|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.
You can follow the BobcatsHockeyBlog on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.