Monday, December 6, 2021

Thoughts & Observations from Quinnipiac's sweep in the New York Capital Region

Yaniv Perets has 3 consecutive shutouts for Quinnipiac

After a weekend off for Thanksgiving it was back to work for the Quinnipiac Bobcats who traveled to the New York Capital Region to face RPI and Union for the first time since the 2019-2020 season. The Bobcats took care of business in relatively easy fashion sweeping the weekend slate with back to back shutouts. This is Quinnipiac's third straight game with a shutout as prior to Thanksgiving they shut out St. Lawrence 8-0 in Hamden. The Bobcats will now wrap up the first half with a home and home with LIU. Here are my thoughts and observations from the weekend.

- It was another dominant defensive effort this weekend for Quinnipiac. They let up a total of 31 shots combined in two games including just 13 in Saturday's game against. This is the fifth time this season that Quinnipiac has held an opponent to 15 shots or fewer in a game. Quinnipiac's defense has had 11 games when they have allowed 20 or fewer shots in a game. So far in the first half of the season, the Bobcats defense has been downright dominant. 

- It has taken 16 games but its starting to look like Yaniv Perets is going to be the man in goal going forward. He started his fourth straight game and three of those games have been shutouts. Perets six shutouts are tied for first in the country and his goals against of 0.86 is by far and away tops in the country. His first half of the season has been quite impressive.

-  If there is a concern with a team that is 12-1-3, I would say the offense still has issues to me. They kept Rensselaer in the whole game until scoring a late empty net goal and the next night against Union, Quinnipiac let the Dutchmen hang around for two and half periods. To me they really should be beating these bottom ECAC teams pretty easily and not letting them hang around throughout the game. 

- For a team that is ranked second in the country not to have a player in the top 50 in scoring is pretty stunning but that is the case. Defense and goal-tending right now are the back bone of this team but the offense really needs to elevate its game because they can't just score in spurts and think everything is just fine. Consistency needs to happen on offense especially in the second half especially if this team wants to reach the Frozen Four in Boston this year.

- One thing that the coaching staff should focus on with the upcoming break is the power play. So far its been a disaster this season and for a team ranked #2 in the country to have a power play ranked 51st at 12.1% is just not good enough. They can get away with it when they are playing the ECAC bottom feeders but late in the season when the competition is going to increase they are going to need to score on the power play. This should be the number one focus this team can do to improve when they start the second half of the season.

- Quinnipiac right now is in excellent position for the Cleary Cup as they are only a point behind conference leader Cornell yet have played two less games than every team except Princeton, Darmouth and Yale who are 10,11 and 12 in the ECAC. With the way the Quinnipiac defense is playing along with seeing how other teams have played in the ECAC it would be a pretty big disappointment if Quinnipiac didn't win the Cleary Cup for the second straight year.

- The first half of the season concludes this weekend with a home and home with second year program LIU. Quinnipiac blew out LIU 7-1 a year ago and the Sharks don't have the talent on paper to compete with the Bobcats. I expect a split in goal this weekend with Perets and St. Cyr due to the quality of the opponent. 

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Monday, November 15, 2021

Thoughts and Observations from Quinnipiac's sweep of Arizona State

Quinnipiac swept Arizona State in two games this past weekend

Quinnipiac went into the weekend facing off against a high power offense in the Arizona State Sun Devils. The last time these two teams met back in the 2019-2020, Arizona State swept the Bobcats in the desert by scores of 5-3 and 4-1. It was only appropriate that Quinnipiac returned the favor this weekend and they did by having an offensive explosion scoring ten goals total in the two wins. This type of scoring has been few and far between this season. Maybe this was the weekend in which the Quinnipiac offense starts to put it together and now continues to build off this weekend as they head into the final stretch of games here in the first half of the season. Here are my thoughts and observations from the weekend.

- Lets start with my disastrous take on Friday night after Arizona State scored its third goal. I said I would be shocked if the Bobcats mounted a comeback because they have don't a big time offense that can score at will. I think up to that point you could question that, especially over the prior four games where they really struggled offensively scoring only eight goals total against some weaker opponents. Arizona State came in as one of the top offensive and power play teams in the country with some really skilled players. What I didn't expect was for Arizona State to start to lose steam in the second period and for Quinnipiac to continue to get stronger as the game on. The physical toll wore on Arizona State and the Bobcats made them pay with five unanswered goals. I have no problem eating crow and even having the team account having some fun at my expense.

-  This sweep was just massive for Quinnipiac for pairwise reasons. I know people think its early in the season still but wins like these will help later in the season. Just ask the 2016-17 or 2019-2020 teams. A couple early season losses against non-conference teams flipped to wins and those two teams are NCAA tournament teams. Note the 2019-2020 season was ended by the pandemic but Quinnipiac was still past the pairwise cut line. The Bobcats sweep pushed them to 7th in the pairwise. Had they split they would have been 12th. Had Arizona State swept they would have fell to 24th. The comeback Friday will prove big in the long run and there is no denying that.

- It is looking like the Quinnipiac power play could be turning a corner. They went 3 of 10 on the weekend with goals by Ty Smilanic, Michael Lombardi and Oliver Chau. I still think there is too much passing and not enough shots on goal along with traffic in front. I also think you need to take the fact that Arizona State is not a disciplined hockey team. They take way too many penalties and that costs a team like that in the long run. 

- One of the big things that won Quinnipiac the game on Friday was their conditioning. They are probably in the top five of top conditioned teams in the country and it showed against Arizona State as they rallied from a three goal deficit only to continue to get stronger as the game went along. That is impressive to say the least and strength coach Brijesh Patel should get a ton of credit working with these players. 

- It will be interesting to see how long the goaltender split will continue for Quinnipiac. I think Yaniv Perets has outplayed transfer Dylan St. Cyr with the eye test and frankly on the stat sheet. I am to the belief that there comes a point in the season where you need to ride one of the two goaltenders especially down the stretch. 

- Brendan Less was out of the lineup on Saturday due to an injury. Less has been a very consistent player on the back end for Quinnipiac. If there is any silver lining, its that Quinnipiac has the depth on defense this year to sustain an injury on the back end. In other years they may not but the Bobcats go at least nine deep and that doesn't include freshman Jack Babbage who has yet to see game action.

- Saturday saw the season debut of Chrtistophe Fillion who missed the first 11 games of the season. He immediately contributed with an assist on the Michael Lombardi power play goal. Fillion is expected to be a solid contributor especially after an 11 point campaign in his freshman season. He should be a boost to the lineup for the Bobcats going forward.

- Quinnipiac plays the next four games in league play with the North Country teams coming to Hamden this upcoming weekend followed by a road trip to the New York Capital region the following weekend to play RPI and Union. Friday night will see Quinnipiac play Clarkson in a match up with two of the top teams in the ECAC. The following night I expect to see Quinnipiac with some revenge in their eyes against St. Lawrence who won the Whitelaw Cup on the Bobcats home ice last March.

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Monday, November 8, 2021

Thoughts and Observations from Quinnipiac's ECAC opening weekend

Ethan de Jong had a goal this weekend in a win against Yale

It was the opening weekend of ECAC play for Quinnipiac and the Bobcats got off to the start they were expected to in conference play. They took care of business against both Yale and Brown shutting them both out on consecutive nights. Getting off to a good start in conference play is always a must as you never want to be playing catch up. Quinnipiac will now dive into non conference play with two home games against Arizona State this weekend. Here are my thoughts and observations from the opening weekend in ECAC play.

- We are almost a third of the way through this season and you can tell what the identity of the Bobcats is already. They are a defense oriented team first. When the Bobcats defense is on and playing its game it is going to be difficult to beat them because they essentially smother opponents into submission. This past weekend they gave up 24 shots total in two games. Its rare to see a team consistently give up so few shots but the Bobcats are one of those teams that just a fundamentally a great defensive team. Just ten games into this season and Quinnipiac already has four shutouts. Very impressive what they are doing on the back end. 

- For a team that is 7-1-2 you would think there wouldn't be any concerns but to me they are just struggling offensively right now. Quinnipiac has scored just eight goals in the past four games and none of these teams were world beaters either. That is just very concerning especially with the talent they have up front. This past weekend alone saw 72 Quinnipiac shots on goal and just four goals. And one of the goal was an empty net variety by TJ Friedmann in the Yale game. The offense has to improve if this team is going to be able to go toe to toe with some of the high powered offenses this year. 

- Sophomore Nick Bochen hasn't seen a ton of game action this year and a lot of that is due to the depth on the back end. He played in both games this weekend and scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Brown on Saturday. Bochen is a player who flashed last season especially on the power play. His goal on Saturday came on the power play. I wonder if Rand Pecknold will start to play Bochen more especially with the massive struggles on the Bobcats power play to the start of this season.

- Yaniv Perets saw back to back games for the second time this year and was rewarded with two shutouts on the weekend. His performance earned him ECAC goaltender of the week. He made 24 saves in two games this weekend but he was rarely challenged and didn't have to face an onslaught of shots because of his defense in front of him. Its kind of hard to get a read on his performance and Dylan St. Cyr's for that matter because the defense in front of them has been so good. 

- The power play struggles have continued and don't seem to get any better. It's same cycling of the puck that hasn't produced many results always looking for the one timer from the side. Can they get some traffic in front of the net and just fire on pucks and get some redirects? Both Ty Smilanic and Skyler Brind'Amour are big players who should be in front of the net to create space. They need to put more pucks on the net instead of always looking for that bomb from the side. 

- One thing I am concerned with almost a third of the way through the season is that while Quinnipiac is 7-1-2, ranked 5th and has beaten teams such as North Dakota, they are only 15th in the pairwise rankings. Its not a great spot to be in even though there is a ton of season left. One reason I am concerned is Quinnipiac hasn't played a great schedule to begin the season outside of Boston College and North Dakota and even Boston College has struggled so far. Looking ahead they really don't have any quality non conference games left as Arizona State is a mid tier team while Long Island is a bottom feeder and they are playing two games against them. They possibly could get a game with Connecticut should they meet in the Connecticut Ice Final. Coupled with the fact that the ECAC looks kind of weak this season gives me some concern. I don't think Quinnipiac can slip up many times remaining if at all because of where they are currently in the pairwise.

- This weekends series against Arizona State is a very important one. It is tough say to how good the Sun Devils are but they have a lot of talent especially offensively and a roster with six NHL draft picks. The last time these two teams played was the 2019-2020 season in which the Bobcats were swept out in the desert. 

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Thursday, November 4, 2021

Defenseman Lucas Sorace commits to Quinnipiac

Lucas Sorace during his time with Burnaby Winter Club

Quinnipiac this past week picked up another future defenseman commitment when Lucas Sorace of the Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) verbally committed to the Bobcats per the press release from Chilliwack. Sorace is a 6'1, 170 pound left shot defenseman. The 2004 born native of Port Moody, BC, Canada has only played in one game this season for Chilliwack and is currently skating with the North East Chiefs U18 team. He previously played for the Burnaby Winter Club in the 2019-2020 season. Not much is known about Sorace who isn't expected to arrive in Hamden until the 2023-2024 season.


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Monday, November 1, 2021

Thoughts and Observations from Quinnipiac's weekend series with AIC

Zach Metsa scored the game winning goal 51 seconds into overtime

Quinnipiac this past weekend had a home and home series against AIC of Atlantic Hockey. A short drive up I-91 saw the Bobcats and Yellow Jackets skate to a 2-2 on Friday before Quinnipiac won a thrilling 2-1 game in overtime on Saturday on Zach Metsa's goal. I didn't get the chance to see the Friday game because I was not going to fork over cash to something that wasn't ESPN Plus in which all leagues should be on. So with that you will only get my thoughts on Saturday's game.

- It was a struggle this weekend for Quinnipiac against a lesser opponent. The Bobcats are fortunate to come away without a loss and that is the best part you can say about a weekend like this. AIC probably is better than their record showed as four the losses came against Boston College, Providence and UMass Amherst. AIC is also a well coached team under Eric Lang who has turned the Yellow Jackets into a respectable program that was once a laughingstock. 

- What a game winning goal that was by Zach Metsa to send the Bobcat faithful home with a win after really dominating Saturday's game on the stat sheet but not with goals. Quinnipiac out shot AIC 45-15 and won 39 face-offs to AIC's 23. It was a pretty dominant effort and the Bobcats were not rewarded for it until the Metsa rocket of a goal just 51 seconds into overtime. Metsa has heated up with four points in his last three games and has seven points in eight games this year.

- I am little concerned so far with Quinnipiac's lack of scoring this season as in five of the eight games played, the Bobcats have scored two goals or less in them. They are averaging 2.75 goals per game this season, but ten of those goals game in two games against North Dakota and Holy Cross which means they are averaging just two goals per game in games they don't score five or more goals. More is needed from the forwards and on a consistent basis if the Bobcats want to be playing deep into March and April this year. 

- Defense is clearly the strength of this game and will win them a lot of games until they can score consistently on offense. It's such a deep unit that Nick Bochen who played 24 games last season has only played in one game while graduate transfer Tony Stillwell who played 80 games at Brown has only been able to get into the lineup for three games.

- The power play is a real challenge now for Quinnipiac. This weekend they went 0 for 7 and on the season they are a measly 8.6%. That just isn't going to cut it especially for a team in the top ten. They need to figure something out fast because its not trending well for them. 

- On the flip side the penalty kill continues to be strong as they kept AIC off the board on five opportunities this weekend. At 91.7% and in the top ten in the country in this category, this is more like a Quinnipiac team on the special teams. 

- Dylan St. Cyr had to come on in relief on Friday night as Yaniv Perets didn't play in periods two or three. Its unknown if Perets suffered some sort of injury in Friday's game so that is a situation that will have to be monitored as the duo of St. Cyr and Perets has been good to start the season. 

- Quinnipiac will open ECAC play this weekend when they travel to down Whitney Avenue Friday night to play Yale and then head to Providence on Saturday to face Brown. It is the first time Quinnipiac has faced rival Yale since February 29, 2020 to conclude the regular season. The two teams were supposed to meet in the ECAC quarterfinal before the season got shut down due to COVID-19. 

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Monday, October 25, 2021

Thoughts and Observations from Quinnipiac's weekend split with North Dakota

Quinnipiac defeated North Dakota for the first time on Friday

This past weekend Quinnipiac returned home in front of a home crowd for the first time in 601 days when they welcomed the University of North Dakota to Hamden as the two teams met for the first time since the 2016 National Championship game in Tampa, Florida. One of college hockey's most storied programs finally made the trek to Connecticut in a highly anticipated top ten match-up. The weekend series did not disappoint as Quinnipiac stormed out to a 5-2 win on Friday night before North Dakota returned the favor the following night with a 3-1 win. It was a treat to watch both these teams and it would not shock me to see them play again later in the season. Here are my thoughts and observations from the weekend.

- Friday night was one of the best games Quinnipiac has played in the programs history in my opinion. I definitely rank this as a top ten win since the team made the jump up to Division I level and as its up there with NCAA tournament wins and ECAC tournament wins. The atmosphere was rocking and that was to be expected with fans in the building for the first time in 601 days. Going into this game I felt if Quinnipiac was going to get at least one win, this was going to be the game. The energy and the juice was there as the Quinnipiac scored four unanswered goals after Matteo Costantini got North Dakota on the scoreboard 7:44 into the game. If Quinnipiac can consistently play like they did Friday then they have a chance to go really far this season. 

-  Saturday night saw Quinnipiac get a lot of quality scoring chances on North Dakota but Fighting Hawks goaltender Zach Driscoll's 35 saves were the big difference in North Dakota splitting this series. But I thought that North Dakota had way to much offensive zone time and it helped when they won the face-off battle in game 2 much like it helped Quinnipiac in game 1 when they had more puck possessions because of face-off wins. You have to give North Dakota a ton of credit for the way they responded. They are a well coached talented team that still putting all the pieces together this early in the season. I expect North Dakota to be there as a favorite come March.

- I loved Quinnipiac's offensive output on Friday. Four different Bobcats scored goals including two from transfer Oliver Chau, Ty Smilanic, Jayden Lee and Joey Cipollone. Chau recorded a three point night while Zach Metsa, Ethan de Jong and Ethan Leyh each tallied two assists each. It was the type of balanced scoring attack that made this a very satisfying win and showed that Quinnipiac is a potential dangerous team to play all season long. 

- Quinnipiac's power play finally got going on Friday night with two power play goals by Jayden Lee and Ty Smilanic. It was only a matter of time before they got one as they have been looking solid on the power play but just not converting. The penalty kill's clean streak finally ended as they gave up two goals on the man advantage to Jake Sanderson and Judd Caulfield. It is tough to continue to take penalties and expect to keep a team like North Dakota from converting on man advantage opportunities during this series.

- Man is Jake Sanderson an alpha dog. His high end talent was on full display this weekend including a beauty of a goal on Friday night when he ripped one high short side past Yaniv Perets. He also assisted on the last two North Dakota goals on Saturday. You can see why he was drafted so high as he can move the puck and score from the back end. I wouldn't be shocked to see him on the Ottawa Senators roster by the end of this season. He is that good.

- Of the two Quinnipiac goaltenders that played this weekend, I thought Yaniv Perets was by far the better goaltender between him and Dylan St. Cyr. While neither faced a ton of of shots, 16 for Perets and 19 for St. Cyr, I thought the sophomore played pretty mistake free on Friday. St. Cyr had a terrible turnover on the first North Dakota goal where he played the puck aggressively trying to push the play quick out of the defensive zone that led to a turnover to Mark Senden who buried it home for the tying goal. The second goal he gave up was a scrum in net where the puck was under him and he didn't hold his space to keep the puck out of the net. On the third goal the Quinnipiac defense had a defensive zone turnover leading to a Connor Ford goal. I thought St. Cyr was a little slow closing off the short side that Ford scored on. St. Cyr is clearly in a platoon situation right now at this point in the season but he needs to be better than what he showed on Saturday night against a high end opponent. You may be able to get away with those type of mistakes against the likes of Vermont, but against a North Dakota they will make you pay. I would expect to see Rand Pecknold continue the goaltender platoon but at some point in the season he will likely ride with one of them.

- This was a really physical series with the teams combining for 22 penalties. Its the type of physical hockey you love to see between two really good teams early in the season. As a fan of college hockey, I would love to see a third physical match-up with a team like North Dakota in the NCAA tournament later this season. 

- I thought the Quinnipiac defense was fantastic Friday night closing scoring lanes, moving the puck out of the zone quickly and limiting mistakes. It was a really good effort that unfortunately wasn't matched on Saturday when they turned the puck over, played a lot in their own end and struggled to move the move puck at times. While the performance Saturday wasn't the worst I have seen and probably would have been good enough against weaker teams, it just was not good enough against a caliber of an opponent like North Dakota.

- I definitely want to say thank you to the University of North Dakota for making the long trek out to Connecticut when many teams from out west choose not to. I am hoping we can continue to get teams like North Dakota to come east in the future especially when Quinnipiac returns the favor and heads out to play these teams in their arenas. Its a treat for Quinnipiac fans anytime you can get a western power to come east as we rarely get to see them teams on a consistent basis. 

- Up next for Quinnipiac is the return of Bill Riga to Hamden as the Bobcats face his new team, Holy Cross on Tuesday. Coach Riga's team is 1-4 on the season but he got his first win on the road against Bentley 3-2 on Saturday. This will be an interesting game as while Riga doesn't have the talent to match Quinnipiac but he does have deep inner knowledge of all things in the Quinnipiac program and most of the current players on the team. Former Bobcat Tyler Ghirardosi is the leading scorer for the Crusaders with five points. It is definitely a game Quinnipiac cannot overlook as coach Riga will have his team ready to play come Tuesday night.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Q&A with University of Hockey Blog

The last time Quinnipiac and North Dakota played was the 2016 National Championship Game

In anticipation of this weekends home opening massive series against North Dakota in which fans will be in the building for the first time in 601 days, I had a chance to do a Q&A with the University of Hockey Blog who focuses on all things North Dakota hockey. Thanks again to them for taking the time to do this and you can follow them on Twitter @UofHockeyBlog.

@QHockeyBlog: What are your expectations for this weekends series between Quinnipiac and North Dakota especially with students being back in the building in Hamden for the first time in 601 Days.

@UofHockeyBlog: My expectations are that it’s going to be a tight, possibly lower scoring battle between two good teams. As far as the crowds go, North Dakota is no stranger to them as they played in front of reduced crowds of about 4,000 last season and a full building for their three home games and one exhibition so far this season.  I’m sure Quinnipiac will come out fired up with the crowd behind them. This will make it important for North Dakota to handle the first push, because in their last game they gave up two goals in the first 90 seconds or so. It’s one thing to play from behind like that at home but on the road it could be too much to overcome.

@QHockeyBlog: North Dakota is coming off back to back 20 plus win seasons. What are the expectations like in Grand Forks this season for this North Dakota team. Is it national championship or bust? 

@UofHockeyBlog: I’m not sure the expectations have been set because it’s tough to say how a team that turned over half their roster will gel together.  They lost eight of their top nine scorers from last season and both goalies. Rather than bring a massive freshmen class, North Dakota hit the transfer portal and picked up two of the leading scorers from the WCHA, a very good starting goalie and some assistance on defense as well. That being said to replace guys that are already producing in the NHL is never an easy thing to do. This weekend, I think will be big in determining what sort of trajectory we expect North Dakota to take this year. If they get swept, it’ll be gut check time but if they split most sane Fighting Hawk fans would be happy with that. If they sweep convincingly, then North Dakota fans might start looking at Frozen Four tickets.

@QHockeyBlog: The team lost 60% of its goal production from last season to graduation/early departures. Tell us who are some of the players us as Quinnipiac fans need to watch out for in this series?

@UofHockeyBlog: Jake Sanderson on the back end, is the 5th overall pick from the 2020 draft by Ottawa, is someone I think will be a big variable in how this series goes. I’m looking at the scores from Quinnipiac's first few games and it appears they can really shut down teams defensively. North Dakota admittedly doesn’t have the firepower coming from the forwards like they did the past couple years. That being said, I think scoring will have to be supplemented from the talented players on the back end like Jake Sanderson. In the forward group, Riese Gaber, may be smaller in stature but he’s a pitbull on the ice and can beat any goalie in the country with his shot. As far as freshman go, Jake Schmaltz has been really good to start his North Dakota career. He’s scored goals and assisted on the game tying goal with 30 seconds left last Saturday, so he’s a gamer.  

@QHockeyBlog: North Dakota has 9 NHL draft picks. How do you think this team compares talent wise to the 2015-2016 National Championship team which was the last time these two teams faced?   

@UofHockeyBlog: I’m not sure many teams compare favorably with that 2015-16 national championship team. That team seemed to have the rare quality of having younger high draft picks (Boeser, Schmaltz) and skilled upperclassmen (Caggiula, Stecher) that developed later and held the younger talent accountable every day.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we under-performed the following season after those older guys were picked up by NHL teams.

@QHockeyBlog: So far four games into the season what do you think are the strengths of this North Dakota team?   

@UofHockeyBlog: The strengths so far seem to be work ethic as I haven't seen guys taking shifts off along with the physicality and resiliency in the comebacks they’ve produced.
@QHockeyBlog:What would you say are the weaknesses so far in this young season?   

@UofHockeyBlog: I think experience is the main weakness I see. We could see some growing pains as they figure out how to add 14 guys to their roster in the most effective manner. Whether it be on the power play, penalty kill, or in the line pairings, finding the guys that click together could take longer but a 3-0-1 start isn’t a terrible start all things considered.

@QHockeyBlog: What are you thoughts on how transfer goaltender Zach Driscoll from Bemidji State has played so far this season?   

@UofHockeyBlog: Speaking as someone with no idea what to look for, I think he’s looked solid in most situations so far. He seems to be well positioned and stays calm under duress. I haven’t seen any weak goals yet. I know he’s a smaller goalie than North Dakota has had lately but he seems to fill the net fairly well.

@QHockeyBlog: The North Dakota fan base is one of the most passionate fan bases in all of college hockey if not number one. From you view do you think that the fan base respects Quinnipiac going into this series as it is a match-up of two top ten teams and I say that because North Dakota is 4-0 all time against Quinnipiac with two NCAA tournament wins? 

@UofHockeyBlog: I think you have two types of North Dakota fans. Casual fans that go to games and don’t follow the team much past that. Then there are the diehards that follow every single press conference and re-watch all of the games and highlights. The casual fan may look at Quinnipiac and dismiss them as a school we’ve never lost to in the past so it should be an easy sweep.  The diehard fans that follow college hockey understand that it will be a tough series and a road split would be a fine result as long as North Dakota is scoring goals and trending in the right direction.  That being said, it sure would be nice to keep North Dakota's unbeaten streak against the Bobcats alive. Thanks for having me! 

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