Monday, October 28, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 4-0 win over Vermont

Captain Nick Jermain got the Bobcats on the board first with a back handed goal

It was a lone game for Quinnipiac this weekend with a Sunday afternoon game against Hockey East foe Vermont. A strong sixty minute effort led to a 4-0 shutout win for the Bobcats as they moved to 4-1 on the young season as they now head west next weekend to face Arizona State for a pair of games. Here are my thoughts and observations from the win over Vermont.

- Just five games into this young season I thought Quinnipiac had its best effort so far. They started fast with two first period goals and never looked back as they scored two more goals, one coming in the second and third periods respectively. This is the type of effort the Bobcats need to bring on a night in and night out basis if they want to go deep into March and possibly April this season.

- This was a big start for Keith Petruzzelli and he delivered. Coming into this game the junior goaltender had a sub .900 save percentage (.890) and his goals against average was over 2.50. Those numbers couldn't keep up if the Bobcats have NCAA tournament hopes this season. Granted this was an offensively challenged Vermont team but Petruzzelli was strong with 21 saves and making sure the Catamounts did not find the back of the net. More of these games are going to be needed for Petruzzelli to silence the doubters out there and to fend off freshman Evan Fear as well.

- Four different Bobcats scored and three had multi point games. Captain Nick Jermain had a pretty back-handed goal to get the scoring started while Ethan de Jong, Wyatt Bongiovanni and Joe O'Connor had the other goals to balance the attack. Bongiovanni and de Jong each had an assist to go along with their goals while freshman Skyler Brind'Amour had his first career multi point game with two assists. Odeen Tufto had another assist (7) but has yet to find the back of the net five games into the season. That has to change and hopefully soon.

- Great job by the Quinnipiac penalty kill which had struggled in the early going this season. They went three for three killing Vermont power plays and had a big five on three early in the third period that they killed off which prevented any Vermont comeback.

- The same can't be said about the Bobcats power play which was 0 for 5 on the night including a five on three they had in the third period. There is just too much cycling the puck and not enough good looks on net. It seems the passes aren't crisp either. They just need to shoot the puck and try to get some luck because the extra passing has not seemed to help. This is definitely an area of concern right now at this point in the season because they are going to see better teams especially defensively.

- I liked the fact that Rand Pecknold went with the 13 forwards yesterday. I usually like the extra defensemen but Vermont is much better on the back end than they are up front and having an extra forward helped create more chances and different looks. The six defensemen Quinnipiac had back there were really strong clearing pucks and traffic. It definitely looks like they may start to gel on the defensive end as the talent is there to do so.

- I wasn't that impressed with Vermont and they really have limited talented at best. Stefanos Lekkas will steal them some games but he can't do it alone. That is offensively challenged team and will struggle to score goals this season. I have a feeling it will be another long winter for the folks in Burlington and could end with a coaching change at the end of the season.

- Next week is a big challenge for Quinnipiac as these are important non-conference games against Arizona State. The Sun Devils are clearly not as good as last season especially with the loss of goaltender Joey Daccord who turned pro. But these games will be at tiny Oceanside Arena which is always a tough place to play for opposing teams due to its low ceilings. However to me these games are must wins for Quinnipiac and when I say that I say they need to sweep the Sun Devils as I'd expect a regression from them this season.

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Friday, October 25, 2019

Weekend Preview: Vermont Catamounts

Wyatt Bongiovanni leads Quinnipiac with 3 goals this season

Vermont Head Coach: Kevin Sneddon (17th season)

2019-2020 Vermont record: 1-1

All-time vs. Vermont: Quinnipiac leads series 3-1

University of Vermont Key Players: Max Kaufman (F), Alex Esposito (F), Joey Cipollone (F), Vlad Dzhioshvili (F), Derek Lodermeier (F), Jacques Bouquot (F), Andrew Lucas (D), Matt O'Donnell (D), Christian Evers (D), Stefanos Lekkas (G)

The Catamounts are coming off a road trip split up in North Country in which they fell 3-2 to Clarkson last Friday before rebounding the next night with 2-0 win over St. Lawrence. Prior to coming to Hamden on Sunday, Vermont will host Maine in its home opener. Kevin Sneddon is back for his 17th season in Burlington but six of his last nine seasons have resulted in seasons with 19 losses or more. He is definitely a coach that will be on the hot seat this season in the NCAA.

If there is a weakness for the Catamounts, it probably their offense which they did not get much from a year ago. Four of their top five scorers return from a season ago but the top scorer in Max Kaufman led Vermont with just 21 points. He was the only player to reach the 20 point plateau for the Catamounts a year ago. They are going to need players outside of Kaufman to step up including Joey Cipollone, Derek Lodermeier, Alex Esposito and Vlad Dzhioshvili. Vermont's season really will be based on how well the offense improves from a year ago. Through two games Vermont has yet to score on the power play.

The Vermont defense despite not having a ton of big names is a veteran group that played very well on opening weekend with a shutout against St. Lawrence and going down to the end with Clarkson on the road. They have handful of upperclassmen led by captain Matt O'Donnell. The Bobcats were limited offensively a year ago up at Vermont and its likely this game will be very similar too. The Catamount penalty kill is a very respectable 85.7% just two games into their season.

Senior goaltender Stefanos Lekkas is a four year starter for the Catamounts and is the backbone of this Vermont team. He has been a workhorse for Vermont starting 104 games in his three plus years so far. While he doesn't bring elite size in goal he moves well and sees a lot of pucks. He sees a ton of shots so he usually has a pretty solid save percentage even if he doesn't have an elite goals against average. Lekkas is a player who can steal a game so Quinnipiac will need to pound the senior with shot after shot.

This will be Quinnipiac's fourth consecutive season that they have faced Vermont after only facing the Catamounts once prior to that. It will be interesting to see what type of changes Quinnipiac has in store or if you will see freshman Evan Fear possibly get a start this weekend before this team travels west to face Arizona State in a rematch of last years NCAA tournament.

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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 4-3 win over Maine

Wyatt Bongiovanni scored the eventual game winning goal for Quinnipiac

A night after a sloppy effort resulted in a 4-2 loss for Quinnipiac, the effort Saturday, while not perfect was much better in terms of how this team needs to play each game. It was good to get a split of the weekend especially after how the team played on Friday night and being 3-1 is much better than being 2-2 at this point. Next up is a lone game against Vermont next Sunday in Hamden. Here are my thoughts and observations from the win Saturday night.

- Quinnipiac found itself trailing in the first period for the third straight game but they responded with a flurry of goals. Thirty-eight seconds after Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup opened the scoring for Maine, Michael Lombardi scored the first of three goals in a three plus minute time span. A pair of Ethan's scored the next two goals with freshman Ethan Leyh scoring the second goal followed by sophomore Ethan de Jong. It was a much needed response but the Bobcats need to avoid these slow starts.

- It was a good game for the Bobcats top line of Tufto, Bongiovanni and de Jong who combined for five points on the night. Quinnipiac is going to need that line to consistently get production for this team to win games and when they have good nights it usually results in a win for the Bobcats.

- As we touched on yesterday Alex Whelan missed the weekend series but is going to miss more than just this weekend per a source. The senior assistant captain got hurt and is expected to miss a month with the injury. Its a big loss as Whelan does a ton for this team on and off the ice and is a one of the team leaders. His brings a ton of effort each time he's on the ice and that type of play will be missed.

- What was Red Gendron thinking tonight not starting Jeremy Swayman who was spectacular last night and was the best player on the ice? I know that Matthew Thiessen is an NHL draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks but this is a tough spot for him going against an NCAA tournament team on the road for his first start. Why not start him next weekend against a weaker opponent in the University of Vermont. This game more likely than not would have been different had Gendron started Swayman.

- I'm glad that the Bobcats won't have to face Eduards Tralmaks anymore this season. The Rīga, Latvia native torched Quinnipiac all weekend for five points on three goals and two assists and now has nine points in five games for the Black Bears. He was relentless on the ice and consistently made plays whenever he was out there. He could have a huge year for Maine.

- Petruzzelli made some huge saves out of his 22 on the night but was more bigger than the stretch toe save late in the third period to preserve a one goal lead and gave the team a much needed win. He made 13 saves in the final period and also stood tall when Maine had a five minute major penalty when the Black Bears only scored when they had a five on three advantage. While he does have three wins this season, his goals against average is 2.80 and his save percentage is poor at .890%. I wonder if Rand Pecknold may take a look at Evan Fear next week against Vermont.

- While I like Ethan Leyh's scoring ability I hated the dumb interference penalty he took with three seconds left in the period with the Bobcats on the power play. In that situation just avoid any contact away from the play with so little time left. It was an unnecessary penalty and something that can't happen. I will chalk it up to being a freshman but that is something that you need to be aware of in that situation. Glad it did not cost Quinnipiac because it could have.

- I liked that Rand went back to playing seven defensemen tonight even tough he was short a forward with the game misconduct penalty to Desi Burgart for a high cross check. With the youth and inexperience on the blue line I think having that extra defensemen will help more in the long run as they may be able to mix and match players in situations and find the right defensive combinations to use.

- On tap is a single game with Vermont next weekend before the Bobcats travel west for a pair against Arizona State in a rematch of the NCAA first round. After that Quinnipiac will open ECAC play when they travel to Dartmouth and Harvard.

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Friday, October 18, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 4-2 loss to Maine

The #8 Quinnipiac Bobcats fell at home 4-2 to Maine on Friday

It was a tough night on the ice for the #8 Quinnipiac Bobcats men's ice hockey team as they fell to Maine 4-2 at the People's United Bank Center on Friday night. It was not the type of performance expected from Quinnipiac especially after welcoming their alumni back for the weekend. The youth definitely showed tonight and it cost Quinnipiac a game. Here are my thoughts and observations from tonight's game.

- This is a loss that is going to come back to haunt the Bobcats down the road especially if Quinnipiac has a good season. This is not a very good Maine team and I don't think they will be a winning team this year. Credit to Maine tonight as they clearly wanted it more than the Bobcats and their effort showed it on the ice winning battles and out-muscling Quinnipiac at times.

- This game was won by Jeremy Swayman. The Boston Bruins draft pick saw 33 shots on goal making 31 saves in the game but turned it up a notch in the third period when he turned away 17 Bobcat shots on goal. Impressive performance by the junior who has a knack for stealing games.

- Eduards Tralmaks, Mitchell Fossier and Tim Doherty must love playing in was back hurting Quinnipiac once again. Tralmaks had two goals, Fossier had four assists and Doherty had a goal. The Black Bears top guys stepped up when it mattered while Quinnipiac's really struggled tonight.

- You can't expect to win many hockey games if you can't put a sixty minute effort in. This was what the Bobcats were on the night. A team that played with some effort at times but for the majority of the game they didn't show the type of determination or urgency they showed late. Quinnipiac needs get off to better starts as this was the second consecutive game where the Bobcats fell behind early by two goals. They cannot make this a habit and expect to win a lot of games.

- Special teams which are usually a staple of good to great Quinnipiac teams were not good on Friday night. The Bobcats were just one of six on the power play and gave up two goals in four opportunities on the penalty kill. These numbers need to improve if this team wants to have success this season because there are times you will need to win games via the special teams. 

- Senior assistant captain Alex Whelan was out of the lineup tonight and expected out of the lineup tomorrow night as well. Its unknown if this is an injury but not having him on the ice was a huge piece missing. He's a player that consistently brings a strong effort each and every game and that could have helped in a game like this.

- Keith Petruzzelli gave up four goals but I don't think he had a lot of help in front of him. The junior goaltender played well at times but needs to control some rebounds better but the defense really had trouble clearing pucks and opposing players out from in front of the net. He made an outstanding save on a breakaway by Eduards Tralmaks in the first period.

- It was a sloppy defensive effort for Quinnipiac tonight. They had trouble on the fore-check and trouble clearing out bodies in front of Petruzzelli along with pucks deep in the zone. They need to get that cleaned and they need to gel quickly so this team can have success.

- It may be only three games but I think Skyler Brind'Amour has a chance to be very good for Quinnipiac. He had a fantastic assist on Joe O'Connor's goal and was just inches from going bar down in the second period which would have given Quinnipiac the lead. Instead Maine went right down and got the lead and the momentum. Brind'Amour brings a ton of skill to the Bobcats and he should only get better throughout this season.

- PJ Fletcher got his first collegiate point, an assist on the Wyatt Bongiovanni goal. He set a nice screen in front of Swayman which was a very underrated play. He brings size and toughness to the Bobcats that they will need this season and in the future.

- At this point a split of the weekend series is a must as getting swept at home by Maine was be a colossal disappointment that will have ramifications down the road for Quinnipiac. Look no further than to the 2016-2017 season when they had disappointing losses to Maine, Arizona State and a sweep at the hands of Princeton. Those losses kept the Bobcats from the NCAA tournament. They can ill afford to lose again on Saturday night.

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Weekend Preview: Maine Black Bears

After a strong opening weekend Keith Petruzzelli will look to keep QU undefeated

Maine Head Coach: Red Gendron (7th season) 84-116-25

2019-2020 Maine record: 2-1-0 (0-1-0 Hockey East)

All-time vs. Maine: Quinnipiac is 6-7-1 against Maine

Maine Key Players: Tim Doherty (F), Mitchell Fossier (F), Eduards Tralmarks (F), Adam Dawe (F), Patrick Shea (F), JD Greenway (D), Brady Keeper (D), Jeremy Swayman (G)

It's the seventh season of the Red Gendron era that has yet to go according to plan for the Black Bears. After its fourth losing season in six years, the program has yet to to even make a Hockey East semifinal at the TD Garden. This is how far this program has fallen in the Red Gendron era as its clear that Maine made the wrong decision to part with former head coach Tim Whitehead in favor of Gendron. His most recent contract extension takes him to 2021 but will Maine fire Gendron if they suffer another losing season? Its really a sad state of what was once a proud Maine Black Bears hockey program.

This season has started out 2-1 for the Black Bears, but they are anything but a 2-1 team. Two weeks ago Maine got smoked 7-0 on the road at Providence but the next night at home they got shut out in an exhibition 5-0 to the University of New Brunswick. Last weekend they rebounded with a 7-1 and 2-1 overtime win against Alaska-Anchorage who is not a very good team. So which team is Maine this season? I tend to think its closer to the team that got smoked against Providence and New Brunswick. I do not think there is a lot of talent on this team.

The Black Bears do not return one scorer who had double figures in goals last year. The top goal scorer in Chase Pearson went pro after last season. Captain Mitchell Fossier has had back to back 30 plus point seasons so he is a player to watch along with junior Eduards Tralmarks who has had some success against Quinnipiac in the past. Fellow senior captain Tim Doherty needs to have a big year if Maine wants to improve upon last year. Doherty had 17 points a year ago and was a minus 14 for the Black Bears. Its not a great puck possession team and they struggle on the face-off dot. While they put in nine goals last weekend lets remember that was against a bad team and will more likely than not struggle against superior teams.

This is a very young an inexperienced Maine defense. They lost three seniors on defense along with sophomore Brady Keeper who left for a pro contract. Wisconsin transfer JD Greenway should be a big help on the Maine defense as the Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick brings size and skill. He will have to lead that defense as fellow juniors Cameron Spicer and Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi did not play a ton last season. Sophomore Simon Butala is one of the most experienced defensemen on the roster for Maine who have four freshman they are rotating into the lineup.

Jeremy Swayman a Boston Bruins draft pick is back for his third season in goal. He is a goaltender that sees a ton of shots and despite having a goals against average over 2.70 each of this first two years has a save percentage at the .920 mark. He is the backbone of a Maine team and really makes up for Maine having a weak defense. Expect Swayman to be very busy this weekend as Maine is not a great puck possession team so Quinnipiac will likely dominate in shots.

The Bobcats will be looking to open a season 4-0 in back to back years for the first time in their Division I history and fourth time since moving to the top level in the NCAA.

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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's 3-2 opening night win over AIC

Quinnipiac won a hard fought 3-2 game against AIC on opening night

The 2019-2020 Quinnipiac men's ice hockey team kicked off its season on Friday night in Hamden when they took on defending Atlantic Hockey regular season and tournament champion American International College. Quinnipiac came out on top in a closely contested 3-2 victory and now these two teams will head up I-91 to play at the Mass Mutual Center on Saturday night. Here are my thoughts and observations from game number one.

- The young Quinnipiac Bobcats team which is loaded with underclassmen played well against an experienced, talented and well coached AIC team on Friday night. It was a good debut for the Bobcats as there are high expectations in Hamden this season being a team ranked in the top ten in the preseason. The young players held their own and showed that Quinnipiac has a talented roster. It will be interesting to see how these young kids respond to a back to back.

- Two freshman recorded their first collegiate points in the opener. Ethan Leyh scored the first Bobcats goal of the season just 5:58 into the game while fellow freshman Jayden Lee had the secondary assist on Peter Diliberatore's eventual game winning goal. In all seven freshman played on Friday night and they are going to need every single one of them to step up this season if they want to return again to the NCAA tournament.

- Senior captain Nick Jermain had a very good game. He scored a goal, led the team with five shots and also drew two penalties on AIC. This could be the year Jermain puts it all together especially if he stays healthy. He's never had more than 15 points in a season but he has always had the talent to do it. He just needs to stay healthy and continue to show consistency.

- William Fallstrom was a force on the face-off dot. The sophomore won 15 of 19 face-offs on the night which was key to establishing possession and transition for Quinnipiac. Those numbers on the face-off dot are re-mindful of when former Bobcat Tommy Schutt use to dominate face-offs.

- Odeen Tufto had a scare when he left the ice but returned to the game and finished with two assists on the night. Tufto is one of the Bobcats most important players and one of the best players in the ECAC period. They can't afford to lose him because he does so much for the Quinnipiac offense and on the power play as well. Good thing it was only a scare.

- After Brandon Fortunato got hurt last season the Bobcats power player really suffered and its offense took a dip as well so it was good to see Quinnipiac get off on a good start with the power play converting on two of five chances on the night when they got a goal from Leyh early and a bomb from the point by Peter Diliberatore at the four minute mark in the second period. Its now Diliberatore's time to shine on the man advantage with key cogs having graduated and moved to the professional level. Jayden Lee got his assist on the man advantage and is really solid at helping to quarterback a power play.

Jayden Lee recorded his first collegiate assist on Peter Diliberatore's goal

- Keith Petruzzelli was really good for Quinnipiac on Friday. He made 25 saves but the way he rose his game in the second period when AIC had a flurry of a few grade A chances gives the Bobcats a lot of hope and confidence that he can be the guy going forward. He had to make 22 saves in the final two periods of action and they needed every one of them to beat a very competitive AIC team.

- The young Bobcat defense also held up well in front of Petruzzelli making his job easier to see pucks. I thought Zach Metsa played well on the night and forced a huge turnover in the neutral zone that led to Nick Jermain's late first period goal. I didn't notice a ton of breakdowns from the young players and Quinnipiac did a solid job in transition. Its still a long way to go but they passed the first test of the season.

- The penalty kill was also strong shutting out AIC on three chances. One chance was over within ten seconds when the Yellow Jackets took a penalty but the other two Quinnipiac did a good job killing especially one in the middle of the third period with AIC only trailing by a goal at that point.

- Expect another tight and physical game tomorrow night in Springfield just like it was tonight in Hamden. These teams are pretty even though Quinnipiac might have a slight edge in skill and in goal. I glad that AIC is no longer a pushover and is giving Quinnipiac competitive games now as this will help in the pairwise and the Bobcats when they are in future tight games. You definitely learn a lot more about a team in close games than you do a blowout.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Weekend Preview: American International College Yellow Jackets

Assistant captain Karlis Cukste will have to lead a young Bobcats defense against AIC

AIC Head Coach: Eric Lang (4th season) 46-57-13

2018-2019 AIC record: 23-17-1 (Atlantic Hockey regular season & tournament champions, lost in NCAA West Regional Final to Denver)

All-time vs. AIC: Quinnipiac leads series 25-4-1

AIC Key Players: Blake Christensen (F), Kyle Stephan (F), Martin Mellberg (F), Tobias Fladeby (F), Martin Mellberg (F), Luka Maver (F), Brennan Kapcheck (D), Nicolas Luka (D), Patrik Demel (D), Zackarias Skog (G)

This opening weekend features a match-up of two teams that fell one game short of the Frozen Four. Yes AIC was that close to the Frozen Four. After falling 3-0 to Denver in the regional final, AIC returns its entire team minus two seniors but most importantly its coach Eric Lang who turned down the St. Lawrence head coaching position to continue to build his alma mater. This is the first year for Lang in which he has all the kids he recruited on the roster. The Yellow Jackets are the preseason favorite in Atlantic Hockey as they are now an experienced team with talent returning. No longer a punchline these will be important games especially for Quinnipiac to get off the season on the right foot.

The Yellow Jackets have a talented offense and return 124 goals and 319 points from last years squad including senior Blake Christensen who had 47 points a year ago. AIC has five players returning with ten or more goals including Christensen.  Now a senior, Christensen led the team with 121 shots on goal so he has to be the player accounted for the most on the ice by Quinnipiac. Tobias Fladeby led the Yellow Jackets last season in goals with 18 as a sophomore while Kyle Stephan and Martin Mellberg had 27 and 26 points respectively. Those two join Christensen as the seniors to watch up front. The AIC power play a year ago was solid at 18.7% and with everyone back of note outside of Shawn McBride up front expect that unit to possibly be even better this season.

AIC's defense is very experienced with their top four defensemen seniors and juniors. Brennan Kapcheck now a junior had 25 points a season ago and was a plus 12 on the blue remains dangerous on both ends of the ice. Senior Patrik Demel led the team as a plus 15 and also had 17 points from the blue line. Fellow seniors Nicolas Luka and Janis Jaks had 14 points apiece though Jaks was a minus 12 on the blue line. The experience the Yellow Jackets had last season should help the defense this season. One area that could be better is on the penalty kill where AIC was only 80.9% which was in the middle of the pack in college hockey.

Junior goaltender Zackarias Skog took over last season from a struggling Stefano Durante and went on to post a 20-14 record with a 2.68 goals against average and an .899 save percentage and five shutouts. His 33 saves in the West Region Semifinals helped propel the Yellow Jackets to the upset of the tournament and the year. Last season against Quinnipiac Skog struggled in two games against the Bobcats giving up eight goals on fifty shots.

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Quinnipiac men's hockey to play in Belfast in 2020-2021 season

Quinnipiac deputy director of athletics Sarah Fraser at the announcement

The Quinnipiac University men's ice hockey team is heading back over the pond. It was announced on Thursday in Belfast, Northern Ireland that Quinnipiac will take part in next years Friendship Four tournament along with Army, Mercyhurst and Sacred Heart all teams from Atlantic Hockey. Quinnipiac deputy director of athletics Sarah Fraser represented Quinnipiac in the announcement.

This will be the second time Quinnipiac will have played in this tournament with the first being in the 2016-2017 season when they faced St. Lawrence and then Vermont in the championship game finishing as the runner up after a 5-1 loss.

Quinnipiac has not faced Mercyhurst since the 2004-2005 season and they were the Bobcats biggest rival in the early years of Division I hockey. The last time Quinnipiac faced Army was the 2004-2005 and Sacred Heart was the 2013-2014 season but there is a chance that they could face the Pioneers in the Connecticut Ice tournament this year.

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Monday, October 7, 2019

Thoughts and Observations from Quinnipiac's 4-4 exhibition tie against Brock

Quinnipiac and Brock played to a 4-4 tie on Sunday in Hamden

The Quinnipiac 2019-2020 hockey season officially kicked off this past weekend and while the game did not count it was still good to see this team back on the ice since we last saw them bowing out in the Allentown regional final to eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth. This game had some good things and some not so good things and areas that they will need to work on. Here are my thoughts and observations from the exhibition game against Brock.

- The team never gave up despite trailing by a goal late and down 4-2 at the end of the second period. That shows to me this team likely has some strong character to make a comeback down from two goals. Trailing late William Fallstrom tied the game with the Quinnipiac goaltender pulled forcing overtime. While they didn't get the game winner in overtime it was still good to see this team put a late effort to tie the game. They will likely have a few more of these types of games this season so its good that they can show a come from behind effort.

- Odeen Tufto was held out of the game with a minor undisclosed injury and from a source, it is nothing serious. He probably could have played from what I have heard but keeping him out against a CIS team was smart. Those teams are notoriously dirty and we saw it again yesterday so keeping the Bobcats best player out of the game was the smart and right call. Get him healthy and ready for AIC this weekend.

- It was another game where Quinnipiac clearly dominated in shots (57-23) but only could muster four goals. These hit some posts but they need to finish there chances better especially some of the younger players. It was the veterans in Cukste, Jermain, Bongiovanni and Fallstrom providing the goals. Only one freshman recorded a point in PJ Fletcher with a lone assist. But the talent is there with the freshman to produce, they just need to show they can.

- The Bobcats have more size than they have had in awhile especially up front which I feel can get against some of the physical teams that the ECAC brings each and every week. Ten of the fifteen Bobcat forwards are six feet over. The Bobcats will need to use there size to out-physical teams especially in the corners to force turnovers that turn into extra possessions and into goals.

- I wouldn't anoint Keith Petruzzelli the guaranteed starter just yet. While Andrew Shortridge is no longer here, this is the season for the junior goaltender to take the reins and have a breakout campaign. However, he was shaky in his two periods of work giving up four goals on 12 shots before giving way to freshman Evan Fear who didn't surrender a goal and made 11 saves through the third period and into overtime. I think Fear is going to challenge Petruzzelli very soon and its possible that head coach Rand Pecknold platoons the two early in the season because it seemed the defense played a lot better in front of Fear than they did for Petruzzelli.

- Speaking of the defense, it was an up and down performance for them. The first two periods were shaky surrendering four goals on just 12 shots. But they improved in the third period and overtime with Evan Fear behind them clearing pucks better and holding Brock to 11 shots in the third period and overtime. It will be a work in progress mixing and matching with the 11 defenders they have on the roster but they should get better over the course of the season.

- Nick Jermain had a highlight reel goal and that's not a first for him as he had one against Brown a few years ago. The senior captain has always had the skills to be a scorer but he just needs to be healthy for a full season. He is looking to close out his Quinnipiac career with a strong season.

- Jayden Lee despite being one of the smallest players on the roster and the smallest Bobcats defensemen looks like he has the ability to quarterback a power play which will be needed on the back end especially with the graduations of Chase Priskie and Brandon Fortunato. I really liked his puck movement on the power play and he has a hard slap shot to boot. He should be a guy that gets a bunch of assists on the man advantage.

- Now its onto the regular season and the opening weekend is no cupcake. A home and home with AIC the defending regular season and tournament champion of Atlantic Hockey. The Yellow Jackets reached their first NCAA tournament and only knocked out top seed St. Cloud State before falling in a closer than the score indicated game against Denver 3-0 in the regional final. AIC is well coached and is a veteran team with a fair amount of upperclassmen and will provide a tough opening weekend test for a young Quinnipiac team.

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Friday, October 4, 2019

2019-2020 Quinnipiac Bobcats Men's Ice Hockey Season Preview

Rand Pecknold's team enters as a top ten program in the pre-season polls
It has been six months since the Quinnipiac men's ice hockey team last took to the ice to play a meaningful game. The 2018-2019 ended just one game short of the program's third Frozen Four appearance of this decade when they lost 3-1 to the eventual two-time national champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 3-1 in the Allentown regional final.

The program lost eight players from last years squad including five starters on the back end including the starting goaltender in Andrew Shortridge who signed with the San Jose Sharks organization foregoing his final year of eligibility. Brogan Rafferty also departed early to the Vancouver Canucks while Chase Priskie, Luke Shiplo and Brandon Fortunato all graduated. Up front the Bobcats lost only two players of note in Craig Martin and Scott Davidson. Martin's 30 points will be tough to replace and the leadership of Davidson along with Priskie will also be missed as well. Freshman Matthew Cassidy also is not returning to the program and has headed to the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms.

Despite the losses on the back end there is a lot of optimism in Hamden this season for another good season on the ice. Quinnipiac also opened as a top ten team in both the and USA Today polls. The team was also picked second in the ECAC coaches poll while they were picked third in the ECAC media poll. Cornell took the top spot in both polls. Junior forward Odeen Tufto was the lone Bobcat to be picked on the ECAC pre-season all league team as he is coming off back-to-back 40 point seasons.

Odeen Tufto is expected to lead a talented Bobcats offense
The strength of the Bobcats is surely with their forwards. They return four of their top five scoring forwards from a season ago in Tufto, Ethan de Jong, Alex Whelan and Wyatt Bongiovanni. Those four combined for 52 goals and a total of 115 points last season so the expectation is they get even better this season. Senior captain Nick Jermain has always had the skill to become a good scorer but he has had trouble staying healthy. Sophomore William Fallstrom had a solid freshman year and should get better along with fellow sophomores Michael Lombardi and Desi Burgart. Quinnipiac adds some talent up front in Edmonton Oilers draft pick Skyler Brind'Amour [son of Hurricanes head coach Rod] and Ethan Leyh who both should see a lot of minutes and become good producers for the Bobcats as freshman. One sleeper to watch out for is red-shirt freshman Guus van Nes. The Netherlands born forward sat out last season and hasn't played in well over a year after aging out in juniors during his final season but he ended up attending the San Jose Sharks developmental camp over the summer.

If there is a potential weakness to this team, its probably on the back end. With Chase Priskie, Brandon Fortunato, Luke Shiplo gone to graduation and Brogan Rafferty leaving after his junior season for an NHL deal with the Vancouver Canucks, the lone upperclassmen back there is senior Karlis Cukste. Quinnipiac has ten underclassmen on the back end. Sophomores Peter Diliberatore and Zach Metsa each got significant playing time a season ago and will need to step up as leaders on the back end and log a lot of minutes along with picking up the point production of the departed Priskie, Fortunato and Rafferty. Fellow sophomores Cam Boudreau and Marcus Chorney saw 21 games and 3 games respectively last season and the hope they can crack the lineup full time this year. Rand Pecknold has moved back forward T.J. Friedmann to defense which on the surface of it doesn't bode well for the defensive corps. In this bloggers opinion that screams of desperation early especially when this team has ten other defensemen on the roster. There are likely to be four scratches a night as coach Pecknold will likely play with seven defensemen on game days. Freshman Logan Britt, Wyatt Head and C.J. McGee should expect to factor highly into the mix. Each of them had successful junior seasons in the USHL, BCHL and NAHL respectively. Britt won the Clark Cup after getting traded to Sioux Falls. Fellow freshman Jayden Lee while undersized was accelerated to Quinnipiac this season after playing in the BCHL a year ago. He was expected to be part of the 2020-2021 recruiting class. It remains to be seen if he is ready for the collegiate level or if he was rushed to Quinnipiac when he could have used another year of seasoning in junior hockey. It may take the Bobcats a half season to get the defense settled out but they have good coaches on the staff who will figure out which parts fit where on the roster.

Keith Petruzzelli will need a strong season if QU wants to reach the NCAA tournament
Goal-tending is another concern in my opinion for Quinnipiac but to a lessor degree. While I have no doubt the talent is there for the position to be very good it all depends on the continued development of junior Keith Petruzzelli. With Andrew Shortridge having departed a year early for a pro contract with the San Jose Sharks, the spotlight now falls onto the shoulders of Petruzzelli who has yet to live up to the hype as a third round pick by the Detroit Red Wings. However, I have heard from a source that Petruzzelli has made big strides this off season and in practices. We just need to see if it translates in success in game action. Freshman Evan Fear is expected to be Petruzzelli's back up and will likely push the veteran goaltender. Fear was strong down the stretch after a trade to Waterloo in the USHL. He posted a 1.99 goals against average along with a .922 save percentage in four playoff games. Josh Mayanja will likely be the third goaltender once again.

Those three goaltenders will have a new goal-tending coach as Jared Waimon has moved on to a scouting position with the Tampa Bay Lightning that was well deserved. He has been replaced by former Bobcats goaltender and goal-tending coach Justin Eddy ('04), who returns to the program for a second stint after coaching back in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons for the Bobcats.

This will be a big challenge for Rand Pecknold and the coaching staff. While the talent is there, along with expectations high being a top ten team in the country, we have to remember this team has 22 underclassmen on the roster and there are expected to be some growing pains. Quinnipiac has the benefit of great coaches who will work to figure out how to put it all together and once they do it wouldn't surprise me to see this team competing for the Cleary and Whitelaw cups this year along with another NCAA tournament berth. 

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