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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