be Providence, Manchester or even Allentown.

- What's on tap? Quinnipiac must now wait until all the conference tournaments are completed and the seeds are released next Sunday. Quinnipiac won't see another game for two weeks but the good thing is they won't have to sweat out next week on the bubble and they will be getting captain Chase Priskie back for the NCAA tournament.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 2-1 overtime loss to Brown

Quinnipiac lost to Brown 2-1 in a heart breaking overtime loss in Game 1

After a week off Quinnipiac found itself hosting the ECAC Quarterfinals against the Brown Bears as the top seed after winning a share of the Cleary Cup. Things to did not go to plan as Quinnipiac could not hold a late 1-0 lead with Brown's Brent Beaudoin tying the game up with 21.5 seconds left. Bruno capped its Game 1 upset victory with just 2:58 left in the third period when Jack Gessert found a loose puck off the end wall and slide it past Andrew Shortridge for the game winner. Karlis Cukste scored the only goal for Quinnipiac in the loss. Here are my thought's and observations from Quinnipiac's Game 1 loss against Brown.

- This was the game Brown had to have in order to have a chance to win this series. With Quinnipiac depleted on the back end due to the two game suspension of captain Chase Priskie and the one game suspension of Luke Shiplo along with the season ending loss to Brandon Fortunato, Quinnipiac showed its vulnerability on defense with its inability to move the puck well tonight. Give the Brown Bears a ton of credit. These are pesky team without stars that play extremely hard and don't give up. Brown killing that five minute major penalty in the first period was a huge momentum boost even though they fell behind in the game. Had Quinnipiac scored a goal or two there at that juncture in the game it would have hard pressed to see Brown come back and win it with the limited scoring they have.

- I thought the Bears were the better team in this game tonight. Brown did an excellent job once again on the fore-check against Quinnipiac not allowing them to carry the puck into the zone with ease. They layered their defense well along with forcing Quinnipiac to the half wall for much of the game. Brown possessed the puck very well in this game and they seemed to get stronger as the game went on out-shooting Quinnipiac 26-12 in the third period and in overtime along with 40-26 for the game. It was an impressive performance from a confident team who will once again be difficult to beat on Saturday night.

- Quinnipiac is such a different team without Chase Priskie on defense. One thing it proved to me after this game is that Chase Priskie is the player of the year in the ECAC even if he wasn't in the top three due to his kicking incident. He is a game changer for Quinnipiac when he is on the ice and the lack of offense for Quinnipiac along with the abysmal power play tonight proved that. Here is one that ticks me off. I think it was pretty petty for the coaches of the ECAC to not make him a finalist over Ryan Kuffner who played on a terrible Princeton team especially when they named him as a finalist for best defensive defenseman. It makes no sense to hold something against him for one award while nominating him for another. Either he gets nominated for both or none at all. You can't have it both ways.

- Both teams went 0 for 4 on the power play but Quinnipiac is a top five team in that category and couldn't afford to struggle on the man advantage tonight especially without Priskie. They had too much cycling and passing and not enough shots on goal. Shoot the puck and get traffic in front of the net and usually good things happen. That five minute power play was painful to watch as they literally did nothing in the first three minutes of that man advantage.

- It will be interesting to see how much this Quinnipiac team has left in the tank for Saturday. They are getting Luke Shiplo back which will help on the defensive end, but they need to be able to generate more offense especially against a good Brown fore-check and a surging Gavin Nieto. Quinnipiac has also not been a great Saturday team this season with four of the teams eight losses coming at home on a Saturday. With their backs against the wall and another Saturday game staring them in the eyes how will these young players respond?

- Odeen Tufto is going to have nightmare's tonight when he sleeps. His overtime back hand of a shot on an open net went wide. This would have given Quinnipiac the ability to escape up in the series 1-0 especially down shorthanded on defense. Now due to that miss they find themselves on the brink of elimination in the ECAC tournament.

- Speaking of Tufto, I thought his line was not very good tonight. Without Chase Priskie it seems like they were keyed on much more by the Brown Bears and they didn't step up in the captain's absence. The line combined for just six shots along with being a minus four on the night. That is going to need to change if they want to be able to force a Game 3 on Sunday. This line combined for 90 points this season and 26% of the Bobcats offense. They can't be held scoreless in games and expect this team to always win.

- Andrew Shortridge was the best player on the ice for Quinnipiac. He made a career high 38 saves and did everything he could to keep the Bobcats in this game. He made 4-5 highlight reel saves again in which Brown could have easily scored. It was tough seeing him let that goal in with 21 seconds left but that happens in hockey sometimes as it is the price you pay for only having a one goal lead.

- Forward TJ Friedmann was used on defense tonight in lieu of the suspensions of Priskie and Shiplo. He did a solid job for someone who has played at forward all season. This was the out of the box coaching move that I suspected Rand Pecknold would do to try to cover up for his defensive losses. Twenty one seconds more and it would have worked to perfection but that is hockey sometimes.

- Quinnipiac has never lost a home playoff series at the People's United Bank Center since it open in 2007. That includes all series in the first round and quarterfinal series and now that streak is in jeopardy against Brown as they head into this game without their captain and best player in Chase Priskie. If they can force a Game 3 on Sunday then I love Quinnipiac chances to move on with the captain returning to the lineup but they have to be able to take care of business tomorrow night.

- What's on tap? It's win or go home for a few weeks until the NCAA tournament pairings are announced. A win forces a Game 3 on Sunday with a trip to Lake Placid on the line while a loss moves Brown to the ECAC final four for the first time since 2013.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

ECAC Quarterfinal preview: Quinnipiac vs. Brown

Quinnipiac is back on top of the ECAC standings after a 9th place finish a season ago. Picked to finish 8th, Quinnipiac played about expectations to win its fourth Cleary Cup in the last seven seasons sharing the cup with rival Cornell. For the first time since the 2015-2016 season, Quinnipiac spent the first week of the ECAC playoffs on a bye so the team should be healthy and ready to go for Game 1 on Friday night but the Bobcats will be without captain Chase Priskie for two games and Luke Shiplo for one game as both are suspended. Brown comes in fresh off a sweep of defending ECAC tournament champion Princeton.

Broadcast Information: ESPN +

Tale of the Tape:

#1 Quinnipiac Bobcats (#5 USCHO/#5 USA Today) 25-7-2 (14-6-2 ECAC)
3.71 Goals scored per game (4th nationally)
1.85 Goals allowed per game (3rd nationally)
27% Power Play (3rd nationally)
86.8% Penalty Kill (4th nationally)
Cleary Cup Championships: (4) 2019, 2016, 2015, 2013
Whitelaw Cup Championships: (1) 2016
NCAA Tournament Appearances: (5) 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2002
NCAA Frozen Four Appearances: (2) 2016, 2013

#8 Brown Bears 13-13-5 (8-9-5 ECAC)
2.68 Goals scored per game (Tied 34th nationally)
2.81 Goals allowed per game (33rd nationally)
13.7% Power Play (55th nationally)
81.9% Penalty Kill (27th nationally)
Cleary Cup Championships: (0)
Whitelaw Cup Championships: (0)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: (4) 1993, 1976, 1965, 1951
NCAA Frozen Four Appearances: (3) 1976, 1965, 1951

Key Players:

QuinnipiacOdeen Tufto, F (42 points), Chase Priskie, D (39 points, 10 PPG), Craig Martin F (26 points), Ethan de Jong (25 points), Wyatt Bongiovanni (23 points), Brogan Rafferty, D (22 points), Alex Whelan, F (21 points), William Fallstrom, F (19 points), Karlis Cukste, D (19 points), Peter Diliberatore, D (17 points), Andrew Shortridge, G (1.39 GAA & .944 save percentage, 4 shutouts)

Brown: Tommy Marchin, F (24 points), Tristan Crozier, F (18 points), Zach Giuttari, D (18 points), Chris Berger, F (17 points), Brent Beaudoin, F (17 points), Alex Brink, F (14 points), Max Gottlieb, D (14 points), Colin Burston, F (12 points), Justin Jallen, F (12 points), Gavin Nieto, G (2.31 GAA, .914 save percentage, 2 shutouts)

Playoff History:

2017 ECAC First Round - Quinnipiac won series 2-0 at People's United Bank Center
2013 ECAC Semifinals - Brown won 4-0 at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City
2012 ECAC First Round - Quinnipiac won series 2-1 at People's United Bank Center
2011 ECAC First Round - Quinnipiac won series 2-0 at People's United Bank Center
2008 ECAC First Round - Quinnipiac won series 2-0 at People's United Bank Center

The Skinny:

This is a match-up that features two teams that have both exceeded pre-season expectations. Quinnipiac and Brown were both picked 8th and 11th by the ECAC media respectively. The Bobcats had a better season than anyone expected, finishing first and having one of the best producing freshman classes in the country which should lay the foundation for future great teams. Brown despite finishing 8th really came on in the second half of the season with good defense and solid goal-tending. Brendan Whittet's team is filled with overachievers and hard working players as this is a team that lacks star players. Quinnipiac on the other hand has many players up for ECAC and national awards.

Statistically, Quinnipiac has been one of the best teams in the country which helped pave the way for a 25 win season and an eventual berth into the NCAA tournament. This is a team that is in the top five nationally in the big four categories of goals for, goals allowed, power play and penalty kill. The team clearly has shown it is the real deal. They have a star goaltender in Andrew Shortridge, a star forward in Odeen Tufto and a star defenseman in Chase Priskie. The latter however is suspended for the first two games of this series stemming from a kicking incident against Yale. His loss could be a huge loss in the first two games as this is a Brown team that has shown it can beat Quinnipiac this season especially in Hamden. Overall this is an excellent Quinnipiac team with a lot of depth on the roster. However that defensive depth will be tested this weekend with many young players needing to step up in Peter Diliberatore, Zach Metsa, Cam Boudreau and also Marcus Chorney who should see some action. I also wouldn't be shocked to see Rand Pecknold think outside the box in filling for these defensive losses so keep that in mind. But if Quinnipiac can play to their identity and dictate the game they should be able to win this series.

Brown isn't a flashy team but they work well as a unit and play to the best of their abilities and play hard as a team. Sometimes those traits can make up for the lack of skill as we saw when they outworked Quinnipiac to a 4-1 victory in Hamden back in February. Brown has the ability to play a strong fore-checking game along with puck possession which has them become a better team this season. They are going to have to give that type of effort if they want to upset Quinnipiac. Captain Tommy Marchin leads the way for the Bears with 9 goals and 24 points. He has gotten some help from underclassmen Tristan Crozier, Chris Berger, Colin Burston and Justin Jallen that have really helped elevate Brown into a very competitive hockey team. Throw in upperclassmen Zach Giuttari, Brent Beaudoin, Alex Brink and Max Gottlieb, the Bears have a nice mix of youth and veterans which have helped get them to this point. Statistically they are a middle of the road team in goals for, goals allowed and penalty kill. On the power play is where they really struggle at just 13.7%. They really need to stay in a five on five game and use their strong fore-check in order to create turnovers into scoring opportunities. Gavin Nieto returns as the starter in net back from injury so he will give Quinnipiac a different look at the Bobcats only faced Luke Kania in their previous two meetings.

The Prediction:

With the fact that Brown has already proven that they can win on Quinnipiac's home ice along with the suspensions of Chase Priskie and Luke Shiplo this series should be tougher than most expect. Brown has played very well in the second half of the season minus a late season swoon which saw them lose three of their four regular season games. They took care of Princeton in two games needing triple overtime in game two to seal the series win. Brown is a hard working over achieving team but they are now up against a pretty deep Quinnipiac team that won 25 games and is bound for the NCAA tournament. Even with the losses of two defensive players, Quinnipiac should have enough in the arsenal to move on to Lake Placid even if they are pushed in this series.

Qunnipiac in 3

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Saturday, March 2, 2019

Thoughts and observations on Quinnipiac's Cleary Cup clinching win over Yale

Quinnipiac won a share of the Cleary Cup with a 4-1 win over Yale

It was a wild night in the ECAC but when the musical chairs ended Quinnipiac found themselves at the top and as co-champions with Cornell. Two goals by Nick Jermain along with goals by Ethan de Jong and TJ Friedmann paced the offense as Quinnipiac beat their Whitney Avenue rivals 4-1 on Saturday night at Ingalls Rink. Here are my thoughts and observations from this wild affair between Quinnipiac and Yale.

- Quinnipiac won its fourth ECAC regular season title in the last seven years with a convincing 4-1 win over Yale. They however shared the title with the Cornell Big Red who tied Clarkson 2-2 after a late goal by the Golden Knights prevented Cornell from winning the title outright. At 25-7-2 Quinnipiac finishes with the 5th most win in program history after being picked to finish 8th in the preseason polls. What a season this has been but there is still more work to be done.

- The Cleary Cup came at a price though as both Chase Priskie and Luke Shiplo got ejected from the and got disqualification penalties which come with automatic one game suspensions in the ECAC playoffs. Both will miss the first game of the quarterfinals while Chase Priskie could get even more for his kick with his skate on the Yale player. It was a dangerous play and so uncharacteristic of the Quinnipiac captain as I have never seen him lose his cool like that before. You have to hope that with his history of not getting into trouble this will just be a single game. Without Priskie in that first series could be a problem for Quinnipiac depending on the opponent but we will not know that until next weekend.

- This game was completely out of control. Quinnipiac and Yale combined for 91 penalty minutes in this game. I have never seen that type of play in a Quinnipiac-Yale game get so chippy. This game reminded me of some of those Quinnipiac-Cornell games of the past where chippy play and roughing and extra curricular stuff was the norm. There is no excuse for what Chase Priskie did. None. But lets not let Yale off the hook here. They initiated a lot of this stuff because of their lack of talent on the ice knowing they couldn't beat Quinnipiac on the scoreboard. That's a fact and I am surprised a Keith Allain team stooped to that level tonight. I hope that RPI sweeps them out at Ingalls next weekend.

- While this doesn't ever remove the sting of losing the National Championship in Pittsburgh to Yale, I take solace in the fact that they won a share of the Cleary Cup at Ingalls Rink in front of the Bulldogs fans. If there is any place I would want to win a league championship outside of the People's United Bank Center it would be at Yale.

- Quinnipiac played the first ten minutes of this game on fire controlling the play against Yale and having a strong compete level in this game. That carried over to the second period when they took further control and put this game out of reach extending the lead to 4-0. Quinnipiac seems to always get up for these games while Yale tends not to for whatever reason except one game that I will not mention again.

- It was back to back multi point games for Nick Jermain who has fought off injuries this season. Jermain has five points in his last four games including four goals. Him getting hot at the right time could be a big boost to the Bobcats offense especially with him playing on the fourth line with Lombardi and Burgart. This is also the second multi point game against Yale for him this season and also the second time that he has had a two goal game at Ingalls Rink as he had one in his freshman season back in 2016-2017.

- TJ Friedmann also had another goal and that is back to back games for him with a goal. Its good to see him rewarded for his hard work playing on that physical third line with Joe O'Connor and Scott Davidson. His goal along with de Jong plus three other freshman with points gave the freshman class five of the ten points scored tonight. What an impressive class this has been which will help lead this program hopefully to even greater heights in the next few years.

- Andrew Shortridge was strong again for Quinnipiac tonight as he made 24 saves to move his record to 17-4-2 with four shutouts. His 1.44 goals against and .944 save percentage lead the nation. He's been more than what I believe anyone expected this year and has carried Quinnipiac at times from in between the pipes. In two weeks, he will need to do so again especially with Chase Priskie and Luke Shiplo getting automatic one game suspensions.

- No one has a bigger task than the Quinnipiac freshman defenseman do in two weeks. With Chase Priskie and Luke Shiplo suspended at least a game and Brandon Fortunato done for the season, the Bobcats depth on the blue line will be tested. That means Peter Diliberatore, Zach Metsa and Cam Boudreau will need to play big roles in the first series for Quinnipiac with possibly Marcus Chorney stepping in as the 7th defenseman. Whoever Quinnipiac plays it will be a big test due to the losses of Priskie and Shiplo.

- What Rand Pecknold and the Quinnipiac coaching staff has done this season is beyond remarkable. Picked to finish 8th by the media and 7th by the coaches, Quinnipiac won a share of the Cleary Cup with this team playing at least nine to ten freshman a night. Tonight against Yale they had ten freshman in the lineup including three on the blue line alone. This just shows what type of players Quinnipiac brings in alone with the face that Rand and his coaching staff can coach up to champions sooner than anyone expected. Coach Pecknold should be a lock to win the ECAC coach of the year in my opinion and should be a candidate for the Spencer Penrose Award, though I don't believe he will win it.

- What's on tap? A nice week off to watch the first round of the ECAC playoffs commence. Quinnipiac can play one of five teams in Brown, Princeton, Colgate, RPI or St. Lawrence. Most likely thought they will get the winner of the Brown-Princeton series as I don't think Colgate, RPI or St. Lawrence pull upsets though RPI probably has the best chance to be that team that does pull the upset.

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Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 4-1 win over Brown

Quinnipiac clinched a first round bye with a win over Brown

Quinnipiac returned the favor against Brown and beat them 4-1 which was the same score they beat the Bobcats a few weeks ago in Hamden by. It was a solid rebound performance after a brutal second period six days ago against Clarkson led to a 5-3 loss in the regular season home finale on senior night. Once against Quinnipiac responded with a strong Friday night effort like they have all season long. Here are my thoughts and observations from the win over Brown.

- Quinnipiac wrapped up a first round bye in the ECAC playoffs for the first time since the 2015-2016 after a 4-1 win over Brown Friday night in Providence. The 24th win of the season ties the 2013-2014 Bobcats for the fifth most wins in a season in school history. After two seasons away from the NCAA tournament, Quinnipiac will be there again this season and the only thing that remains is if they will get to the tournament as an at-large team or as the ECAC tournament champion.

- A strong second half of the first period was the difference for Quinnipiac as they scored three goals en route to jumping on the Bears. Alex Whelan (11), TJ Friedmann (2) and Odeen Tufto (15) put the Bobcats on the scoreboard in the opening period as the team would never look back against Brown. It wasn't the greatest effort as Quinnipiac was sloppy a bit in the second and third periods and will need to be better going forward in the playoffs if it wants to get to Lake Placid. This time of year the need for a 60 minute effort each night is crucial.

- It took 33 games in the regular season but Quinnipiac got its first short-handed goal of the season courtesy of Alex Whelan. The junior raced into the offensive for a loose puck and ended up getting a quick breakaway before putting one past Luke Kania. Whelan has set a career high for points in a season with 21 a year after putting up 19 as a sophomore. 

- Speaking of Luke Kania he was really good again tonight for Brown with 31 saves and he really keep the score within reach with many key saves as Quinnipiac could have had at least 4-5 goals or more tonight. He has really been a key cog of why Brown has been very good in the second half of the season. 

- Andrew Shortridge was denied a shutout but was still very good in net but really was not tested in this game as he made only 16 saves. Give credit to the Bobcats defense as they held Brown to only 10 shots in the first two periods combined including just two in the second period. Add in the fact that they also blocked 13 shots and it was a good all around effort on the defensive end in order to let Shortridge see the puck well.

- Odeen Tufto surpassed his freshman season point total in five less games as he now has 42 points. With one game in the regular season left plus a potential of up to four to five ECAC tournament games and up to four NCAA tournament games, we could see him reach well over 50 points this season. Tufto has become a much more dangerous player as he has shown more ability to score goals this season than he did a year ago. 

- What a pretty goal that was by TJ Friedmann sniping one bar down in the slot. His celebration was even just as good as well. He has been part of a big contributing freshman class that has 112 of Quinnipiac's 333 points this season which is 33% of their offense. 

- It's pretty amazing that as we close the regular season tomorrow night that not one Quinnipiac player is a minus this season. You have to go back to the 2015-2016 season when every player but Craig Martin was a plus player for the season. 

- The final day of the ECAC regular season should be crazy with Cornell, Quinnipiac, Harvard and Clarkson separated by just two points. In order for Quinnipiac to win the Cleary Cup outright they would need to beat Yale tomorrow night coupled with Clarkson beating Cornell and Union beating Harvard. I think the latter might be pushing it with the way Union has struggled this season. It wouldn't shock me if the first two things happened but Harvard won thus splitting the Cleary Cup with the Crimson. Even teams in spots 5-11 are jockeying for positioning though teams 5-8 are locked into home ice already. The only team set in stone is St. Lawrence at 12th. 

- In order for Quinnipiac to win the Cleary Cup they will need to have an improved effort on Saturday as that has been a weakness for them this season as the record has not been good. Expect Yale to be energized in order to spoil Quinnipiac from possibly winning or getting a share of the ECAC regular season title.

- My final thought of the night is two words. Beat Yale!

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Friday, March 1, 2019

Weekend Preview: Brown/Yale

Quinnipiac finishes on the road and will need help to win the Cleary Cup

Brown Head Coach: 
Brendan Whittet (10th year) 95-179-44

2018-2019 Brown record: 11-11-5 (8-7-5 ECAC)

All-time vs. Brown: Quinnipiac leads 23-8-6

Brown Key Players: Tommy Marchin (F), Tristan Crozier (F), Chris Berger (F), Joachim Weberg (F), Brent Beaudoin (F), Zach Giuttari (D), Max Gottlieb (D), Luke Kania (G)

Perhaps the most surprising season in the ECAC this year is the Brown Bears. Picked to finish 12th by the coaches and 11th in the media poll, Brendan Whittet's team has surpassed expectations and has been a challenge to play against for many teams in the ECAC. Come playoff time they could be a sleeper pick to reach Lake Placid. Since the calendar has turned to 2019, Brown is 8-4-2 and playing with confidence that we have no seen in a half decade when they made a surprise run to the ECAC finals in 2013.

While Brown doesn't have an intimidating offense as they average only 2.67 goals per game they do a lot of good things well to generate offense most notably on the fore-check as well saw the last time these two teams played. Tommy Marchin leads all scorers with 21 points while freshman Tristan Crozier has given them 17 points. The last time Quinnipiac played Brown the Bears had the worst power play in the country. That isn't the case anymore as they jumped all the way to 53rd in the country with some recent good play on the special teams.

Brown has improved defensively as well since the last time these teams have played as they are giving up 2.70 goals per game now as opposed to 2.86 a few weeks ago. They have a solid defensive structure which has enabled them to play winning hockey in 2019 so far.  Zach Giuttari and Max Gottlieb are the two leaders on the back end with each of them having 15 and 13 points respectively.  Brown's penalty kill has been solid at 82.3%. Brown will need to do similar things on defense like they did the last time against Quinnipiac when they won play in the neutral zone with an aggressive fore-check along with clogging up passing lanes.

Luke Kania has seen the last seven starts with the injury to Gavin Nieto and has led the Bears to a 3-2-2 record in that time frame. His 47 save performance at Quinnipiac and his shutout last weekend against Dartmouth are his most impressive performances of the season. Expect Brendan Whittet to ride the hot hand in Luke Kania even if Gavin Nieto is healthy.

Yale Head Coach: Keith Allain (13th season) 233-155-42

2018-2019 Yale record: 13-11-3 (11-8-1 ECAC)

All-time vs. Yale : Quinnipiac leads series 21-7-5

Yale Key Players: Joe Snively (F), Robbie DeMontis (F), Justin Pearson (F), Kevin O'Neill (F), Curtis Hall (F), Phil Kemp (D), Jack St. Ivany (D), Sam Tucker (G), Corbin Kaczperski (G)

Heading into the final weekend of the year you expect a team like Yale to be playing its best hockey. That is not the case as this is a team that has lost four of its last six games and is only 6-7-1 since the calendar turned to 2019. In the four losses, Yale has only scored one goal. Not a one goal per game. One goal in total. They were shutout against Quinnipiac, Dartmouth and most recently Harvard. Yale seems to be trending in the wrong direction especially with the playoffs set to begin in one week.

The Bulldogs offense has really struggled in the last few weeks. They are down to 37th in the country in offense at 2.63 goals per game which is tied with Nebraska Omaha. They are essentially Joe Snively and everyone else and really that is a fact. The key to beating Yale is not to let Snively beat you as no one else seems like they can put the puck into the net consistently for the Bulldogs. Robbie DeMontis and Kevin O'Neil have 18 and 15 points respectively but that still trails the 30 points of Snively by a wide margin. The Yale power play is also not that great this season converting on just 16.5% (16-of-97) good for 38th in the country.

Defensively Yale has been solid giving up 2.67 goals per game which is 25th in the country. With some of the talent back in there in Phil Kemp, Jack St. Ivany, Chandler Lindstrand and Graham Lillibridge. Lillibridge has probably played below expectations compared to the strong season he put up in the USHL last year with the Chicago Steel.  I figured this would be a strength of the Bulldogs but it is more closer to the middle of the pack than the top. On the penalty kill the Bulldogs are average at 81.4% which is good for 28th in the country. Quinnipiac did a nice job the last time out attacking that defense and making the Bulldogs play from behind rather than in front.

Keith Allain continues to split his goaltenders which is shocking at this point in the season and possibly the reason the team can't get into a rhythm on top of scoring issues. Corbin Kaczperski plays on Friday while Sam Tucker plays on Saturdays. With this game at Ingalls on a Saturday the expectation is that Quinnipiac will see Sam Tucker to conclude the regular season. Tucker has the better cumulative stats with goals against and save percentage but has a losing record compared to Kaczperski. It's literally been since the 2015-2016 season when Yale had Alex Lyon manning the pipes that the Bulldogs had one consistent starter in net. You can probably point to this as one of the reasons that Yale has not made the NCAA tournament since then either.

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Wyatt Bongiovanni named ECAC rookie of the week

Wyatt Bongiovanni picked up his third ECAC rookie of the week

After a split of the weekend with St. Lawrence and Clarkson, Quinnipiac freshman Wyatt Bongiovanni took home his third ECAC rookie of the week honors per a press release from the league office. He had a hat trick and an assist in Friday's 7-2 win over St. Lawrence. Two of the goals came by way of the power play. It is the sixth time this season that a Quinnipiac freshman has taken home the rookie of the week honors.

Bongiovanni who picked up his first collegiate hat trick previously was the rookie of the week for February 4th and November 19th. It was his first four point game at Quinnipiac and his third game this year with three or more points. Bongiovanni is tied for second on the team with 14 goals scored and is sixth in scoring with 22 points. 

Congratulations to Wyatt on another great accomplishment. Quinnipiac concludes the regular season this weekend when they travel to Brown on Friday before a short drive down Whitney Avenue on Saturday to face rival Yale at Ingalls Rink. 

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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 5-3 loss to Clarkson

Chase Priskie finishes his highlight reel goal past Clarkson's Jake Kielly

It wasn't how Quinnipiac planned senior night at the People's United Bank Center as the Bobcats struggled in a 5-3 loss to Clarkson. It was a night the team honored their five seniors including captain Chase Priskie, assistant captain Scott Davidson, Craig Martin, Luke Shiplo and Brandon Fortunato for their service and dedication to the men's ice hockey program. Here are my thoughts and observations along with some quotes from Rand Pecknold and Chase Priskie following the loss.

- It was a sloppy effort all around for Quinnipiac as they struggled with puck possession all night as Clarkson did a good job in the neutral zone and preventing the Bobcats from having easy entry into the offensive zone. The second period was one of the worst periods of the season when they surrendered four goals to Clarkson. "We didn't buy in and we strayed from our identity, Rand Pecknold said following the loss." 

- The one bright spot on the night was Chase Priskie. His first goal was and end to end masterpiece where he dangled past multiple Clarkson defenders before putting it past Jake Kielly while his second one was a blast from the point that gave him 39 career goals which is the most in school history for a defenseman. What Chase Priskie has accomplished in four years is pretty outstanding. He came in as an undrafted freshman in the summer of 2015 to get an early start and put up a 26 point year to in his freshman season in helping the team reach the Frozen Four. He got drafted that spring by Washington in the 6th round. He followed up his sophomore campaign with another 26 point season and was named the captain for his junior season and had another consistent 25 point season. He returned to Quinnipiac after the team struggled and has turned in a 39 point season so far as a senior leading the team to the brink of the NCAA tournament along with being a Hobey Baker candidate. Throw in the fact that he got his undergrad degree and MBA in four years as a cherry on the top. Chase Priskie is the heart and soul of this team and one of the best players to ever put on a Quinnipiac sweater. 

- Andrew Shortridge was hung out to dry against Clarkson. Hardly any of those goals were his fault and Quinnipiac had sloppy turnovers in their own zone or the neutral zone to lead to breakaways. He did all he could back there with how poorly his defense played in front of him. "You are not going to win in this league or any league 6-5 or 7-6, Chase Priskie said following the loss. We have to be better and we can't give up grade A chances. Andrew played good tonight. We can expect those big time saves every night and we just didn't give him a chance on any of those goals."

- Quinnipiac's top line of Odeen Tufto, Wyatt Bongiovanni and Ethan de Jong really struggled tonight. The line was a combined minus seven on the night with six shots on goal. For this team to have huge success especially come tournament time that line is going to need to have success. Tufto also struggled on the face-off dot winning only 10-of-24. 

- I said after the Friday game that I wanted to see how Quinnipiac responded offensively especially on the power play as you couldn't judge them against a terrible team like St. Lawrence. Tonight they had two massive power play opportunities and fumbled them. In the first period the Bobcats had a five on three advantage for 1:24 and had very few shots while in the second period they had a five minute major which they did nothing on as well. Give Clarkson credit for their penalty kill as it was a difference in the game.

- Speaking of Clarkson that was a hungry and desperate team that played last night. They came into the night having gone 4-4-1 in their last nine games and having dropped to 15th in the pairwise a dangerous spot to be in this late in the season. While this win won't put them in the tournament right now it was a huge boost for them pushing them to 12th in the pairwise and also in position to clinch a first round bye next weekend at home. "I thought Clarkson was really good tonight, said Pecknold in his opening statement. They dug down and finished their chances. They were good on special teams and they deserved to win." 

- What is it with the struggles of Quinnipiac on Saturday night the second night of a back to back? They are 6-6-1 on the second night of the weekend with their Friday record 11-1-1. Part of it is you are practicing and game planning for your Friday opponent while its really unknown how much prep goes into the Saturday opponent until right after the Friday game ends. Add in the fact that this is a young team playing 9-10 freshman a night and you are going to have some struggles at times. However if you want to have success in the ECAC tournament and NCAA tournament you are going to need to prove you can consistently win those back to back games. 

- A night after RPI's surprise win put Quinnipiac in the driver's seat for the Cleary Cup, the Bobcats moved into the passenger seat with the loss to Clarkson coupled with Cornell's win over Union 3-1. The Big Red moved a point ahead of Quinnipiac with just two league games remaining next weekend. Cornell travels up to St. Lawrence on Friday followed by a huge showdown with Clarkson on Saturday night. Cornell should beat the Saints pretty easily but should be in a battle with the Golden Knights the following night.

- It's pretty amazing that as we head to the final weekend of ECAC play that no team has clinched a first round bye yet. Seven teams can still get a bye though teams in spots 5-7 need some serious help for that to happen but Cornell is in the drivers seat for the Cleary Cup needing just a win coupled with losses by Quinnipiac and Harvard on Friday to clinch it. Quinnipiac needs some help as they will likely need to sweep the weekend or get a win and tie with Cornell and Harvard both losing a game to win the regular season title. Whoever finishes 5th will get St. Lawrence in the first round as they are the only team locked into a spot. For any team on the pairwise bubble it is not an opponent that will help them either.

- It's on to Brown. The Bears came into Quinnipiac on February 9th and took it to the Bobcats winning 4-1 and really dominating the neutral zone and the fore-check. Quinnipiac needs to play a much better possession game and on defense if they want to beat a surging Brown squad who have clearly played above the 12th place finish they were predicted in the preseason. One mentality for Quinnipiac that they need to do is just focus on the Brown Bears and not the game against the Yale Bulldogs the next night in New Haven. Brown is the most important game on the schedule right now and if they want to win the Cleary Cup as regular season champions they will need to win that game in Providence first.

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Friday, February 22, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 7-2 win over St. Lawrence

Quinnipiac beat St. Lawrence handily on Friday 7-2

The penultimate regular season home game ended in a winning fashion for Quinnipiac as they took care of business on Friday night beating St. Lawrence 7-2. The Bobcats score three first period goals and five unanswered en route to cruising to an easy win over the last place Saints. The 23rd win of the season matches the teams total in the 2016-2017 campaign. Five different players scored for Quinnipiac who now welcome Clarkson on senior night on Saturday. Here are my thought's and observations from the St. Lawrence game.

- Quinnipiac's offense exploded in the win over St. Lawrence scoring 7 goals. The Bobcats got off to a fast start with three first period goals with all of them coming by way of the power play. Chase Priskie, William Fallstrom and Wyatt Bongiovanni each scored first period goals on the man advantage to stake Quinnipiac to the early lead. The offense did what they had to do against the last place team in the ECAC as they swept St. Lawrence this season by a combined score of 14-4.

- While it was a great offensive display and Quinnipiac scored three goals on the power play, I need to see if this will carry over to tomorrow's game against Clarkson and the rest of the year. Coming off three games of offensive struggles, the opponent tonight Quinnipiac faced is one of the worst in the country. If they can put say four to five goals in tomorrow against Clarkson then we may see the offensive struggles possibly in the rear view mirror. The power play did look improved with Ethan de Jong moving to the top line to fill the void of Brandon Fortunato.

- It was a huge night by Quinnipiac freshman Wyatt Bongiovanni with a hat trick along with an assist. Bongiovanni is now tied for second on the team in goals with 14 with five of them coming on the power play. He has 22 points on the season which is one behind fellow freshman Ethan de Jong for the most by a freshman this season. The Michigan native brings so much speed and skill for Quinnipiac along with the ability to finish something that was clearly lacking last season.

- St. Lawrence is a really bad and undisciplined hockey team. They hung with Quinnipiac for the first seven to eight minutes of the game then took a penalty which led to the first goal. They took another penalty right after Quinnipiac scored on its first power play but killed it off but ended the period with two penalties including a bench minor for too many men on the ice. Those two penalties led to another two goals for the Bobcats and they never looked back. The Saints are young and two of their talented younger players scored in Gleekel and Hanson but at this point in the season I feel like St. Lawrence should show a little bit more discipline on the ice.

- The Saints had two golden chances on the power when they had a full two minute five on three after Scott Davidson and Joe O'Connor took penalties for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct respectively and a five minor major penalty when Brogan Rafferty made contact to the head of one the St. Lawrence players. However both times St. Lawrence put up a big fat zero on the man advantage as Karlis Cukste blocked three shots on one power play alone. When you have these types of advantages you can't waste them and St. Lawrence big time tonight.

With the win and a Cornell loss Quinnipiac moved back into 1st place

- Speaking of Brogan Rafferty that was a dangerous penalty he was assessed and totally unnecessary to do in that situation. Rafferty is one of Quinnipiac's most important defenders and with Brandon Fortunato sidelined for the season becomes even that more important on the defensive and offensive end as you saw with his three assist night. His contact to the head penalty resulted in a five minor major and a game misconduct. Its unknown if any additional supplemental discipline with be handed down by the ECAC.

- It was an easy night for Andrew Shortridge who only had to make nine saves before getting some rest and giving way to Keith Petruzzelli in the third period when the team had a big lead. He lowered his goals against to a nation leading 1.24 along with his .950 save percentage which also leads the country. Right now he is the favorite to win the Mike Richter award in my opinion as the top goaltender in the country.

- Really nice to see senior associate captain Scott Davidson have a two point night. He assisted on the sixth goal by Nick Jermain and scored the seventh and final goal of the game. While points have not come every game for him he brings toughness and good defensive play from the third line and is a glue guy for for this team. Tonight he was rewarded for a really good effort.

- Quinnipiac honored head coach Rand Pecknold prior to the game with a 500 banner to commemorate reaching that milestone earlier this season. Already the greatest men's ice hockey coach in school history, Pecknold is also one of the great coaches in college hockey today. Its a been a true honor having him coach this university to the success it has had.

- It was great results for Quinnipiac around the conference on Friday night. Yale lost to Dartmouth pushing them three points behind the Bobcats but the biggest stunner of the night came up in Ithaca as RPI stunned Cornell 3-2 in overtime as Quinnipiac now has a one point lead on Cornell and will control its own destiny from here on out for the Cleary Cup. Quinnipiac will clinch a first round bye with a win tomorrow night against Clarkson

- Whats on tap? Senior night takes place tomorrow night at the People's United Center against Clarkson as Quinnipiac will honor its five seniors which include Chase Priskie, Craig Martin, Scott Davidson, Luke Shiplo and the currently injured Brandon Fortunato. While this team will play a minimum of two more home games with a maximum of three its a good chance to go out and thank these players for the years of service they have given to Quinnipiac hockey.

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Weekend Preview: St. Lawrence/Clarkson

Captain Chase Priskie will play his final two regular season home games this weekend

St. Lawrence Head Coach: Mark Morris (3rd year) 29-64-11, 335-220-53 overall

2018-2019 St. Lawrence record: 4-24-2 (2-14-2 ECAC)

All-time vs. St. Lawrence: St. Lawrence leads series 15-14-5

St. Lawrence Key Players: Carson Gicewicz (F), Zach Risteau (F), David Jankowski (F), Cade Gleekel (F), Michael Ederer (F), Jake Stevens (D), Bo Hanson (D),  Emil Zetterquist (G)

Its been three weeks since Quinnipiac last played and beat St. Lawrence and in that time the Saints have yet to get a single win. They tied Dartmouth last Saturday and the night before skated to a tough 3-2 loss against Harvard. Since the 7-2 loss to Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence has been competitive in the last two weeks of ECAC play. Will they bring that same effort this weekend against Quinnipiac. Right now that is unknown but you can never overlook an opponent even as one as bad as St. Lawrence has played this season. Quinnipiac needs these two points as they continue to chase Cornell in the standings for the Cleary Cup crown.

St. Lawrence comes to Hamden with one of the worst offenses still in the country ranked 55th averaging 1.93 goals per game. That however isn't even the worst in the ECAC as that honor belongs to Colgate. Over their last four games, St. Lawrence has only average 1.75 goals per game.  They still do not have a goal scorer who has double digits in goals scored. Freshman David Jankowski has seven goals this year while sophomore Cade Gleekel has six and freshman Zach Risteau has five. Its a young offense with very experience that is suffering growing pains but should get better in the next couple of years. The Saints power play is almost middle of the pack at 17.2% which is 35th in the country.

The Saints continue to boost the worst defense in college hockey. However when these teams last played they were giving up over four goals per game. That number is now just below that at 3.93 per game. So there has been some slight improvement but part of it can be attributed to playing Colgate and Dartmouth in that four game stretch. Is this defense turning a corner or will Quinnipiac blow them out of the water like they did when they met in North Country? The penalty kill has not improved either as it has dropped to 77% which is down from 78.% when these two teams previously met.

Freshman Emil Zetterquist has played the past four games in goal and has given up 2.75 goals per game for the Saints. Those numbers may not be anything special but they are vast improvement over what St. Lawrence has done over the course of the season. At 6'1, 190, Zetterquist brings solid size in net for the Saints. This will be his first game against Quinnipiac should he get the start on Friday which is likely considering he has started the past four games.

Associate Captain Scott Davidson will be honored on senior night on Saturday

Clarkson Head Coach: Casey Jones (8th season) 139-126-36

2018-2019 Clarkson record: 20-10-0 (11-7-0 ECAC)

All-time vs. Clarkson: Quinnipiac leads series 16-11-3

Clarkson Key Players: Nico Sturm (F), Haralds Egle (F), Jack Jacome (F), Devin Brosseau (F), Josh Dunne (F), Aaron Thow (D), Greg Moro (D), Connor McCarthy (D), Jake Kielly (G)

The last four weeks have been up and down for Clarkson. Over that time frame the Golden Knights have gone 4-4 and are currently sitting at 13th in the pairwise rankings which is a tough spot to be in this late in the season. For Clarkson they are going to need this game along with the Cornell one the following week in order to boost their pairwise status as they are clearly close to the cut line and a possible bubble team heading into March. For Quinnipiac they need to be able to continue to keep pace with Cornell in the race for the top seed and the regular season title.

While Clarkson has a very good offense, over the past eight games there has been some drop off. They are no longer in the top ten in goals scored as they are currently 17th at 3.10 goals per game while the power play has also dipped below 20% at a current rate of 19.4%. This is still a dangerous offense lead by Nico Sturm's 36 point and Haralds Egle's 31 points. Freshman Josh Dunne is third on the team with 11 goals scored while Jack Jacome and Devin Brosseau have 20 points apiece. It will be interesting to see if their recent offensive issues translate a bit this week on the road.

The defense has also slightly slipped in terms of stats but not a great as the offense has. Currently they are allowing 2.00 goals per game which is 7th in the country up from the 1.88 they allowed when Quinnipiac played them in North Country. The penalty kill is just a shade off from where it was a month ago as it is currently at 84.9% which is good for 12th in the country. Their top four of Aaron Thow, Greg Moro, Jordan Schneider and Connor McCarthy have been workhorses playing in every game this season for Clarkson.

Jake Kielly continues to put together another fine season in between the pipes for the Golden Knights. He has started all 30 games for Clarkson and is 20-10 with a 1.92 goals against average and a .929 save percentage with five shutouts this season. Against Quinnipiac the last time out he made 19 saves and gave up three goals in a 4-2 loss to the Bobcats. Over his last eight games during the up and down stretch for Clarkson, his goals against average is 2.12. Despite a little bit of down play, he has the capability of turning in a strong effort on a nightly basis.

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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 2-1 win over RPI

Quinnipiac got three much needed point in the capital region this weekend

Quinnipiac got into the win column and got two much needed ECAC points after a late Odeen Tufto power play goal stole a win in regulation on the road. Coupled with losses by Harvard and Cornell, Quinnipiac sits only one point out of first place with four games to play. Here are my thoughts and observations after the RPI game.

- Quinnipiac probably stole this game in regulation but they will take it. A late penalty on RPI's Donovan Ott opened the door for Quinnipiac to get out of Houston Field House with a 2-1 win after Odeen Tufto banged one home from the slot for his 14th goal of the season. It was the first power play goal for Quinnipiac since the St. Lawrence game.

- Andrew Shortridge only made 18 saves but really kept Quinnipiac in this one with a key save on Brady Wiffen on the power play to keep the score 1-0. He made the saves he had to make and continues to play at a high level and likely will be the ECAC goaltender of the year if this play continues.  

- This game was a dogfight with RPI and frankly I am not surprised one bit. The Engineers have been one of the better ECAC teams since the calendar has turned to 2019 and they have a very good goaltender in freshman Owen Savory who continues to play at a high level and keep RPI in games. The RPI defense was also very good cutting off lanes for Quinnipiac to shoot. Color me impressed by RPI and I believe they will be a tough out in the ECAC playoffs with the way they are playing.

- It is definitely time to be a bit concerned with this offense as they have a combined four goals in their last three games. The injury to Brandon Fortunato is showing up right now as they have not been able to get into a rhythm offensively the past three games. If they can't improve the offense over what we have seen the past three games then this injury is clearly going to loom large for this team.

- It was a big night for the Bobcats on the face-off dot as they beat RPI 44-18 in that category. 
William Fallstrom continues to remind me of Tommy Schutt on face offs as he won 10 of 12 tonight while Nick Jermain won 15 and Odeen Tufto won 12. Scott Davidson also went 5 for 5 on the face-off dot as well.

- Daniel Winslow returned to the lineup and scored the tying goal in the second period and had a great celebration to boot. Winslow has given this team four goals this year but none bigger than that one so far. Two of his four goals have come against RPI in both of the games this season.

- I thought the Quinnipiac power play struggled at times with too much cycling of the puck and not enough shooting. They need to put the puck on net and create chaos in front of the net to cause redirects and deflections for goals. Good things happen sometimes when you put pucks towards the goal. 

- The win moved Quinnipiac back to 5th in the pairwise after Saturday night as Ohio State was swept on the weekend by Minnesota. The Bobcats remain in a good spot right now and can still get a number one seed depending on how they finished the regular season and conference tournament. 

- Next weekend is the final regular season home stand of the year with St. Lawrence on Friday followed by a very good Clarkson team on Saturday night which is senior night. Chase Priskie, Brandon Fortunato, Craig Martin, Scott Davidson and Luke Shiplo will be honored for their four year careers with the Bobcats. 

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Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 1-1 tie against Union

Andrew Shortridge was the best player on the ice for Quinnipiac against Union

While this wasn't the most pretty performance for Quinnipiac, they were still able to salvage a point after a 1-1 tie against a tough Union team on the road. In the ECAC there are no easy games each and every week you look up and down the league scoreboard and you can constantly find upsets. Both teams battled hard and goal-tending stole the show. It was a fast paced game with a good amount of action despite only two goals scored. Here are my thoughts and observations after the Union game.

- Andrew Shortridge made 27 saves and on this night Quinnipiac needed every single one of them. He made a huge save in the first period on a shot from close range and another one in overtime with the game on the line. Shortridge showed why he should be a finalist for the Mike Richter award with this performance as he was the best player on the ice for the Bobcats and they might have lost this game tonight if it weren't for him. In each of the seasons that Quinnipiac has reached the Frozen Four they have gotten outstanding goal-tending first from Eric Hartzell in 2013 when he was a top three finalist for the Hobey Baker award and in 2016 from Michael Garteig. With the way Shortridge has played this year, he could carry this team to Buffalo. 

- Quinnipiac's top line provided the only scoring when Odeen Tufto sent a pass from the end wall into the slot where Wyatt Bongiovanni sent one past Hanson for his 11th goal of the season. Ethan de Jong got a secondary assist on the goal. Bongiovanni is third on the team in goals scored with 11 trailing Chase Priskie (14) and Odeen Tufto (13). He's been an excellent add to the Quinnipiac roster this season. 

- William Fallstrom was a monster on the face-off dot. He won 20 of 24 face-offs on the night for the Bobcats and helped win some key possession battles. His teammate Odeen Tufto really struggled on face-offs tonight winning onlly 7 of 25 face-offs. They need better than that from their top line center especially when some of these are happening in the offensive zone and could lead to extra scoring chances for Quinnipiac. 

- The ice at Messa Rink was really terrible all night. Pucks weren't being controlled like they usually are and they were bouncing over sticks multiple times. Its pretty unacceptable for the ice of a Division I hockey team especially one that has won a national championship in the past five years to be as bad as it was tonight. 

- Union's defense was really good tonight taking time and space away from Quinnipiac and making it difficult at times to get pucks into the zone. The Dutchmen also blocked an astounding 25 shot attempts on the night. Darion Hanson also was fantastic for Union with 27 saves on the night. He continues to make a difference for Union in goal and has been a thorn in Quinnipiac's side twice this season only allowing two goals against a powerful Bobcat offense. 

- This was a very chippy game was a bunch of extra curricular stuff after whistles. However the officials swallowed their whistles tonight and assessed only two minor penalties on the night with a boarding call on Union's Zachary Emelifeonwu in the first period and a hooking call on Quinnipiac's Karlis Cukste in the third period. These are the types of games you want to see the players win on their own and not have the referees decide it.

- Quinnipiac is still hasn't won in six games against Union dating back to the 2015-2016 season. They also have not won at Messa Rink since the 2014-2015 season. The Dutchmen will be a tough out in the ECAC playoffs and not a team that I would want to face in the quarterfinals should Quinnipiac get a first round bye. 

- The tie dropped Quinnipiac to 6th in the pairwise after Friday night but they remain three points behind first place Cornell who tied Brown 3-3. Quinnipiac is now tied for second place in the ECAC standings with Harvard at 22 points with identical 10-5-2 record. Spots 2-7 in the ECAC standings are now separated by a total of four points so expect a lot of chaos in the next few weeks of conference play.

- Tomorrow's game against 9-17-2 RPI will be a challenge. This is a team that has started to play well in the second half of the season and has found themselves a goaltender in Owen Savory. They can't be overlooked at all especially after rallying from two goals down against Princeton and winning 6-2. The Engineer players are starting to buy into second year coach Dave Smith.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Weekend Preview: Union/RPI

Alex Whelan and Quinnipiac head out on their 2nd to last road trip of the regular season

Union Head Coach: 
Rick Bennett (8th Season) 172-93-37

2018-2019 Union record: 14-9-5 (7-8-1 ECAC)

All-time vs. Union: Series tied 16-16-4

Union Key Players: Cole Maier (F), Brett Supinski (F), Ryan Walker (F), Sebastian Vidmar (F), Liam Morgan (F), Jack Adams (F), Anthony Rinaldi (F), Vas Kolias (D), Brandon Estes (D), Greg Campbell (D), Jake Kupsky (G)

For a team that got off to an 8-3-2 start, it has been a struggle at times for Union to find consistency. At 14-9-5 the Dutchmen find itself 20th in the pairwise but two losses and a tie to RPI and along with being swept by Brown and a loss to Princeton loom large right now. They probably need to win all six remaining regular season games to get into the top 16 prior to the conference tournament. Union has won five straight games against Quinnipiac with the Bobcats not winning since the 2015-2016 season ago the Dutchmen. The last Quinnipiac win in Schenectady was back in the 2014-2015 season when they won 4-3.

The Dutchmen are a top 20 offensive team in the country averaging 3.04 goals per game. Its a balanced roster that brings the scoring as the top seven players have scored six or more goals and have 16 or more points this season. They are led by three senior forwards in Cole Maier, Brett Supinski and Ryan Walker who have 23, 20 and 20 points respectively this season. Walker leads the team with 10 goals. As we have seen this season this is a team that can score in bunches with the their 5-1 win in Hamden as proof. The Union power play has been solid this season at 18.8% (19-of-101) which is good for 25th in the country.

On defense Union has been a little above average this season giving up 2.64 goals per game which is good for 25th in the country. Sophomore Brandon Estes has had a breakout season with 15 points and a plus 7 on the blue line while junior Vas Kolias and senior Greg Campbell have been steady presences for the Dutchmen. If there is an area where Union struggles it is on the penalty kill as they have one of the worst in the country at 74.4% (67-of-90) which is 56th in the nation. This is an area where Quinnipiac's top five power play unit needs to capitalize but we must see how they adjust especially with the season ending injury to Brandon Fortunato.

Sophomore Darion Hanson has taken over the starting duties in the second half of the season from senior Jake Kupsky due to the more consistent play from the second year goaltender. Hanson was spectacular against Quinnipiac earlier this season when he made 34 saves in a 5-1 win over the Bobcats in Hamden. His numbers this season are solid with a 2.37 goals against average and a .922 save percentage which are superior to Kupsky's and the reason he is seeing more time in net for the Dutchmen. Expect Hanson to get the nod Friday night.

RPI Head Coach: Dave Smith (2nd Season) 15-44-7 (187-267-66 overall)

2018-2019 RPI record: 9-17-3 (6-9-2 ECAC)

All-time vs. RPI: Quinnipiac leads 14-7-9

RPI Key Players: Jacob Hayhurst (F), Patrick Polino (F), Brady Wiffen (F), Ottoville Leppanen (F), Todd Burgess (F), Will Reilly (D), Kyle Hallbauer (D), Owen Savory (G)

While RPI has a poor record of 8-17-3, they have been pretty solid since the calendar changed to 2019. Since the start of the new year, RPI is a respectable 4-4-3. They tied Cornell, Dartmouth and Union in that stretch and also played to competitive losses against Harvard, Yale and even Brown. Give this team a lot of credit for battling and playing hard in the second half of the season as Dave Smith continues to mold this team into his own. This should be a competitive game against a team that is clearly starting to get better as the season winds down.

Scoring continues to be an issue for RPI as they only average 1.93 goals per game this season. Junior Jacob Hayhurst has 23 points but only 3 goals this season while Ottoville Leppanen has 16 points on 3 goals and 13 assists. Juniors Todd Burgess (13 points) and Patrick Polino (11 points) along with defenseman Will Reilly (15 points) make up the majority of the Engineers offense. With RPI not being a high scoring team they have to rely on their defense and goal-tending to keep games low scoring in order to get a bounce here or there on offense to win some of these games. The RPI power play has struggled this season to a tune of just 14.5% (12-of-83) which is 53rd in the country.

Defensively RPI has played much better in 2019 than 2018 so far. They are a middle of the pack team in goals allowed at 3.07 which is good for a tie at 36th with Boston University. While Will Reilly has been a consistent point guy for RPI his plus/minus has vastly improved this season as he is an even right now after being a minus 36 combined the past two seasons. Three freshman in Kyle Hallbauer, Jake Johnson and Brady Ferner have given the Engineers a lot of games on the blue line for young players. The experience these players are getting now will only help in the long run and its seemingly paying off with better defensive play in the second half of the season. RPI's penalty kill is middle of the pack at 80.2% (77-of-96) which is good for 34th in the country.

Freshman goaltender Owen Savory has taken over the reins in between the pipes from an ineffective Linden Marshall and has run away with the job. Savory has started the last eight games for RPI and has kept the Engineers in pretty much every game against the one against Clarkson. In 17 games played he has a 2.30 goals against average and a .933 save percentage which are excellent numbers despite having a record of 3-9-3. His team has been on the short end of the stick but has been very competitive. He has given this team stability in between the pipes which gives them a chance to compete every single game even with the lack of talent on the roster. Expect Savory to be in goal when they face Quinnipiac on Saturday night.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Analysis of the season ending injury to Brandon Fortunato

Brandon Fortunato was in the midst of his best collegiate season prior to his injury

When word came down and we reported that Brandon Fortunato would be out for the season with a leg injury, which we confirmed was a broken fibula it was a shocking development for a team that was in the midst of a rebound season and was pushing closer to a return to the NCAA tournament. The injury occurred in practice the week of the Yale game. While you never want to see injuries in a game you definitely don't want to see them in practice. However you also do not want practice any differently than how you would play in games as you win games based on how you practice the week leading up to them.

With deep NCAA tournament aspirations in the Quinnipiac locker room, this injury stings especially at this point in the season. The Bobcats are not only losing a point per game player, they are losing someone that is a leader and a veteran who has Frozen Four experience. That is extremely valuable come March when the games get even bigger. There is no trades in college hockey to replace a player of Fortunato's caliber. I will say that bringing in Cam Boudreau for the second half of the season looks even smarter now by the Quinnipiac coaching staff. While they cannot fully replace Fortunato, especially with what he brings to the power play along with his puck moving ability, they might be able to recreate him in the aggregate in some of those areas with some of the younger players currently on the roster. You might remember the movie "Moneyball" and the scene where Brad Pitt playing the character of Billy Beane is in a meeting with other front office personnel and says that they cannot replace Giambi's 38 home runs and 120 runs batted in but they might be able to recreate him in the aggregate with other players that could get on base like Giambi did. This is what Quinnipiac needs to try to achieve now with the regular season winding down.

Could Zach Metsa be a power play option for Quinnipiac?

Two big area that will most likely be affected are on the power play and the transition game when the teams skate five on five. Fortunato has excellent skating ability to bring pucks out of the defensive zone quickly from blue line to blue line either with a quick pass or skating it out himself. Against teams that bring a strong fore-check this could be a problem if Quinnipiac struggles to get pucks out of their zone due to the loss of Fortunato.

Moving to the power you have a top unit that usually features three defenceman on it at times with Fortunato and Rafferty as the point men with Priskie in his wheel house at the side of the net looking to one time shots past the goaltender. Keeping Priskie in that spot in lieu of moving into Fortunato's spot on the point is a must in my opinion as he many of the goals he has scored by way of the power play come in that spot by ripping a one timer past the opposing goaltender. They could move freshman Peter Diliberatore up from the second power play unit but I think that would weaken the second unit to a degree as the freshman has scored five of his 11 assists on the power play. He is more valuable with that unit in order to make Quinnipiac have two effective power play lines.

Of the 28 points that Fortunato had this season, half of them came by way of the man advantage on 2 goals and 12 assists. That will not be easy to replace but they might have a couple young players that could replace a portion of that down the stretch if given the opportunity. One of is those players is freshman Zach Metsa. This season he has seen action in 22 of the 28 games and has two goals. But its what he has done in the past two season in junior hockey on the power play that has me intrigued as someone that could give them some production on the power play.

Metsa was a power play specialist in his two seasons of junior hockey first with the Merritt Centennials in the BCHL in the 2016-2017 season followed by a season with Youngstown & Central Illinois in the USHL this past year. With Merritt almost half his 27 points on the season came way of the power play on a goal and 12 assists on the man advantage. He added one power play assist out of five in the postseason for the Centennials. Even when moving to the much tougher USHL which has stacks many of the rosters for Division I programs, Metsa amassed more than half of his points by way of the man advantage when he had 2 goals and 11 assists of his 24 point season on 4 goals and 20 assists. Playing with veteran players like Priskie, Tufto and Rafferty on the first power play unit should he get that chance could ease the transition.

Another player they could look take a look at back there is Cam Boudreau who has some power play experience from his time with the Junior Bruins in the NCDC. While the league is on the the same par as that of the USHL or even BCHL, Boudreau is still a talented young player that can move the puck. His power play numbers in juniors do not match what Metsa did but they probably don't tell the whole story either. You need to factor in the players he is playing with as well along with the competition in the NCDC isn't the greatest compared to the leagues that Metsa was playing in. In 71 regular season games, Boudreau only had two goals and an assist on the power play.

Could the coaching staff add another younger forward to the power play mix in a Michael Lombardi or Desi Burgart who both have shown nice potential as freshman with eight points each respectively. The key for this coaching staff is to try to find the right mix to replace Fortunato for possibly upwards of 15 plus games that Quinnipiac may play the rest of the way. No one said this was going to be easy and you never want to see any player get injured,  but you hope that this team will come together even further and push harder for one of their teammates who cannot be out there with them as they head down the stretch.

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