Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Grading the Bobcats: Second Semester Report Card

Quinnipiac ended the season winning 7 of 8 games prior to losing in the ECAC Semifinals 4-1 against eventual ECAC Champion and Frozen Four team Harvard. The team finished 23-15-2 and made it to the ECAC final four for the 5th consecutive season. While team team didn't reach a 5th straight NCAA tournament, there was still a lot of positives that came out of it for the future and many solid grades the players on the team. Next week the BobcatsHockeyBlog will do a season in review but for now here is the individual grades in the second half.

Offense - B

Overall there was a drop off in scoring from a year ago but that happens when you lose players like Sam Anas, Travis St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon and Devon Toews. The second half of the season saw the Bobcats average a tick over three goals per game coming in at 3.14. Some of that was due to large wins over Brown and RPI. There was some definite improvement and signs from some of the younger players that the team can get back to its high scoring ways of the 2015-16 season.

Craig Martin (So.) - A

Martin was easily the most improved Bobcat from a season ago where he was caught in a numbers game with the amount of the depth the team had. After scoring only 4 points in 18 games a season ago, Martin broke out this season with 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 40 games played. His 7 power play goals was tied for the team lead with Tim Clifton. A plus 1 on the season, Martin also was 4th on the team with 41 blocked shots as he showed the ability to sacrifice himself for the team. He should be a focal point of the Quinnipiac offense in the 2017-2018 season.

Tommy Schutt (Sr.) - A

Schutt had a career high in points with 14 (6 goals, 8 assists) on the season. He is not known as a scorer but means so much to the Bobcats in many other ways. He brings a ton of leadership to the team, wins face-offs and blocks shots. Schutt is the type of player that every winning team needs to have and he was a perfect player for Rand Pecknold who stresses the little things that win games and the senior associate captain embodied that. He recently signed an ATO with the Manchester Monarch's of the ECHL and no doubt will be missed as the program moves to next season.

Landon Smith (Jr.) - B+

Smith finished the season with 8 points fewer than a season ago but was strong down the stretch in the final six weeks of the season scoring 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists). With 97 career points for the Bobcats, he will crack the 100 point mark early next season barring him foregoing his senior season to sign a professional contract. He will be one of the important Bobcat forwards next year where the team will greatly rely on his offense and for him to take a greater leadership torch with the graduation of six seniors.

Tim Clifton (Sr.) - B+

While he didn't finish with the numbers he put up his junior season, Clifton's importance to this team cannot be understated. Finishing with 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists), Clifton was second on the team in shots behind Landon Smith. His ability to win face-offs, battle in the corners, play physical and do the little things in Rand Pecknold's system will sorely be missed. His four years of hard work paid off as he arrived at Quinnipiac as a 3rd/4th line player, finished a 1st line player for the last two seasons and now has a two year free agent contract with the San Jose Sharks. He will no doubt be missed.

Alex Whelan (Fr.) - B+

Whelan was one of the biggest improved players from the first half to the second half. After struggling early in the season with the pace of the college game and practices, Whelan showed what type of player he can be going forward for the Bobcats. While he had only 10 points (6 goals, 4 assists), some of that was due to poor puck luck. He was 5th on the team in shots with 96 and was a dominant force in the playoffs against Brown and St. Lawrence. He plays with a wrecking ball mentality and is willing to get dirty in the corners. Put him through a summer workout program with Brijesh Patel and I think he could be one of the players having a major breakthrough next season.

Thomas Aldworth (So.) - B+

After a four point first half of the season, Aldworth had 12 points in the second half of the season to finish with 16 points (10 goals, 6 assists). His six power play goals were second on the team behind Tim Clifton and Craig Martin who tied for first with seven. Next season, Aldworth is going to be one of the upperclassmen expected to pick up the scoring slack even more and he has the ability to do it. Its been about consistency with Aldworth and at times early in the season he didn't show it but in the second half he was pretty consistent especially in the final nine games of the season. He might have the most skill of any player on the current Quinnipiac roster and just needs to have the confidence and consistency to harness that skill into major production.

Bo Pieper (Jr.) - B+

Pieper had a breakout season as a junior. A season after having 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) in 42 games, Pieper had 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 40 games played. He was sixth in the team in shots and had five power play goals. He also had six multi-point games on the season. He will be someone that the team will look for some increased leadership along with helping carry the offensive load as a senior.

Luke Shiplo (So.) - B+

This grade is a combination of him playing both as a forward and defensemen. Shiplo was asked to do a lot this season as he played both positions and looked seamless at this times. He finished a plus 5 and had 12 points (4 goals and 8 assists) and elevated his game in the playoffs with points in four of the team's six playoff games. Players like Shiplo are so valuable especially when injuries crop up because he has the ability to play either forward or defense in a pinch.

Tanner MacMaster (Jr.) - B

MacMaster had some injury issues early in the season but still put up solid numbers with 19 points (8 goals and 11 assists). He was great in the Brown playoff series but was held scoreless in the team's last four playoff games. MacMaster blocked 30 shots this year and was also a plus 8. Going into his senior season in 2017 more offense is needed from him as the Bobcats look to return to the NCAA tournament.

Nick Jermain (Fr.) - B

Jermain showed a lot of flashes of very good skill this season in only 26 games. While he had only 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists) he had some impressive goals especially one against Brown on senior night. He potted his first two goals at Ingalls Rink in a win against Yale. Let's not forget the fact that Jermain was suppose to be in the BCHL this season and was accelerated when Sam Anas departed early for the pros. I think Jermain is someone who could break out even further in his sophomore season.

K.J. Tiefenwerth (Sr.) - B-

Tiefenwerth finished the season with 18 points (3 goals, 15 assists) and a minus 3 rating. The small speedy wing was 5th on the team in assists and also blocked 17 shots. He was a solid contributor this past season as he could play a variety of roles. He finished his career in Hamden with 43 points but transferring to Quinnipiac played a huge role in saving his life and nothing could be greater than that.

Kevin Duane (Jr.) - B-

Duane played 29 games this season as he battled some injuries during the season. He put up a career high 13 points (4 goals, 9 assists) but was a minus 3 for the season. He had a stretch from December 2nd to January 13th where he had a point in 8 of the 9 games played in that time span. I didn't think he used his big frame enough to create traffic in front of the net and that is something the team could have used more of this year. He was held scoreless in the playoffs and looked to be a healthy scratch in the semifinals against Harvard. With six forwards coming in for next season's recruiting class this is a big off season for Duane as he could be battling for consistent playing time with some of the newcomers on the roster.

Scott Davidson (So.) - C+

Davidson was used on multiple different lines playing with many different players this year. He couldn't find consistency on the score sheet recording just eight assists for the year after recording 15 points (9 goals and 6 assists) a season ago. Some of it was probably poor puck luck as well. Defensively he was good as he was plus 2 this season along with blocking 27 shots. The Bobcats really needed his production from a season ago to increase and it didn't. He is definitely someone that should rebound next year and have better overall numbers.

Logan Mick (Fr.) - Incomplete

Mick played in six games this season recording two assists. Its hard to give a full assessment on him when he didn't play many games this season. His best game was on the road against Yale in which he recorded his only two assists on the season. This will be an important off season for Mick with six new forwards coming in competing for the same playing time as he will be.

Joe Fiala (Sr.) - Incomplete

Fiala played in four games for the Bobcats this season including senior night against Brown. He didn't record any points this year but only has two points in 32 career games played. He would get an A for leadership from me as he was well liked and showed leadership in the locker room despite playing sparingly in his four seasons in Hamden.

Defense - B+ 

The defense improved in the second half of the season as the they gave up 2.38 goals against per game. There was still some games where they had some hiccups but that happens to all teams at times. A couple of those games happened to be against Harvard and Union, two NCAA tournament teams. As usual the defense blocked shots, provided solid transition and contributed offensively.

Chase Priskie (So.) - A

The talented sophomore matched his production from a season ago with 26 points (7 goals, 19 assists) despite missing two games this season and the team playing five games less than a year ago. He is a power play threat with 20 of his 26 points coming with the man advantage including 5 power play goals. He is an emerging leader and one of the most important players on the roster. When he is playing well it seems like the Bobcats as a whole are doing well.

Kārlis Čukste (Fr.) - A

Cukste had a really good freshman season. The San Jose Sharks draft pick was a late addition to the Bobcats after the loss of Devon Toews. He lead the team with a plus 11 along with being second in blocked shots with 67. He also showed some offensive ability with 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) and played on the power play and penalty kill units at times this season. He showed strong defensive play all season and showed that he was smart and reliable with the puck as a freshman.

Connor Clifton (Sr.) - B

A year after setting career highs with 28 points and a plus 20 rating, Clifton dipped to 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) this season with a minus 2 rating. The teams co-captain was third in the team in shots taken with 101 but his penalty minutes were the most he had since his freshman season. This was his only season in Hamden where he had a minus rating as a player. At times he looked inconsistent along with taking a handful of poor penalties. He was fantastic at blocking shots with a team leading 68 for the year and he played well in the playoffs with three goals in six games. His leadership and toughness will definitely be missed in Hamden.

Derek Smith (Sr.) - B

The senior co-captain was solid defensively this year blocking 54 shots which was third on the team. He had 11 assists with a minus 3 rating but missed 8 games this year due to various injuries throughout the season. He brought leadership to the team and was a consistent player on the back-end not only this year but all four seasons in Hamden. He is another player that will be missed.

Kevin McKernan (Jr.) - B

The junior defenseman had his best season with 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists) and a plus 8 rating. He blocked 33 shots and was solid defensively for the team along with being a physical presence on the blue lin . Set to be the lone senior on the blue line next season, its likely he will become one of the leaders to some of the younger defensemen.

Brogan Rafferty (Fr.) - B

Rafferty cooled off a bit in the second half after scoring 15 of his 24 points in the first half of the season. He had a very solid freshman season with 24 points (2 goals, 22 assists) and helped man the point on the power play and had 13 points on the man advantage. He made some mistakes defensively this year but that is expected as a freshman. I would expect that to get better as he grows more comfortable and gets more experience. He was one of the better freshman defensemen in the ECAC and has started to generate NHL interest.

Goaltending - B+

We came into the season with this position being an open competition. While Chris Truehl won the job to begin the season it was Andrew Shortridge who ran away with the job in the second half of the season. This will truly be a position of strength next season with Shortridge returning as the starter but will likely be heavily pushed by top goal-tending prospect Keith Petruzzelli.

Andrew Shortridge (Fr.) - A

Shortridge was a tremendous down the stretch seizing the job from junior Chris Truehl. Prior to the semifinal loss to Harvard, Shortridge in his last 20 appearances had a 1.79 goals against average and a .931 save percentage as a freshman. He finished the season with 26 games played along with a record of 13-7 with a 2.08 goals against average and a .920 save percentage and one shutout. The work put in with goaltender coach Jared Waimon paid off as his play really helped the Bobcats turn things around in the final weeks of the season to make it to Lake Placid.

Chris Truehl (Jr.) - B

Truehl played in only six games in the second half of the season after being supplemented in net by Shortridge. He won two of his five starts in the second half with his wins being Boston College and Yale. He struggled in a pair of back to back starts against Robert Morris and Harvard which opened the door for Shortridge who took the opportunity and ran with it. He gives the Bobcats quality depth in goal and will be part of what could possibly be the strongest goal-tending in the country next season with Shortridge and the addition of Keith Petruzzelli.

Coaching Staff - B+

23 wins is nothing to sneeze at and with the injuries this team sustained at times along with the limited roster depth, it made things tough with some rough patches in the season. The coaching staff did a really solid job getting the team on the right track in the second half along with turning to Andrew Shortridge full time down the stretch. The freshman class developed better than expected with key contributions on defense from Brogan Rafferty and Kārlis Čukste along with freshman Alex Whelan and Nick Jermain who took big strides in the second half of the season giving this program something to build upon for next season. The team is expected to have 11 new faces which includes two transfers that practiced with the team this season so there should be much greater depth and talent with next years program with many talented commits heading to Hamden in the fall.

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

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