Friday, March 1, 2019

Weekend Preview: Brown/Yale

Quinnipiac finishes on the road and will need help to win the Cleary Cup

Brown Head Coach: 
Brendan Whittet (10th year) 95-179-44

2018-2019 Brown record: 11-11-5 (8-7-5 ECAC)

All-time vs. Brown: Quinnipiac leads 23-8-6

Brown Key Players: Tommy Marchin (F), Tristan Crozier (F), Chris Berger (F), Joachim Weberg (F), Brent Beaudoin (F), Zach Giuttari (D), Max Gottlieb (D), Luke Kania (G)

Perhaps the most surprising season in the ECAC this year is the Brown Bears. Picked to finish 12th by the coaches and 11th in the media poll, Brendan Whittet's team has surpassed expectations and has been a challenge to play against for many teams in the ECAC. Come playoff time they could be a sleeper pick to reach Lake Placid. Since the calendar has turned to 2019, Brown is 8-4-2 and playing with confidence that we have no seen in a half decade when they made a surprise run to the ECAC finals in 2013.

While Brown doesn't have an intimidating offense as they average only 2.67 goals per game they do a lot of good things well to generate offense most notably on the fore-check as well saw the last time these two teams played. Tommy Marchin leads all scorers with 21 points while freshman Tristan Crozier has given them 17 points. The last time Quinnipiac played Brown the Bears had the worst power play in the country. That isn't the case anymore as they jumped all the way to 53rd in the country with some recent good play on the special teams.

Brown has improved defensively as well since the last time these teams have played as they are giving up 2.70 goals per game now as opposed to 2.86 a few weeks ago. They have a solid defensive structure which has enabled them to play winning hockey in 2019 so far.  Zach Giuttari and Max Gottlieb are the two leaders on the back end with each of them having 15 and 13 points respectively.  Brown's penalty kill has been solid at 82.3%. Brown will need to do similar things on defense like they did the last time against Quinnipiac when they won play in the neutral zone with an aggressive fore-check along with clogging up passing lanes.

Luke Kania has seen the last seven starts with the injury to Gavin Nieto and has led the Bears to a 3-2-2 record in that time frame. His 47 save performance at Quinnipiac and his shutout last weekend against Dartmouth are his most impressive performances of the season. Expect Brendan Whittet to ride the hot hand in Luke Kania even if Gavin Nieto is healthy.

Yale Head Coach: Keith Allain (13th season) 233-155-42

2018-2019 Yale record: 13-11-3 (11-8-1 ECAC)

All-time vs. Yale : Quinnipiac leads series 21-7-5

Yale Key Players: Joe Snively (F), Robbie DeMontis (F), Justin Pearson (F), Kevin O'Neill (F), Curtis Hall (F), Phil Kemp (D), Jack St. Ivany (D), Sam Tucker (G), Corbin Kaczperski (G)

Heading into the final weekend of the year you expect a team like Yale to be playing its best hockey. That is not the case as this is a team that has lost four of its last six games and is only 6-7-1 since the calendar turned to 2019. In the four losses, Yale has only scored one goal. Not a one goal per game. One goal in total. They were shutout against Quinnipiac, Dartmouth and most recently Harvard. Yale seems to be trending in the wrong direction especially with the playoffs set to begin in one week.

The Bulldogs offense has really struggled in the last few weeks. They are down to 37th in the country in offense at 2.63 goals per game which is tied with Nebraska Omaha. They are essentially Joe Snively and everyone else and really that is a fact. The key to beating Yale is not to let Snively beat you as no one else seems like they can put the puck into the net consistently for the Bulldogs. Robbie DeMontis and Kevin O'Neil have 18 and 15 points respectively but that still trails the 30 points of Snively by a wide margin. The Yale power play is also not that great this season converting on just 16.5% (16-of-97) good for 38th in the country.

Defensively Yale has been solid giving up 2.67 goals per game which is 25th in the country. With some of the talent back in there in Phil Kemp, Jack St. Ivany, Chandler Lindstrand and Graham Lillibridge. Lillibridge has probably played below expectations compared to the strong season he put up in the USHL last year with the Chicago Steel.  I figured this would be a strength of the Bulldogs but it is more closer to the middle of the pack than the top. On the penalty kill the Bulldogs are average at 81.4% which is good for 28th in the country. Quinnipiac did a nice job the last time out attacking that defense and making the Bulldogs play from behind rather than in front.

Keith Allain continues to split his goaltenders which is shocking at this point in the season and possibly the reason the team can't get into a rhythm on top of scoring issues. Corbin Kaczperski plays on Friday while Sam Tucker plays on Saturdays. With this game at Ingalls on a Saturday the expectation is that Quinnipiac will see Sam Tucker to conclude the regular season. Tucker has the better cumulative stats with goals against and save percentage but has a losing record compared to Kaczperski. It's literally been since the 2015-2016 season when Yale had Alex Lyon manning the pipes that the Bulldogs had one consistent starter in net. You can probably point to this as one of the reasons that Yale has not made the NCAA tournament since then either.

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