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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