Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Playoff Preview: Quinnipiac Bobcats @ St. Lawrence Saints

Appleton Arena (home of the St. Lawrence Saints)
The Quinnipiac Bobcats head to North Country for the ECAC Quarterfinals to face off against the 4th seed St. Lawrence Saints to play for a trip to Lake Placid and the ECAC final four. This is the Bobcats first road quarterfinal series since the 2011-2012 season when they lost to Colgate as the 5th seed in three games. Quinnipiac does not have great success as a quarterfinal road team as they are 1-6 all-time in ECAC road quarterfinal series. The program's lone win in the quarterfinal round came as a 5th seed back in 2007 when they swept Cornell on the road along with next defeating top seeded St. Lawrence in the semifinals before eventually falling to Clarkson in the finals 4-2. In the seven road playoff series, Quinnipiac has gone to a deciding game six times with the 2009 series against St. Lawrence being the lone sweep in the Saints favor. The Bobcats lost to St. Lawrence 2-0 in early November at Appleton Arena and tied them in Belfast, Northern Ireland over Thanksgiving break 0-0. St. Lawrence last won the ECAC Championship in 2001 and last reached the NCAA's in 2007. The Saints have been strong this season at Appleton Arena going 10-3-2 at home while Quinnipiac is only 8-6 on the road. All-time, Quinnipiac is 5-8-2 at Appleton though they are 3-2 in the last five seasons there. For either one of these teams to reach the NCAA tournament they will have to win the tournament championship so the loser will indeed go home for the year.

Tale of the Tape:

#5 Quinnipiac Bobcats 21-13-2 (13-8-1 ECAC)
3.17 Goals scored per game (Tied 20th nationally with Cornell)
2.53 Goals allowed per game (Tied 17th nationally)
18.52% Power Play (31st nationally)
86% Penalty Kill (9th nationally)
Cleary Cup Championships: 2016, 2015, 2013
Whitelaw Cup Championships: 2016
NCAA Tournament Appearances: (5) 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2002
NCAA Frozen Four Appearances: (2) 2016, 2013

#4 St. Lawrence Saints 16-11-7 (12-6-4 ECAC)
2.88 Goals scored per game (Tied 31st nationally)
2.41 Goals allowed per game (Tied 14th nationally)
13.17% Power Play (53rd nationally)
86.2% Penalty Kill (Tied 7th nationally)
Cleary Cup Championships: 2007, 2000, 1988
Whitelaw Cup Championships: 2001, 2000, 1992, 1989, 1988, 1962
NCAA Tournament Appearances: (16) 2007, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1992, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1983, 1962, 1961, 1960, 1959, 1956, 1955, 1952
NCAA Frozen Four Appearances: (9) 2000, 1988, 1962, 1961, 1960, 1959, 1956, 1955, 1952

Key Players:

Quinnipiac: F Landon Smith (28 points), D Chase Priskie (25 points), F Tim Clifton (24 points), D Brogan Rafferty (24 points),  F Craig Martin (24 points), F Bo Pieper (22 points), D Kārlis Čukste (15 points), D Connor Clifton (13 points), G Andrew Shortridge 11-5, 2.03 GAA

St. Lawrence: D Gavin Bayreuther (27 points), F Mike Marnell (24 points), F Joe Sullivan (23 points), F Jacob Pritchard (22 points), D Ben Finkelstein (20 points), D Nolan Gluchowski (19 points), D Eric Sweetman (12 points), G Kyle Hayton 15-10-7, 2.30 GAA

Playoff History:

2009 ECAC Quarterfinals - St. Lawrence wins series 2-0 (3-5, 3-5)
2007 ECAC Semifinals - Quinnipiac wins 4-0 over St. Lawrence

The Skinny:

Quinnipiac comes into this game having swept Brown and are winners of seven of their last nine ECAC games. They are getting contributions from many players up and down there roster whether it be Landon Smith, Thomas Aldworth, the Clifton's, Alex Whelan, etc. While the opponents have not been grand in those seven wins its enabled Quinnipiac to build some necessary confidence as they head to a tough road environment. They also go in with a hot goaltender in freshman Andrew Shortridge who is 6-1 and is sporting a 1.58 goals against average in his last eight games. Shortridge did not see any game action against St. Lawrence so the Saints are unfamiliar with him outside of watching him on video.

St. Lawrence comes into this game 1-4-1 in their last six games and were very close to squandering the 4th seed if they had lost to Dartmouth. You can even make a case that this series could have been played in Hamden had the Bobcats not given up a home game to play St. Lawrence in Northern Ireland. When it comes to the Saints its starts with the man in net, Kyle Hayton, He has been very dominant against Quinnipiac with eight goals allowed in six games played with three shutouts. He will make things difficult for Quinnipiac who need to be able to put a lot of traffic in front of him. If he sees the puck well, he is very difficult to beat. St. Lawrence is a really good defensive team led by Gavin Bayreuther, Ben Finkelstein, Nolan Gluchowski and Eric Sweetman. At times St. Lawrence has struggled to score and they are in the midst of a rough patch right now to a tune of 2.16 goals for in the last six games with a five goal output against Dartmouth mixed in.

Both teams have really good penalty kills but staying out of the box in this series is key. Quinnipiac's power play has been solid as of late while the St. Lawrence power play has not been good this season. Getting out to a fast start for Quinnipiac is a necessity in order to silence the home crowd and take control of the game and eventually the series.

The Prediction:

Quinnipiac is riding a wave of momentum right now and playing with a lot confidence and they are getting quality contributions from everyone on the roster. St. Lawrence really struggled down the stretch and limped into its first round bye on a sour note. While Quinnipiac has not fared well against the ECAC top four this season right now this is a different a Bobcat team than the one St. Lawrence saw in November and is really starting to click. I think the Bobcats have more offensive depth, are playing with a confident hot goaltender and have the ability overcome Kyle Hayton in goal and advance to Lake Placid.

Qunnipiac in 3

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

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