Sunday, October 30, 2016

North Country trip might give sneak peak on character and resiliency of Quinnipiac

With conference play opening the first week of November for Quinnipiac, they head to North Country for road tests against Clarkson and Saint Lawrence. Both of the North Country teams are expected to have good seasons based off the preseason ECAC coaches and media polls.

However, both teams have yet to get off to good starts as Clarkson is 3-4-1 (1-4 at home) while Saint Lawrence is 3-4-1 (2-1-1 at home) on the young season. Despite these early season struggles this road trip is not the easiest for any team to make. Quinnipiac has gotten off to a solid start this season with a 4-2-1 record but both of the losses have come on the road (Maine and Boston University). This might be the right time to play these North Country teams on the road despite some of Quinnipiac's struggles as Clarkson is struggling to win games at home and Saint Lawrence is transitioning to a new head coach in Mark Morris.

Cheel Arena (photo by Clarkson University)
With this not being the Bobcats longest road trip of the season (Belfast, Northern Ireland and Pittsburgh) this may be one of the more important ones. Getting off to a good start in conference play is important because it can set the tone for the rest of the season along with finding out what this Quinnipiac team is made of. The Bobcats are likely to be without Chase Priskie once again due to injury and its not known whether the ECAC will give Connor Clifton any additional discipline for his spearing penalty and game misconduct at the end of the UMass game this past Tuesday. It's very possible that Quinnipiac could go into Friday's night game at Clarkson without two of their top defensemen who are also power play threats along with Kevin Duane who is battling an undisclosed injury. It's very likely they may have only one healthy scratch again.

While the depth of the team is being tested in the early going, we should get a good look at the type of character this Bobcat team has and if they are a resilient bunch should they have a successful weekend on the road in two hostile environments. In the last five seasons the Bobcats are 3-1-1 at Clarkson while they are 3-2 at Saint Lawrence. The last time they swept the North Country trip was the 2012-13 season they won 5-2 and 6-2 against Clarkson and Saint Lawrence. Three of the last five seasons though, Quinnipiac has split on the North Country road trip.

Appleton Arena (photo by Saint Lawrence University)
Quinnipiac has had time off to work on its special teams, something that has been a big problem for the team in the early going. Next weekend might be a good opportunity to get the power play going as both Clarkson and Saint Lawrence have given up nine and ten goals respectively on the penalty kills already in this young season. Quinnipiac could also improve their penalty kill during this road trip as both Saint Lawrence and Clarkson don't possess top power play teams so far on the season. The Bobcats need to better on special teams as this has been their bread and butter the past four seasons when making it to the NCAA tournament.

Road trips like this have the ability to bring teams together. A three or four point weekend would definitely show that Rand Pecknold's team has the mentality and toughness to win on the road in the ECAC. Getting ahead in the ECAC standings is always important along with proving that the team can win conference games on the road against quality opponents.

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

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