Friday, January 17, 2020

Weekend Preview: Holy Cross

Karlis Cukste play a lone game against Holy Cross on Friday

Holy Cross Head Coach: David Berard (6th season)

2018-2019 Holy Cross record: 6-11-5 (5-10-3 Atlantic Hockey)

All-time vs. Holy Cross: Quinnipiac leads series 25-5-4

Holy Cross Key Players: Neil Robinson (F), Logan Ferguson (F), Conner Jean (F), Anthony Vincent (F), Alex Peterson (F), Dalton Skelly (D), Matt Slick (D) Mike Higgins (D), Matt Radomsky (G)

Holy Cross has been a weird team to figure out this season. While they have a losing record they have beaten Providence and Sacred Heart twice along with a tie against Northeastern. Sixth year coach David Berard has one winning season since replacing Paul Pearl at the helm of the Crusaders back in the 2014-2015 season. Barring a big second half turnaround, its likely Holy Cross will have their fourth straight losing season.

The Holy Cross offense this season has been less than average at 2.55 goals per games which is 37th in the country. Senior Neil Robinson and junior Logan Ferguson lead the way with 16 points. Sophomore Conner Jean leads the team with 10 goals including three on the power play. Its an offense that lacks high end talent but they have started off the month of January on fire offensively with 19 goals in their last four games which includes three wins and a tie. The Crusaders power play isn't every good at just 16% which is 43rd nationally. The biggest question is which Holy Cross offense shows up this weekend against Quinnipiac.

Defensively it has been a struggle for Holy Cross as they have given up 3.18 goals per game which is 45th nationally. They have a decent penalty kill at 81.5% which is 29th nationally. Much like they lack high end talent up front, the same can be said for on the blue line as well. Senior Dalton Skelly has 10 points but is a minus 9. Young defensemen in Matt Slick and Mike Higgins each have six point and are a plus 3 each.

Holy Cross has had goal-tending issues this season playing all three of their goalies on the roster which has contributed to the teams record. Freshman Matt Radomsky has been the best of the bunch with an .895 save percentage and a 2.90 goals against average. He has played 19 games this season for the Crusaders and is expected to be in between the pipes for Holy Cross against Quinnipiac. If Holy Cross is going to have a chance to win, Radomsky is going to need to play his best hockey much like he did against Providence and Sacred Heart in wins.

This is a game Quinnipiac must have and have convincingly. They are superior across the board in talent and they need to make sure they don't play down to their competition which happened last weekend in a win against St. Lawrence.

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Weekend in Review: St. Lawrence/Clarkson

Alex Whelan had a two goal weekend as the Bobcats split a North Country road trip
It was an up and down weekend for Quinnipiac which split its trip up in North Country with a win over St. Lawrence on Friday followed by a loss to 7th ranked Clarkson on Saturday which ended the Bobcats six game winning streak dating back to the last game of the first half of the season against UMass. Quinnipiac now has two weeks off from conference play with a non-conference game next weekend on the road at Holy Cross followed by the Connecticut Ice tournament the following weekend. Here are my thoughts and observations from the weekend split in North Country.

- I didn't like the way Quinnipiac played down to its competition on Friday against St. Lawrence in a 3-2 win. That is a terrible Saints team under first year coach Brett Brekke who is still looking to turn his roster over into his players within the next few seasons. The Bobcats had to claw and scratch their way to an unimpressive victory against one of the least talented teams in all of the Division I hockey and that shouldn't be the case.

- Senior Alex Whelan had two power play goals on the weekend and has begun to heat up since his return from injury. He had his six game point streak snapped against Clarkson however, but he is starting to make his presence felt in the Bobcats lineup offensively that was clearly missed earlier in the season.

- Speaking of the Bobcats power play, it was 50% against St. Lawrence going 2 of 4 but they struggled against Clarkson going 0 for 4 Saturday night. That is to be expected as the Golden Knights have one of the best penalty kills in the country at 92% moving them to second in that category nationally. They are almost impossible to score upon when they are short handed which bodes very well in the long run for Casey Jones team.

-  One player that is starting to come into his own is sophomore defensemen Zach Metsa. The Wisconsin native has almost tripled his offensive production from a season ago and he has done it in nine less games. With 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) in 21 games played, Metsa is someone who is clearly on pace to eclipse 20 points from the blue line which would be a welcome sight for the underclassmen who will likely be one of the leaders back there next season.

- I liked the effort that Quinnipiac had at times against Clarkson but they just made too many mistakes in the defensive end against the Golden Knights that it cost them. Four unanswered goals led to the 5-2 win for Clarkson including two in twenty-three seconds by Jack Jacome, one of Clarkson's best offensive players. It was too much for the Bobcats to overcome with especially how well the Golden Knights play in their own defensive zone along with senior goaltender Frank Marotte who has been lights out for them this season.

- It was the first four goal game that Keith Petruzzelli has allowed in two months since he allowed four goals back on November 2nd in a loss to Arizona State. I think his defense let him down a bit in this game with turnovers in the defensive zone leading to goals. Combine that with the fact that Clarkson is a very good team and on the road in their building this was going to be a tough game no matter what. Quinnipiac still needs to clean some things up defensively as they clearly could have kept themselves in the game if not for some defensive breakdowns.

- The magnitude of the loss is huge for Quinnipiac. A win against Clarkson would have been enormous for their pairwise implications down the road but now they sit at 18th in the pairwise when a win would have likely got them in the top 13. They still have games against Cornell and Clarkson at home which will help in the pairwise should they win but the path to a possible at-large berth is still going to be tough without any big wins down the stretch. They also cannot lose to any bad teams as well.

- Quinnipiac won't head back into ECAC play until January 31st. They currently sit in third place in the ECAC standings but have played at least 2-3 more games than at least three of the teams behind them. They could easily fall to the middle of the pack without playing a conference game depending on what other teams do around them. For Quinnipiac its about just winning these next three non-conference games in order to hold their pairwise position firmly as losses would dip them into the 20's.

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Weekend Preview: St. Lawrence/Clarkson

Quinnipiac heads to North Country for an important ECAC weekend

St. Lawrence Head Coach: Brett Brekke (1st year)

2018-2019 St. Lawrence record: 3-15-3 (1-8-0 ECAC)

All-time vs. St. Lawrence: Series tied 15-15-5

St. Lawrence Key Players: Zach Risteau (F), Keenan Suthers (F), Jordan Steinmetz (F), Aleksi Peltonen (F), Jake Stevens (D), Bo Hanson (D),  Emil Zetterquist (G)

Its a new era of St. Lawrence hockey as the Saints have moved on from the disastrous three year tenure of Mark Morris whose last two years saw the worst two seasons in the programs history. Enter new coach Brett Brekke who was previously an assistant coach at rival Clarkson. Prior to that Brekke had stints at Miami (OH) and Cornell. He has brought new life to the program even if the results on the ice are not there yet which is to be expected. Brekke is in the midst of probably having to turn over the roster after this season and bring in players that he wants in lieu of the players that Morris recruited. Making matters worse is that St. Lawrence has yet to play a game at Appleton Arena due to on going renovations that have delayed the opening of the renovated rink. This weekends game will be played at Roos House on the campus of SUNY-Canton.

For St. Lawrence it has been another offensive struggle as they have scored just 1.90 goals per game. Sophomore Zach Risteau has been the Saints best player averaging a point per game this season. After him, the Saints are limited with a lack of talent but they have some nice young pieces in freshman Jordan Steinmetz (10 points) and Aleksi Peltonen (7 points) who should get better over the years. Very similar to limiting Drew O'Connor of Dartmouth, Quinnipiac must do the same thing with Risteau in keeping him off the scoreboard. The Saints power power play has struggled at 14.9% this season. 

The Saints defense is the fourth worst in all of college hockey at 3.57 goals per games and overall is the worst in the ECAC. Their best blue liner is Bo Hanson who doubles as the teams second leading scorer with 10 points. St. Lawrence has rotated all eight defensemen this season but has yet to find consistency. They have a penalty kill at 78.6% this season which could be a problem with a resurgence in the Bobcats power play.

Its been a goaltender rotation for St. Lawrence who have started three different goaltenders this season for extensive action. Both Emil Zetterquist and Daniel Mannella have been the two best as both have a .911 save percentage. Mannella has the only shutout for St. Lawrence this season and split playing time last weekend with Francis Boisvert the other goaltender for the Saints.

Clarkson Head Coach: Casey Jones (9th season)

2018-2019 Clarkson record: 13-4-2 (7-2-0 ECAC)

All-time vs. Clarkson: Quinnipiac leads series 16-12-3

Clarkson Key Players: Haralds Egle (F), Jack Jacome (F), Devin Brosseau (F), Josh Dunne (F), Greg Moro (D), Connor McCarthy (D), Frank Marotte (G)

For Clarkson, it has been another good start to the season for 9th year coach Casey Jones team. Coming into this weekend they are 13-4-2 and in second place in the ECAC. However they are only 13th in the pairwise which is a dangerous spot to be in come tournament time. Clarkson is coming off a split of last weekend against RPI and Union having been upset at home by the Engineers 3-1.

Clarkson hasn't been as good offensively as they have in the past but they still have key seniors Devin Brosseau (23 points) and Haralds Egle (21 points) leading the way. This season they are only averaging 2.89 goals per game. Sophomore Josh Dunne has picked up where he left off a season ago and is poised to have even a better offensive season. Jack Jacome (9 points) is also a dangerous offensive player. The power play for the Golden Knights has been very good at 23.4% with Dunne, Egle and defensemen Connor McCarthy combining for 14 power play goals.

While the offense may have slipped a bit, the defense has not. The Golden Knights boast the 4th best defense in the country at 1.79 goals allowed per game and their penalty kill is also outstanding at 91.2% which is 4th best in the country as well. Four upperclassmen lead the way in Connor McCarthy, Shane Kuzmeski, Greg Moro and Jordan Schneider. This is a defense first team with the way they have played on the blue line and in goal this season.

Robert Morris transfer Frank Marotte has more than plenty filled the shoes of the departed Jake Kielly. He has a 1.67 goals against average and a .940 save percentage which is good for 4th in the country in both categories. He has started every game for the Golden Knights this season and has two shutouts as well. The Bobcats have faced Marotte once before in the finals of the Three Rivers Classic when Marotte had 43 saves in a 5-2 Robert Morris win in the tournament finals.

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Sunday, January 5, 2020

Weekend in Review: Harvard & Dartmouth

Quinnpiac got revenge against Harvard for an earlier defeat

Quinnipiac had by far its best weekend of the year this past weekend when they crushed Harvard and Dartmouth by a combined score of 11-2. The wins couple with last weeks sweep of Princeton moved the Bobcats from 10th in the ECAC to tied for third with Harvard and put them in position to move up even further. Here are my thoughts on this past weekends slate of games.

- It was a complete sixty minute effort for the Bobcats both nights as they got revenge on Harvard from a 7-2 defeat back in November with a blowout win of their own. Quinnipiac scored the first goal before the Crimson tied it but scored five unanswered goals in the second and third period. Granted Harvard did not have Jack Drury in this game as he was with the US World Junior team but that wouldn't have made a difference. Quinnipiac played fast and aggressive offensively and was strong on the back end. The next night against Dartmouth was much more of the same except the teams were scoreless through one period. Quinnipiac scored four unanswered goals before a late garbage time goal that Quinnipiac immediately responded to with a goal of their own. The Bobcats were relentless this weekend, hunting pucks, winning battles and scoring goals. That is the formula for winning games.

- This was back to back games where Quinnipiac dominated on the face off dot and against Dartmouth it led to goals by Wyatt Bongiovanni and Ethan Leyh. Winning face offs is key to lead to greater puck possession and frankly quick goals when the defense can't get in position to make a play.

- It was a huge weekend for some of the Bobcats best skill players. Odeen Tufto had a six point weekend (1 goal, 5 assists) while Wyatt Bongiovanni had a four point weekend (3 goals, 1 assist). It was a huge weekend for Ethan de Jong who looks to have broken out with a five point weekend (2 goals, 3 assists). Ethan Leyh (3 points), Peter Diliberatore (3 points), Skyler Brind'Amour (2 points) and Karlis Cukste (2 points) all had mulit point weekends. They will need these type of efforts from the young skill players down the stretch.

- The Quinnipiac power play had his best weekend of the year going 4 of 7 with two goals from Ethan de Jong, one from Wyatt Bongiovanni and one from Nick Jermain. Maybe this is the start of an improved power play which would be ideal for Quinnipiac to have down the stretch. Special teams have always been a staple of good Quinnipiac teams and maybe this young team is starting to go down that path as a good Bobcats team.

- It was another strong weekend for Keith Petruzzelli who is turning in the best season of the his time at Quinnipiac. He has won five straight games and in four of them has yielded just a single goal in each. Petruzzelli is now a strength for the Bobcats and that is not something we could have said early in the season. His goals against average of 2.13 is very good but his save percentage of .918 continues to improve as well. You have to give a lot of credit to Petruzzelli as something has clicked for him.

Quinnipiac beat Dartmouth 5-1 on Saturday night

- For a defense that had a ton of inexperience early in the season, they are growing up fast. To hold good offensive teams such as Harvard and Dartmouth to just a goal each is outstanding. Karlis Cukste has been a very good leader back there but young players like Jayden Lee, Logan Britt and CJ McGee are growing before our eyes and lets not forget that sophomores Peter Diliberatore and Zach Metsa are putting together fine seasons as well. The young Bobcats on defense should only get better as the season heads down the stretch for these last three months. They may not be as explosive offensively as past Bobcat teams from the blue line but they are more than capable of chipping offensively at times.

- You have to give props to Rand Pecknold and the coaching staff. The players are buying in and the team is getting results. After a tough November month when the team went 3-6-1, it looks like the month off was good for these young Bobcats as they looked like they have hit the reset button. It seems like the time off was good for them as they could practice on many different things with no games to worry about. This is what makes Rand one of the best coaches in the country as he can take a team as young as this one and have it competing for a potential NCAA spot.

- Don't look now but this five game winning streak and four straight ECAC wins has moved Quinnipiac from 10th to tied for third with Harvard as I said earlier but now this team has moved up to 16th in the pairwise rankings. That is not an ideal spot to be in as the cut line is usually between 13-15 depending on conference tournament upsets. But the Bobcats are positioned to make a second half run and they still have games against Clarkson twice and Cornell which would go a long way in the pairwise should they win those.

- On tap is a trip to North Country which is always difficult. They will face St. Lawrence on Friday followed by Clarkson on Saturday. One note is that Quinnipiac won't have have to face St. Lawrence at Appleton Arena as the construction is still on going so the game will be played at Roos House on the campus of SUNY-Canton. The game against Clarkson will have major impact on the top of the ECAC standings along with the pairwise rankings.

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Friday, January 3, 2020

Weekend Preview: Harvard/Dartmouth

Sophomore Zach Metsa is coming off a breakout game on Sunday against Princeton

Harvard Head Coach: Ted Donato (16th Season)

2018-2019 Harvard record: 7-4-1 (6-2-0 ECAC)

All-time vs. Harvard: Crimson leads series 16-14-5

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

A team that got off to a 6-0 start has slumped in the last month to a 1-4-1 record in its last six games. The losses came against the likes of Boston College, Boston University, Cornell and Colgate and a win and a tie out west against Arizona State. Its possible that Quinnipiac is catching the Crimson at the right time in the midst of a bit of a struggle but Harvard has the talent to easily break out of that slump quickly.

The Harvard offense in its four game losing streak slumped to just two goals per game. This past weekend against Arizona State was more like the Crimson offense as they scored four goals each game. The top six for the Crimson is explosive with Jack Badini, Nick Abruzzese, John Farinacci, Jack Drury and Casey Dornbach all having strong years. Austin Wong has finally returned from injury boosting the offense up front and Henry Bowlby continues to give secondary scoring. The Crimson still boost a top ten power play at 23.8% despite not being as strong as it was a season ago.

The top four on the back end for Harvard have been very good with Reilly Walsh, Jack Rathbone, Henry Thrun and Ryan Siedem combining for 36 points and a plus 25. The bottom pairing has been interchangeable with four different players taking those spots but its really about the top four for the Crimson which might be the best in the ECAC and one of the best in the country. While this six game stretch was tough on them they played well in the first of two games against Arizona State last weekend. The struggles on defense in those four losses moved Harvard down to 19th in total defense, one spot ahead of Quinnipiac. The Crimson penalty kill is 9th in the country at just a shade under 87.2%

Michell Gibson has seen the majority of the games this season over Cameron Gornet including starting the last four games. The freshman has outplayed Gornet with a 2.28 goals against and a .931 save percentage versus 2.81 and .924 for Gornet. Their is a lot of upside with Gibson being a 4th round draft pick in 2018 by the Washington Capitals. Gibson held Quinnipiac to just two goals in the teams last meeting a 7-2 win by Harvard.

Dartmouth Head Coach: Bob Gaudet (23rd Season)

2018-2019 Dartmouth record: 6-4-2 (4-2-1 ECAC)

All-time vs. Dartmouth: Quinnipiac leads 20-10-3

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

With a solid first half of the season, the Dartmouth Big Green have positioned themselves nicely for a potential first round bye and home ice in the ECAC playoffs and a chance at its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1980. They are currently #22 in the pairwise rankings with games against good ECAC teams still on the table to make up ground.

Dartmouth is one of the better scoring teams in the country at 3.17 goals per game which places them in the top 15. Sophomore Drew O'Connor has been dominant for the Big Green with 15 points in 12 games including three of his seven goals on the power play. He also leads the team in shots with 52. Quinnipiac's focus needs to be on Drew O'Connor. If they can shut him down you make it very difficult for Dartmouth to win games.  Quin Foreman, Jeffrey Losurdo and Matt Baker have combined for 28 points so far this season. The Big Green have a strong power play just a shade under 23.7% so its important for Quinnipiac to stay disciplined and out of the penalty box. 

Defensively, the Big Green have given up 3.17 goals which is in the bottom third in the country. However the defense has played well at times most notably in a huge win against Cornell. The consistency has just not been there for them as one game they can look really good and the next really bad. Freshman Tanner Palocsik has been one of their best defensemen with a plus two and eight assists this season. The penalty kill for Dartmouth has been below 80% this season and is an area Quinnipiac could exploit.

Goaltender Adrian Clark has played well with a 6-3-2 record and a .911 save percentage this season. His goals against average is just 2.76 but take out three bad games against New Hampshire, Colgate and Northeastern and he has been really good this season. He made 27 saves in a tie against Quinnipiac earlier this season. His signature win came against previously undefeated Cornell when he saved 39 of 40 shots in a 2-1 win over the Big Red.

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