Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Weekend Preview: Massachusetts Minutemen

Ethan de Jong and Quinnipiac have a home and home series with Massachusetts

UMass Head Coach: Greg Carvel (4th season)

2019-2020 UMass record: 8-3-1 (4-3-1 Hockey East)

All-time vs. UMass: Quinnipiac leads series 8-5-2

UMass Key Players: Mitchell Chaffee (F), John Leonard (F), Bobby Trivigno (F), Oliver Chau (F), Reed Lebster (F), Zac Jones (D), Colin Felix (D) Marc Del Gaizo (D), Matt Murray (G), Filip Lindberg (G)

No team had a bigger turnaround in the 2018-2019 season than Massachusetts. A season after winning just 17 games, the Minutemen improved by 14 wins to set a program record with 31. They also made the first ever Frozen Four in program history but fell short of the National Championship when Minnesota Duluth beat them in the title game to repeat as champions. Cale Makar has departed after a 49 point season which culminated in the Hobey Baker Award. They also lost Mario Ferraro early to the pros while key forward Jacob Pritchard and Brett Boeing graduated. Massachusetts still returns a ton of talent to a team that is likely to reach the NCAA tournament again.

Losing Jacob Pritchard was big for Massachusetts but they returned a lot of talent up front. Mitchell Chaffee already has 10 goals in 12 games played this season including three power play goals. John Leonard is also off to another good start with seven goals while Oliver Chau who had a down season last year already has eight points. Massachusetts is getting some good freshman production from Reed Lebster and Cal Kiefiuk who each have seven points. The Minutemen power play has struggled this season much like Quinnipiac's and that will happen when you lose players like Cale Makar and Mario Ferraro. They are right behind Quinnipiac in power play percentage at just a shade over 13%.

While a defensive drop was expected a bit with the losses of Makar and Ferraro, it has not been that much as the Minutemen are tied for 10th in the country in goals allowed at 2.08. Freshman Zac Jones is the teams second leading scorer with 11 points while sophomores Ty Farmer, Colin Felix and freshman Matthew Kessel provide solid depth. They have been solid defensively and this has been without their best returning defensemen in the lineup, Marc Del Gaizo who has played only two games this season. When he gets back to full health, this defense should be even better. The penalty kill is an area when Massachusetts has excelled this season at 88.7% which is 8th best in the country. Expect the Minutemen to make it hard on a Quinnipiac offense that has been struggling to score goals this season fight and claw for every inch of the ice this weekend.

The Minutemen have probably the best goalie tandem in the country between Matt Murray and Filip Lindberg. They are pretty even statistically so its essentially a coin flip who Greg Carvel will go with. Matt Murray has the better goals against at 1.84 compared to 1.97 for Lindberg but its the save percentage where Lindberg has Murray beat at .915 compared to .902. The save percentage numbers are down for the two of them but when you lose players like Makar and Ferraro that should be expected.

These are two different teams than the ones that split a series last year and while Massachusetts may not be as good as last year, they still look like they are an NCAA team while Quinnipiac has shown inconsistent play from week to week and hasn't looked like a team that will be playing in late March. At this point in the season with how the Bobcats have played and who they have lost to, these could be considered must win games if this team wants any chance at an at-large tournament berth. Otherwise the only path might be to win the league tournament in Lake Placid.

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Monday, November 25, 2019

Q&A with Quinnipiac commit Ty Smilanic

Ty Smilanic signing his national letter of intent with Quinnipiac (photo by USNTDP)

Quinnipiac received the biggest commitment in program history on November 20th when one of the top uncommitted 2002 U.S. born players in Ty Smilanic made his college decision official by choosing Quinnipiac over teams such as North Dakota along with a few other unknown programs. Smilanic is by far the best player ever to commit to Quinnipiac and could be the first player drafted in the first round of the NHL draft to ever come to Hamden when the draft commences in June of 2020. Smilanic is currently finishing his last year of junior hockey with prestigious United States National Team Development Program which is a collection of the best American born players in the U-18 and U-17 age brackets. Thank you to Ty for taking time out of his schedule to do this Q&A so Bobcat Nation can get to know the newest member of the 2020-2021 roster.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: First off congratulations on signing your national letter of intent with Quinnipiac.  What are your emotions like after making your college decision?

Ty Smilanic: I'm pretty happy to have the whole situation just behind me and couldn’t be more happy with my decision right now. I am just soaking up all the emotions right now.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: How did this whole process come about? I must say this came out of left field and was one of the most shocking, yet satisfying commitments in Quinnipiac history.

Ty Smilanic: I took a visit to the campus and just fell in love with the school, the coaching staff, and just all the players. They made me feel like home and made me feel appreciated.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Your the first grade A prospect that Quinnipiac ever landed in the programs Division I history. Was there anything specific that the coaching staff told you that made you say that Quinnipiac will be my future college destination?

Ty Smilanic: It wasn’t necessarily anything they said, but I could tell that they cared about me as a person and as a player. I felt that with how much they cared, this was the best place for me to develop on and off the ice.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Quinnipiac has recently put some good players in the NHL such as Devon Toews with the New York Islanders and Connor Clifton with the Boston Bruins but none as highly touted as you. In my opinion, I feel that the Quinnipiac coaching staff is a staff that could get the most out of you as a player during your time at Quinnipiac in helping you prepare for the professional level. Is that something you would agree with as they have taken lesser talent and hidden gems and really developed it into NHL players?

Ty Smilanic: Hundred percent. I couldn’t agree more myself. The way they have been developing players in recent years is astonishing and I can’t wait to be a part of that myself. With a coaching staff that cares as much as they do and a hockey player that loves the game as much as I do, that’s a recipe for a lot of good things to come.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: This is a program that has been to two Frozen Fours and five NCAA tournaments since 2013 but has yet to land a potential first round pick until you committed. Do you feel that you as a player committing to Quinnipiac will open that door where other United States National Team Development Program players who are potential high to mid round picks will look to consider Quinnipiac in future years?

Ty Smilanic:  I didn’t really commit to Quinnipiac to open doors for the future, that wasn’t really my motivation. My motivation was to play with the players that I got to meet and to get coached by the coaches I met. However, if me coming here does open doors in the future for more players to follow my path, hopefully that just means good things for this program.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Your playing for Seth Appert who formally coached RPI in the ECAC. What is he like as a coach and it seems like he has really developed some kids in the past few years with many first round picks especially last year?

Ty Smilanic: He is actually a big reason for me opening my eyes to Quinnipiac. In these two years he’s developed me to become more of a complete player and I am very thankful to have a coach like that. I see a lot of similarities between coach Appert and coach Pecknold.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Your scouting report is this. Powerful stride with separational speed, puts defenders on their heels and can launch the puck on goal. Skilled and strong and responsible defensively. On paper that is a pretty strong scouting report of you but are their any areas of your game that you feel that need to be improved upon before reaching Hamden?

Ty Smilanic: I want to be a complete 200-foot player that can be trusted in any situation of the game. So I need to work on my defensive zone play so that is probably the biggest thing for sure.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: Is their a player in today’s game that you try to model your game after and if so why?

Ty Smilanic: Being from Colorado, I love watching Nathan MacKinnon. I love how he plays the game with so much speed and plays every shift with so much competitiveness. He is for sure the player I try to model my game after.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: To this point in your life, who has been your biggest influence to get you to this point of playing college hockey and on the brink of being a high NHL draft pick?

Ty Smilanic: Without a doubt I have to give that one to my parents. They were the ones that drove me to the rink every day and were at every single game growing up. I wouldn’t be anywhere that I am today without them.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: What’s it like having scouts from 31 NHL teams consistently watching you and at this point in the season have you had a ton of contact with them?

Ty Smilanic: Yes I have talk to a good amount of NHL teams. It is nerve-racking but I’ve learned as time is going on that I just need to play my game and the rest will figure itself out. I love having the pressure on me as it makes me play at a higher level.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: What should the Quinnipiac community expect from Ty Smilanic on and off the ice?

Ty Smilanic: I'm just a really smiley kid that loves to play the game of hockey and loves to play the game really fast. I am also willing to do whatever it takes to get Quinnipiac the first National Championship in program history.

BobcatsHockeyBlog: What does Ty Smilanic like to do when he is not playing hockey?

Ty Smilanic: I love spending time with my family. Whether that’s going to a sporting event together or just spending a night on the couch watching television. They have built me to the person I am today and continue to this day keep making me a better person.

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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Weekend in Review: Cornell/Colgate

Rand Pecknold's team was swept on the weekend in upstate New York (file photo)
It was a lost weekend for the Quinnipiac Bobcats men's ice hockey as they got swept in upstate New York against Cornell and Colgate by scores of 2-1 and 3-1 respectively. After a home sweep last weekend, the hope was for Quinnipiac to at least get a split of the weekend series before the final two games of the first half of the season this weekend against Massachusetts. Here are my thoughts of the weekend that was for Quinnipiac hockey.

- Despite the loss Friday night, I thought Quinnipiac played its best game of the season. They went toe to toe with the number two team in their building and came up short by a single goal. Quinnipiac competed hard and never gave up against a more talented Big Red team that has a team that can reach the Frozen Four in Detroit this year. The officiating in this game wasn't good and William Fallstrom should have been assessed a two minute penalty not a five minute major on his hit late in the third period. Even though they lost, this game will help Quinnipiac in the long run as they look to become a better team in the second half of the season.

- Saturday night was another story. A game that Quinnipiac really needed to have they lost it. They got behind against Colgate, though tied it on the power play yet let in two third period goals including an empty net one to finish the weekend with zero ECAC points. That isn't a great Colgate team they played either but they had more jump in their step than Quinnipiac did.

- Captain Nick Jermain tied his career high with five goals with a goal in the Cornell game. That number should be eclipsed by a bunch by the time the season ends barring good health. Jermain reminds me of former Quinnipiac captain Cory Hibbeler as they both good leaders who were similar sized players that didn't score a ton as they did the little things in order to win.

- I've criticized the inconsistent play of Keith Petruzzelli at times but he was by far the best player this weekend for Quinnipiac. He kept the Bobcats in the game against Cornell with 20 saves with a few highlight ones and Saturday he was strong again with 22 saves including more highlight ones. This is four really solid games in a row for Petruzzelli who looks like he is becoming more comfortable each time out on the ice.

- Petruzzelli was more than good enough for the Bobcats to win this weekend but the offense for Quinnipiac which was expected to be a strength is failing this team. Two goals on the weekend just isn't going to cut it and one of them came on the man advantage. Friday I can excuse the one goal against a stout Cornell team with the best goaltender in the league. But Saturday one goal against a Colgate team that is sub .500 is inexcusable. The offense looked like it had heavy feet and they weren't playing well together. They had 34 shots on goal but not a ton of grade A chances. They may have to shuffle the lineup to see if things can get going because the month of November has not been kind to Quinnipiac as an offense as they have only scored three goals in a game twice this month.

- The power play is still having massive issues. They went zero for five on Friday night before going one for four on Saturday against Colgate. There is a lot of indecision on the power play along with slow passes and not a lot of shots. This gives the opponents easier opportunities to clear the puck and less time in the offensive zone. 

- The defense on this team is starting to come around. They are blocking shots as the defenders blocked 13 shots on the weekend. They are starting to move the puck out of the zone along with playing smart in their own end. Expect this defense to continue to get better as the season progresses as they have talent back on the blue line though it is inexperienced.

- Its the final two games of the first half, Quinnipiac will have a big challenge when they face the 2019 National Runner-Up in Massachusetts. Despite losing Cale Makar to the NHL, the Minutemen still return a strong team that is experienced and knows how to win games. They also have two really good goaltenders they can turn to and are well coached by Greg Carvel. This will be a big challenge for Quinnipiac and with the way the Bobcats are playing right now especially on offense, I think getting a split would be good accomplishment and a good way to end the first half of the season.

You can follow the BobcatsHockeyBlog on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Weekend Preview: Cornell/Colgate

Keith Petruzzelli, the reining ECAC goaltender of week has a big test against Cornell

Cornell Head Coach: Mike Schaefer (25th Season)

2019-2020 Cornell record: 6-0 (4-0 ECAC)

All-time vs. Cornell: Cornell leads 22-17-4

Cornell Key Players: Morgan Barron (F), Cam Donaldson (F), Max Andreev (F), Michael Regush (F), Brendan Locke (F), Yanni Kaldis (D), Sam Malinski (D), Alex Green (D), Matthew Galajda (G)

Quinnipiac has what likely will be their biggest test of the season when they travel to Lynah Rink to face #2 Cornell who are also #1 in the pairwise rankings. The preseason ECAC pick to win the league, the Big Red are also one of the teams that has a real chance to get to Detroit for the Frozen Four. This has a chance to be the best Cornell team since 2003 when they reached the Frozen Four. They are that talented as they are a team that can score, play defense and have a top goaltender. Factor in a home ice advantage and this will surely be a difficult match-up on paper for Quinnipiac.

The Big Red have the second best offense in the county at 4.83 goals per game behind the Harvard Crimson. Led by junior Morgan Barron who is off to a blazing start with 12 points in six games, Cornell features seven players averaging more than a point per game. Brendan Locke and Max Andreev each have seven points on two goals and five assists. Cam Donaldson and Michael Regush are off to good starts as well with six and five points respectively. Prized freshman commit Matt Stienburg a third round pick of the Colorado Avalanche has yet to get going with only one assist in six games. Cornell has by far the best power play in the country with a deadly 42.3% conversion rate. It is imperative that Quinnipiac stays disciplined and out of the penalty box. 

The Cornell defense is also one of the stingiest in the country giving up just 1.67 goals per game. Pre-Season All-ECAC first team pick Yanni Kaldis has gotten better each and every season he has been in Ithaca. The senior captain has six points but it has been his fellow defensemen in freshman Sam Malinski (9 points, plus 8) and Alex Green (7 points, plus 4) that have really elevated this team on the defensive end. Junior defensemen Matt Cairns hasn't yet broke out offensively but has been very steady with a plus five rating. The most shocking stat for Cornell is their struggles on the penalty kill at just 70% for the season. For a team that prides itself defensively this is a number that needs to improve if they want to make a deep tournament run this year.

Matthew Galajda couldn't match his freshman year statistics but could you really expect him to? After posting a 1.51 goals against and a .939 save percentage as a freshman, Galajda had a slight drop-off to a 1.85 goals against and a .921 save percentage as a sophomore. The junior is off to a stellar start once again with a 1.67 goals against and a .926 save percentage in six games and is the backbone of the Big Red. He should be someone who sees serious NHL interest in the spring.

Colgate Head Coach: Don Vaughan (27th Season)

2019-2020 Colgate record: 2-6-1 (0-1-1 ECAC)

All-time vs. Colgate : Quinnipiac leads 23-16-2

Colgate Key Players: Bobby McMann (F), Colton Young (F), Josh McKechney (F), Jared Cockrell (F), Paul McAvoy (F), Nick Austin (D), Trevor Cosgrove (D), Mitch Benson (G)

Colgate is coming off its third losing season in the last four years and the return on the four year old Class of 1965 Arena has yet to prove to be beneficial for the Raiders. They are still struggling to attract elite talent to Hamilton despite having a shiny new rink. This season the Raiders are off to a 3-6-3 start but have competed hard and lost some close games and beat and tied some good teams including UMass Lowell and Providence. They are lacking in talent and it is hurting them.

Just as it has been a problem in past years the offense once again is struggling for Colgate. Averaging just 1.66 goals per game, the Raiders desperately need to find players that can score goals. Freshman Colton Young looks like a nice find as he has six points on the year as the teams leading scorer. Colgate doesn't have one player averaging a point per game let a lone three quarters of a point per game. They are the 4th worst offense in the country and only Union is worse than them in the ECAC. Their best player Bobby McMann is off to a slow start and needs to get going for the Raiders. Colgate by far has the worst power play in the country at 2.27% (1 of 44).

Colgate has been able to stay in games because of its defense. On the season, the Raiders are allowing 2.58 goals per game and a lot of that is due to the fact they have four upperclassmen back on the blue line. Nick Austin, Trevor Cosgrove, Jacob Panetta and Paul Meyer have logged a ton of minutes for the Raiders and have helped keep the puck out of the net. This is a Colgate defense that also has done a nice job on the penalty kill at 82.2%

Sophomore Mitch Benson has done a very solid job this season for Colgate with a 2.37 goals against average and a .913 save percentage which are better numbers than he posted a season ago. Benson is the backbone of the Colgate defense and has shown to be the most consistent Raider player this season. If Colgate wants to beat Quinnipiac, he is going to have to play a big part in making that happen with a strong performance.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Quinnipiac lands game changing commit in Ty Smilanic

Ty Smilanic with the USNTDP

The Quinnipiac Bobcats landed a major commitment on Wednesday with the news from Jeff Cox that the program landed United States National Developmental Program center Ty Smilanic a potential first round pick in 2020. This is a game changer for the Quinnipiac program who have never landed a potential first round draft pick in the Rand Pecknold era.

Smilanic a native of Denver, Colorado was a former Denver Pioneers commit with the two parting ways in September of 2018. The 2002 born Smilanic is a 6'1, 177 pound left shot center shot center who has four points in two USHL games this season. He has not played since October 20th but its unknown if he has an injury.

Central Scouting has him ranked as an A rated player in their most recent rankings on November 11th. In an article, the director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr had this to say about Smilanic. "He plays the game with speed, quickness, smarts and skills. What sets him apart is he's always on the puck, he's always forcing the play, always making things happen."

Many other publications have him ranked in the top 30, Smilanic should see his name called on the first night of the draft. His WHL rights are held by Regina so he is still a possible flight risk. Should Smilanic be a first round pick, Quinnipiac may only have him for a season or two but in the long run it is worth it as this may open the path to other higher end players.


EliteProspects Player Page
USHL Player Page

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Quinnipiac's weekend sweep of Union & RPI

Quinnipiac wore their camo jersey's to honor those in the military
Quinnipiac returned to the win column this weekend with a pair of victories as they swept Union and RPI to win their first two ECAC games of the season. It was the second time Quinnipiac swept a weekend series with opening weekend against AIC being the first. The wins move the Bobcats to 6-4-1 (2-1-1 ECAC) as they head to Cornell and Colgate next weekend. Here are my thoughts and observations from the weekend slate of games.

- It was really surprising to see Quinnipiac struggle with a bad Union team on Friday. They got down early by a goal and were really sluggish in the first period.  Give Union some credit for coming out more prepared than Quinnipiac despite the talent limitations with that team. The second and third periods were better but they could only get the two goals past Darion Hanson which was enough for the win. They can get away with scoring two probably against teams like Union but against most teams scoring two won't cut it. They need more guys to produce offense from this roster.

- Saturday night featured a much improved RPI team in Dave Smith's third season at the helm. The Engineers got on the board fast when Will Reilly beat Keith Petruzzelli glove side. This was the 5th consecutive game for Quinnipiac that they gave up the first goal, a trend that really can't continue to happen. After that RPI goal it was all Quinnipiac the rest of the first period as they scored three unanswered goals. The last two periods were uneventful and pretty sluggish from Quinnipiac and they got very lucky in the third period when RPI had a 5 on 3 and had a goal waved off. It was a little surprising to see RPI goaltender Owen Savory pulled after one period and it could be a wake up call for him. Expect RPI to be much better in the second half as they contend for a top four spot in the ECAC.

- Quinnipiac had better energy this weekend along with better puck possession and passing. When the Bobcats are doing those things well they are a tough team to beat but they clearly will need to be better than what they did weekend as they will face better teams down the road.

- Karlis Cukste had an outstanding weekend on the blue line. He was Quinnipiac's best player on Friday night and was really good again Saturday against RPI. Cukste was stout in the defensive end with six blocked shots on the weekend but his offensive game was impressive as well. He a power play goal against Union and followed that up assisting on all three goals against RPI for a four point weekend. Quinnipiac needs Cukste to be at his best every game because of the youth and inexperience they have on the blue line this year. It showed this weekend.

- It took 11 games but Odeen Tufto finally got his first goal of the season. Hopefully with this first one of the way, he will go on the tear scoring now for Quinnipiac as they have some really tough games coming up with Cornell, Colgate and Massachusetts here in November. The more offense out of Tufto the better this team will be.

- Two more Bobcats also got their first goals of the season. Alex Whelan and William Fallstrom scored just 2:16 apart to give Quinnipiac a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Whelan who is coming off an injury had a two point night and three in total for the weekend as he was paired with Odeen Tufto and Wyatt Bongiovanni. Fallstrom had the eventual game winning goal and had a two point weekend for the Bobcats. Both of these players had over 20 points a season ago and were expected to have bigger production this season. Hopefully this weekend will lead to a breakout from them.

Quinnipiac swept the weekend with a 3-1 win over RPI

- Keith Petruzzelli who has been up and down of late bounced back with a strong weekend saving 40 of 42 shots in two victories. After an 0-3-1 stretch it was good to see Petruzzelli play strong in between the pipes for Quinnipiac. This was a weekend that he needed to have and he delivered. Stick tap for the junior goaltender. Petruzzelli will now go back to Lynah Rink where he suffered one of his worst games back in the 2018 ECAC Quarterfinals.

- The Quinnipiac defense looked much better this weekend outside of the first period against Union on Friday. Karlis Cukste showed he was the lead back there but they started to show they can play as a cohesive unit on the blue line. I expect the defense to get better as the season goes along as these young players get more comfortable and more experienced.

- The power play is still a work in progress after going 1 for 7 on the weekend but it was the penalty kill that showed to be very good. They killed off seven opposing power plays on the weekend including a key 5 on 3 against RPI in which they got some referee's luck with a goal waved off. The penalty kill is starting to look more like typical Quinnipiac teams of the past and that is a positive development.

- Next weekend will be the toughest road venue Quinnipiac will face this season. The Bobcats head to Lynah Rink to face the Cornell Big Red who are off to a 6-0 start and one of only two undefeated teams remaining in the country with the other being Harvard. The Big Red are loaded and a potential team that can reach the Frozen Four this year. They have scoring, a very good defense and the best goaltender in the league in Matthew Galajda who is off to another good start this season.

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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Weekend Preview: Union/RPI

Joe O'Connor and the Quinnipiac Bobcats return to Hamden after a four game road trip

Union Dutchmen

Union Head Coach: Rick Bennett (9th Season)

2019-2020 Union record: 2-10-0 (1-3-0 ECAC)

All-time vs. Union: Series tied 16-16-5

Union Key Players: Anthony Rinaldi (F), Owen Farris (F), Gabriel Seger (F), Sam Morton (F), Vas Kolias (D), Dylan Anhorn (D), Darion Hanson (G)

It's been 15 years since Union lost over 20 games in a season but they are on pace to eclipse that amount. Not since the early days of Nate Leaman have the Dutchmen been this bad but they are in the midst of a 2-10 start and haven't been competitive in many of the games. This is exactly the type of opponent that a struggling Quinnipiac team needs to face but they Bobcats have struggled against Union in the last three seasons going 0-5-1 against them. There is no better time to change that than this weekend Union having lost their last three games. 

No team was gutted up front as much as the Dutchmen were. Gone are Cole Maier, Ryan Walker, Brett Supinski and Sebastian Vidmar to graduation. Liam Morgan the top returning scorer bolted for pro hockey in Europe while Jack Adams and Parker Foo are both hurt. Union has very little up front outside of Anthony Rinaldi. This is a team that is struggling to score goals averaging only 1.5 per game this season. However is Quinnipiac good enough defensively to keep Union struggling offensively? The power play is another area of concern as they are converting on just 4 of 52 chances which is good for 7.69%.

Defensively this Union team has struggled giving up 3.42 goals per game this year as senior Vas Kolias has really struggled on the blue line. Freshman Dylan Anhorn has been their best defender and only plus player on the roster at a plus 2. Its been a rotating door of defensemen for Rick Bennett as he has yet to find consistency with a specific group of players. If there is one bright spot its the penalty kill has been solid at 84.3% this year.

Junior Darion Hanson's numbers are down but that is because the defense in front of him has really struggled. He is probably Union's best chance at an upset as he has the ability to steal games like he did a year ago as he was dominant in two games against Quinnipiac going 1-0-1 and allowing just two goals total in those games. For Union to pull an upset, Hanson will need to be stellar.

RPI Engineers

RPI Head Coach: Dave Smith (3rd Season)

2019-2020 RPI record: 4-4-0 (2-2-0 ECAC)

All-time vs. RPI: Quinnipiac leads 15-7-9

RPI Key Players: Chase Zieky (F), Patrick Polino (F), Jake Marrello (F), Ottoville Leppanen (F), Todd Burgess (F), Zach Dubinsky (F), Will Reilly (D), Simon Kjellberg (D), Owen Savory (G)

The Dave Smith era is in its third season and the Engineers are trending upwards. The first two seasons produced six and ten wins respectively and with four wins already RPI is likely to exceed last years win total by a lot. Of their four losses, RPI was competitive in three of them only struggling in a 5-2 home loss against Connecticut. For a once proud program it is good to see RPI one of the better teams again in the ECAC. While they have not made the NCAA's since 2011, the program is definitely heading in the right direction and a Lake Placid appearance should be something the Engineers strive for this season as Dave Smith looks to continue to make his mark on the RPI program.

For a team that struggled to score in the past, its been a 180 this season. RPI is averaging 3.50 goals per game which puts them in the top 15 in the country. Four players are averaging over a point per game. Its been the seniors of Chase Zieky, Patrick Polino and Jake Marrello that have led the way so far for the Engineers as they have combined for 22 points. Sophomore Ottoville Leppanen is off to a fine start with six points while freshman Zach Dubinsky has four. RPI is getting contributions from everyone and its showing with their play. Quinnipiac needs to be wary of the RPI power play which has excelled this season to a tune of 26.67% (8 of 30).

RPI is solid defensively and has a young defense much like Quinnipiac and the Engineer defensemen will probably will improve as the season goes along as well. Senior Will Reilly is the leader back on the blue line and also the teams leading scorer who is also a weapon on the power play. Quinnipiac will need to account for him whenever he is on the ice. Freshman Simon Kjellberg, a New York Rangers draft pick has given some added skill and size to the blue line.

Sophomore goaltender Owen Savory is one of the better goaltenders in the ECAC. Named to the ECAC All-Rookie team at the end of last season, Savory has picked up where he left off. Coming into this weekend he is 3-3 with a 2.36 goals against and a .917 save percentage. Last season he stopped 35 shots against Quinnipiac in a 2-1 loss at the Houston Field House. Savory will clearly make it tough on Quinnipiac as outside of one game in which he allowed four goals against Massachusetts he has only allowed two goals in each of his other five starts. He will definitely play a factor in this game. 

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Monday, November 11, 2019

Thoughts and observations from the weekend slate against Dartmouth & Harvard

Senior Alex Whelan returned to the lineup this past weekend but Quinnipiac still struggled on the ice
 Quinnipiac went 0-1-1 on the opening weekend of ECAC play and it wasn't pretty at times. Due to a prior engagement I could only watch Friday's game against Dartmouth and not the game against Harvard. We are nine games into the 2019-2020 season which is still a small sample size but I am not sure if this will be a tournament team. They will likely be better in the second half than the first half so it remains to be seen if they can make a run in the later half of the season. Here are my thoughts from the weekend slate of games.

- It was a solid effort on Friday for the Bobcats though they blew a lead in the third period and had to settle for a tie after overtime. Quinnipiac was good in the first two periods but struggled giving up 11 shots in the third period including the tying goal by Tyler Campbell which was scored on a scrum in front of Petruzzelli. Getting a point was a good start in league play even though it probably should have been two.

- It was good to see Alex Whelan back from his injury after missing five straight games with an upper body injury. Whelan's presence should be a big boost in the coming weeks for Quinnipiac as he gets his games legs back and gets his timing back. They need Whelan to help stabilize the special teams and put the puck into the net with his 200 foot game. 

- Odeen Tufto and William Fallstrom were dominant on face-offs against Dartmouth with Tufto winning 10 of 14 and Fallstrom 13 of 16. They need that to continue to order to establish puck possession along with getting quick breakouts out of the defensive zone. The two weren't nearly as good against Harvard and the team only won two more face-offs against the Crimson only Saturday.

- Give Quinnipiac's defense some credit on Friday night as they shut down Dartmouth's top guys of Quin Foreman and Drew O'Connor. The Bobcats caught a break when Will Graber wasn't active for the game but Quinnipiac did a nice job limiting Foreman and O'Connor to just two shots combined.

- The same can't be said Saturday about the Quinnipiac defense and goal-tending which was pretty bad. Giving up seven goals on 23 shots is beyond bad and just shows that the defense has a long way to go to be effective consistently. They didn't get much help either from goaltender Keith Petruzzelli who gave up three goals on seven shots before being pulled for the second time in four games in favor of freshman Evan Fear. How much longer can Quinnipiac continue to start a goalie with a sub .900 save percentage? I know Evan Fear's save percentage is .793 but each time he came into the game, it was in a tough spot. I really think they need to give Fear a start here in the next few weeks to see if he can give a spark because their has just been too many inconsistencies with Keith Petruzzelli.

- Captain Nick Jermain is second on the team with four goals and is just one goal off from tying his career high in a season. The senior looks like he may have a strong year after battling some injuries two of his first three seasons in Hamden.

- I can't believe we are nine games into the season and Odeen Tufto hasn't scored a goal yet. He leads the team in points with 11 assists and has points in his last six games but is really snake bitten right now when it comes to putting the puck into the net. 

- Harvard is for real and I still shocked they weren't picked higher than where they were. They have probably the best collection of talent in the ECAC with some high end forwards sprinkled with good depth offensively along with a top four on defense that is one of the best in the league. The Crimson's only weakness is probably in goal and that might not be an issue for long as freshman goaltender Mitchell Gibson might take this job and run with it.

- It still amazes me that Quinnipiac was picked second in the league. When I submitted my ballot there was no way I was putting them that high and I ended up picking them fourth. That might have been very generous on my part. They might struggle to even reach that. They had some pretty big losses that are really tough to cover up for when you aren't bringing in talent that is comparable to what you are losing especially on the blue line. You aren't going to win a lot of games when you have a negative five goal difference. I know that the Harvard game skewed those numbers but its still not something you want to see from Quinnipiac.

- Next weekend is big for Quinnipiac. They welcome a bad Union team and a rising RPI team to Hamden and they can ill afford to fall behind the eight ball in the ECAC standings. Union has given the Bobcats some struggles the past few years and this is the time Quinnipiac needs to return the favor when Union is in the midst of a poor season. RPI is a team on the rise as they are 4-4 (2-2 ECAC). They boost a solid goaltender in sophomore Owen Savory who played really well as a freshman and was a difference maker for the Engineers. Expect another tough ECAC weekend for Quinnipiac.

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Friday, November 8, 2019

Weekend Preview: Dartmouth/Harvard

Zach Metsa and the Quinnipiac defense have a tall task this weekend in ECAC play

Dartmouth Head Coach: Bob Gaudet (23rd Season)

2019-2020 Dartmouth record: 0-2-0 (0-1-0 ECAC)

All-time vs. Dartmouth: Quinnipiac leads 20-10-2

Dartmouth Key Players: Will Graber (F), Drew O'Connor (F), Quin Foreman (F), Matt Baker (F), Jeffrey Lossurdo (F), Brendan Demler (D), Joey Matthews (D), Adrian Clark (G)

Dartmouth is a team that reached the ECAC quarterfinals despite finishing under .500 for the season. After dropping hard fought last year in a sweep to Harvard, the stakes are raised for the Big Green as they return one of the best lines in the league and one of the heaviest in Will Graber, Quin Foreman and Drew O'Connor. The Big Green should be able to get a home ice series in the ECAC playoffs but are now shooting for a top four spot. Head coach Bob Gaudet has been there since 1997 but has yet to get Dartmouth to the NCAA tournament a place they haven't been since 1980. They have some talent but they are going to need some breaks along the way if they will end that drought. Coming off back to back to losses to Harvard and the University of New Hampshire, the Big Green are hungry for a win.

There is no question that the Big Green can score goals. They put up seven goals in two games even though they dropped both to Harvard and UNH. They have one of the best lines in the league that will present fore-checking problems for Quinnipiac who really struggled last weekend against Arizona State in that area. The Bobcats biggest concern will have to be Graber, O'Connor and Foreman. This line hurt Quinnipiac when they played up in Hanover again and with the Bobcats struggles on the blue line factored in with inconsistent goal-tending this season, could be a cause for concern for Quinnipiac. How can Quinnipiac stop this offense? It starts by having puck possession and an aggressive fore-check. That could help mitigate Dartmouth's top scoring line. Quinnipiac would also be wise to stay disciplined and out of the penalty box as the Big Green have a strong power play so far converting on 25% of their chances.

So far the Dartmouth defense has shown they have issues giving up 12 goals in two games played. Part of the reason is they just don't have a ton of talent back there. They graduated their best defensemen in Connor Yau who was very solid for them last year. This is truly an area where Quinnipiac needs to exploit and they have the forwards that can do it. The Dartmouth penalty kill has struggled this at 70% but Quinnipiac has been awful on the power play and might not be able to exploit that as they had trouble against Arizona State who was not very good going into last weekend as well.

Dartmouth will likely need Adrian Clark to play at a high level to cover up for a less talented defense but he's a good enough goaltender where he can be a difference for the Big Green in this game. While his first game was a struggle against a good Harvard team, he was really solid a season ago with a 2.31 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Clark was very strong in the win last year over Quinnipiac in Hanover but struggled in the rematch in Hamden later in the season.

Harvard Head Coach: Ted Donato (16th Season)

2019-2020 Harvard record: 1-0-0 (1-0-0 ECAC)

All-time vs. Harvard: Crimson leads series 15-14-5

Harvard Key Players: Casey Dornbach (F), Jack Badini (F), Jack Drury (F), John Farinacci (F), Nick Abruzzese (F), Reilly Walsh (D), Jack Rathbone (D), Henry Thrun (D), Cameron Gornet (G)

No team in the ECAC has more talent than the Crimson in my opinion and that is still with the early departures of Adam Fox and John Marino on the blue line. Whether that translates on the ice leading to a Cleary Cup or Whitelaw Cup is another story. Harvard brought in a seven player freshman class with five of them being NHL draft picks. It may take some time for some of the younger players to gel but when they do watch out. Harvard could be a sleeper team for the Cleary or Whitelaw Cup titles but lack of experience and goal-tending could keep them from either of those titles.

The Harvard offense is explosive and will cause teams lots of problem if they can't play strong defense. The Crimson have a lot of skill up front with Jack Badini, Nick Abruzzese, John Farinacci, Jack Drury and Casey Dornbach. They have strong depth in players Colton Kerfoot, Henry Bowlby and Nathan Krusko who have the ability to score. The Crimson are deep enough where 7th round draft pick Austin Wong didn't even play in the opener against Dartmouth. What's impressive about Harvard is they blasted the Big Green with seven goals yet none of them came by way of the power play. While they don't have Adam Fox putting up points anymore they have more than enough offense to be an upper echelon team in scoring not just in the ECAC but nationally as well.

Out are Adam Fox and John Marino, in come Henry Thrun and Ryan Siedem. Filling the shoes of Adam Fox is not going to happen. He was that special of a player. But the Crimson should still have one of the better top four's in the ECAC. Led by Reilly Walsh and Jack Rathbone, both of these are strong puck movers in their own end that they will be able to help Thrun and Siedem settle in by mid-season. Quinnipiac's best chance at a mismatch with the Harvard defense is the Crimson's bottom pairing of Marshall Rifai and Benjamin Foley both who have very little game experience.

Goaltender Cameron Gornet did a very solid job filling in for the injured Michael Lackey last season and got the start for the Crimson against Dartmouth. Gornet made 44 saves in the 7-3 victory against the Big Green. Last season Quinnipiac saw Gornet early and he struggled against the Bobcats in a 5-3 loss at Harvard. He didn't play in the second meeting as Michael Lackey beat the Bobcats in Hamden. While he may not start against Quinnipiac, freshman goaltender Mitchell Gibson is a Washington Capitals 4th round pick and is likely to push Gornet this season for the job.

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Sunday, November 3, 2019

Thoughts and observations from Arizona State's weekend sweep of Quinnipiac

Rand Pecknold and his Quinnipiac Bobcats struggled this past weekend in the valley of the sun.

Quinnipiac made it longest road trip of the season to the valley of sun this past weekend but they didn't make it count. The Bobcats were swept by the Sun Devils by scores of 5-3 and 4-1 to fall to 4-3 on the season with ECAC play starting next weekend. There was a lot of ugly play over the weekend that needs to be corrected within the next few weeks. Here are my thoughts and observations from this past weekend against Arizona State.

- There was clearly revenge on the mind of the Sun Devils and you could see it in their play. For them it was not just another game and they had a statement weekend. They punched Quinnipiac in the mouth and the Bobcats couldn't get off the mat. Oceanside Ice Arena is a huge home ice advantage for Arizona State due to how small it is and how fans are on top of the action. Maybe Quinnipiac just wasn't used to playing in such a small venue and that could have affected the way they played.

- You hope that this weekend will be a wake up call for Quinnipiac as they need to bring a sixty minute effort each and every night. The slow starts really need to stop as its really tough for Quinnipiac to play from behind as they don't really have a ton of snipers up front that can take over a game and score goals when the team is trailing. Its just not the way the team is built.

- I think there needs to be a level of concern with goaltender Keith Petruzzelli. While the defense in front of him hasn't been great, he gave up seven goals in 100 minutes of action and was pulled on Friday night after the end of the second period. Saturday night he gave up two soft goals that really changed the tone of the game as Quinnipiac was still in it at the time. He has been way too inconsistent this year season and has a sub .900 save percentage on the season. With a young an inconsistent defense they need the goaltender to pick the team up and he just hasn't done that this year. While he was stellar last weekend against Vermont, he was anything but this past weekend. I am really wondering when we might see freshman Evan Fear get a start because the inconsistent play in goal could really affect the Bobcats season.

- Its clear that Quinnipiac misses senior assistant captain Alex Whelan. He sets a tone up front with his hard nose play and his ability to fore-check and provide scoring chances. Him being out of the lineup has definitely been noticed especially on special teams as well. I don't think he will be ready for the ECAC opener next weekend but you have to hope he will be ready the following week because they really need him in this lineup.

- The power play which was so good last year in now a major problem. They went 1 for 11 on the weekend against the Sun Devils but that one power play goal was late in the game on Friday night when Quinnipiac had an extra attacker on as well. Saturday they were just plain bad. Three of the six chances ended with Quinnipiac taking two foolish penalties with the other ending with a shorthanded goal for Arizona State. Special teams has always been a staple of successful Quinnipiac teams so if they can't get it going this team might struggle at times this season.

- One thing that is stunning is that while Odeen Tufto is the teams leading point man, I didn't think he would be held scoreless seven games into the season. Tufto has nine assists on the team in seven games and took a large step to being a better scorer last season after only nine goals his freshman season. Tufto has a point in every game this season except one but Quinnipiac really needs one of its best players to put the puck in the back of the net.

- Despite winning the face-off battle both nights, I thought Quinnipiac had a tough time with possession in the Arizona State zone and possession throughout the ice. Arizona State did a really good job with its fore-check against Quinnipiac which caused turnovers leading to goals. Arizona State played a heavy game and its something that Quinnipiac will need to learn from as the Sun Devils will not be the only team that the Bobcats will play that brings a heavy game.

- You have to think this will be a rough week of practice for the Quinnipiac players especially with ECAC play opening up and how they played this weekend out at Arizona State. They have a ton of things that need correcting and they need to get the power play in sync. This weekend they will face a Dartmouth that returns a lot of talent followed by a Harvard team with nine NHL draft picks on its roster with one of the best defenses in the ECAC. Quinnipiac will need to bring a sixty minute effort again both of these teams who are expected to be in the upper half of the ECAC this season.

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Friday, November 1, 2019

Weekend Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils

Ethan de Jong and the Bobcats head west for the weekend against Arizona State
Arizona State Head Coach: Greg Powers (5th season)

2019-2020 Arizona State record: 3-3

All-time vs. Arizona State: Quinnipiac leads series 4-1-1

Arizona State Key Players: Johnny Walker (F), James Sanchez (F), Demetrios Koumontzis (F), Tyler Busch (F), Brinson Pasichnuk (D), Joshua Maniscalco (D), Jacob Wilson (D), Evan Debrouwer (G)

Arizona State is coming off the best season in the programs short history. A 21 win season culminated into an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. However the stay was a short one as they were beaten by the Quinnipiac team they will face this weekend in Tempe, Arizona. Both teams are different than when they met in April with many key players having departed but expect this to be a good tough match-up like it was back in April.

The Sun Devils have an elite forward in Johnny Walker who already has 10 points in six games. He was a force for Arizona State a year ago with 23 goals and has already picked up right where he left off. Quinnipiac will need to account for him every second he is on the ice. The Bobcats did a really good job of limiting Walker to just one shot in last years NCAA tournament game. Junior transfer James Sanchez is off to a nice start with 8 points having last played for Michigan in the 2017-2018 season in which he had a total of 8 points in 27 games. He is expected to be a big part of their offense. Demetrios Koumontzis is the lone draft pick on the Sun Devils roster who had 20 points a year ago as a freshman. The 2018 4th round pick of the Calgary Flames is expected to carry a bigger load this season. Co-captain Tyler Busch also brings some consistent offense for the Sun Devils as he had 21 points a season ago. The Arizona State power play is middle of the pack at 17.2% but with key players such as Walker on it, staying out of the box is a necessity for Quinnipiac.

Arizona State features two of the better defensemen in the country. Senior Brinson Pasichnuk was a force last year with 30 points and is already off to a hot start with six points this year. Pasichnuk who should be a highly sought after NHL free agent after the season had the lone goal for the Sun Devils in last years NCAA tournament game. Joining him on the blue line is sophomore Joshua Maniscalco who had 20 points as a freshman a year ago and already has six this year including two power play goals. If there is an area the Sun Devils struggle when it comes to defense its on the penalty kill where they have killed only 72.7% of all power plays. This is an area that Quinnipiac needs to exploit in this match-up.

Gone is goaltender Joey Daccord who signed with the Ottawa Senators after his junior season. Daccord was a big factor in the Sun Devils success last season so its expected his presence will be missed. Sophomore Evan Debrouwer has five starts for the Sun Devils and is 2-3 with a 2.74 goals against and a .908 save percentage. Boston University transfer Max Prawdzik has the other start for Arizona State while former Qunnipiac commit Justin Robbins has seen action in relief duty. Debrouwer has played in the last four games and while he struggled against one of the top teams in Minnesota State he was very good on the road against Air Force with a shutout and two goals allowed the following night as the Sun Devils swept on the road in Colorado Springs.

These will be important games for Quinnipiac for pairwise implications as I believe a sweep is necessary as I don't believe that Arizona State will have anywhere close to the season they had a year ago making these games that much more important to win. This is the final early season non-conference games before ECAC play opens up next weekend.

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