Monday, October 25, 2021

Thoughts and Observations from Quinnipiac's weekend split with North Dakota

Quinnipiac defeated North Dakota for the first time on Friday

This past weekend Quinnipiac returned home in front of a home crowd for the first time in 601 days when they welcomed the University of North Dakota to Hamden as the two teams met for the first time since the 2016 National Championship game in Tampa, Florida. One of college hockey's most storied programs finally made the trek to Connecticut in a highly anticipated top ten match-up. The weekend series did not disappoint as Quinnipiac stormed out to a 5-2 win on Friday night before North Dakota returned the favor the following night with a 3-1 win. It was a treat to watch both these teams and it would not shock me to see them play again later in the season. Here are my thoughts and observations from the weekend.

- Friday night was one of the best games Quinnipiac has played in the programs history in my opinion. I definitely rank this as a top ten win since the team made the jump up to Division I level and as its up there with NCAA tournament wins and ECAC tournament wins. The atmosphere was rocking and that was to be expected with fans in the building for the first time in 601 days. Going into this game I felt if Quinnipiac was going to get at least one win, this was going to be the game. The energy and the juice was there as the Quinnipiac scored four unanswered goals after Matteo Costantini got North Dakota on the scoreboard 7:44 into the game. If Quinnipiac can consistently play like they did Friday then they have a chance to go really far this season. 

-  Saturday night saw Quinnipiac get a lot of quality scoring chances on North Dakota but Fighting Hawks goaltender Zach Driscoll's 35 saves were the big difference in North Dakota splitting this series. But I thought that North Dakota had way to much offensive zone time and it helped when they won the face-off battle in game 2 much like it helped Quinnipiac in game 1 when they had more puck possessions because of face-off wins. You have to give North Dakota a ton of credit for the way they responded. They are a well coached talented team that still putting all the pieces together this early in the season. I expect North Dakota to be there as a favorite come March.

- I loved Quinnipiac's offensive output on Friday. Four different Bobcats scored goals including two from transfer Oliver Chau, Ty Smilanic, Jayden Lee and Joey Cipollone. Chau recorded a three point night while Zach Metsa, Ethan de Jong and Ethan Leyh each tallied two assists each. It was the type of balanced scoring attack that made this a very satisfying win and showed that Quinnipiac is a potential dangerous team to play all season long. 

- Quinnipiac's power play finally got going on Friday night with two power play goals by Jayden Lee and Ty Smilanic. It was only a matter of time before they got one as they have been looking solid on the power play but just not converting. The penalty kill's clean streak finally ended as they gave up two goals on the man advantage to Jake Sanderson and Judd Caulfield. It is tough to continue to take penalties and expect to keep a team like North Dakota from converting on man advantage opportunities during this series.

- Man is Jake Sanderson an alpha dog. His high end talent was on full display this weekend including a beauty of a goal on Friday night when he ripped one high short side past Yaniv Perets. He also assisted on the last two North Dakota goals on Saturday. You can see why he was drafted so high as he can move the puck and score from the back end. I wouldn't be shocked to see him on the Ottawa Senators roster by the end of this season. He is that good.

- Of the two Quinnipiac goaltenders that played this weekend, I thought Yaniv Perets was by far the better goaltender between him and Dylan St. Cyr. While neither faced a ton of of shots, 16 for Perets and 19 for St. Cyr, I thought the sophomore played pretty mistake free on Friday. St. Cyr had a terrible turnover on the first North Dakota goal where he played the puck aggressively trying to push the play quick out of the defensive zone that led to a turnover to Mark Senden who buried it home for the tying goal. The second goal he gave up was a scrum in net where the puck was under him and he didn't hold his space to keep the puck out of the net. On the third goal the Quinnipiac defense had a defensive zone turnover leading to a Connor Ford goal. I thought St. Cyr was a little slow closing off the short side that Ford scored on. St. Cyr is clearly in a platoon situation right now at this point in the season but he needs to be better than what he showed on Saturday night against a high end opponent. You may be able to get away with those type of mistakes against the likes of Vermont, but against a North Dakota they will make you pay. I would expect to see Rand Pecknold continue the goaltender platoon but at some point in the season he will likely ride with one of them.

- This was a really physical series with the teams combining for 22 penalties. Its the type of physical hockey you love to see between two really good teams early in the season. As a fan of college hockey, I would love to see a third physical match-up with a team like North Dakota in the NCAA tournament later this season. 

- I thought the Quinnipiac defense was fantastic Friday night closing scoring lanes, moving the puck out of the zone quickly and limiting mistakes. It was a really good effort that unfortunately wasn't matched on Saturday when they turned the puck over, played a lot in their own end and struggled to move the move puck at times. While the performance Saturday wasn't the worst I have seen and probably would have been good enough against weaker teams, it just was not good enough against a caliber of an opponent like North Dakota.

- I definitely want to say thank you to the University of North Dakota for making the long trek out to Connecticut when many teams from out west choose not to. I am hoping we can continue to get teams like North Dakota to come east in the future especially when Quinnipiac returns the favor and heads out to play these teams in their arenas. Its a treat for Quinnipiac fans anytime you can get a western power to come east as we rarely get to see them teams on a consistent basis. 

- Up next for Quinnipiac is the return of Bill Riga to Hamden as the Bobcats face his new team, Holy Cross on Tuesday. Coach Riga's team is 1-4 on the season but he got his first win on the road against Bentley 3-2 on Saturday. This will be an interesting game as while Riga doesn't have the talent to match Quinnipiac but he does have deep inner knowledge of all things in the Quinnipiac program and most of the current players on the team. Former Bobcat Tyler Ghirardosi is the leading scorer for the Crusaders with five points. It is definitely a game Quinnipiac cannot overlook as coach Riga will have his team ready to play come Tuesday night.

You can follow the BobcatsHockeyBlog on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Q&A with University of Hockey Blog

The last time Quinnipiac and North Dakota played was the 2016 National Championship Game

In anticipation of this weekends home opening massive series against North Dakota in which fans will be in the building for the first time in 601 days, I had a chance to do a Q&A with the University of Hockey Blog who focuses on all things North Dakota hockey. Thanks again to them for taking the time to do this and you can follow them on Twitter @UofHockeyBlog.

@QHockeyBlog: What are your expectations for this weekends series between Quinnipiac and North Dakota especially with students being back in the building in Hamden for the first time in 601 Days.

@UofHockeyBlog: My expectations are that it’s going to be a tight, possibly lower scoring battle between two good teams. As far as the crowds go, North Dakota is no stranger to them as they played in front of reduced crowds of about 4,000 last season and a full building for their three home games and one exhibition so far this season.  I’m sure Quinnipiac will come out fired up with the crowd behind them. This will make it important for North Dakota to handle the first push, because in their last game they gave up two goals in the first 90 seconds or so. It’s one thing to play from behind like that at home but on the road it could be too much to overcome.

@QHockeyBlog: North Dakota is coming off back to back 20 plus win seasons. What are the expectations like in Grand Forks this season for this North Dakota team. Is it national championship or bust? 

@UofHockeyBlog: I’m not sure the expectations have been set because it’s tough to say how a team that turned over half their roster will gel together.  They lost eight of their top nine scorers from last season and both goalies. Rather than bring a massive freshmen class, North Dakota hit the transfer portal and picked up two of the leading scorers from the WCHA, a very good starting goalie and some assistance on defense as well. That being said to replace guys that are already producing in the NHL is never an easy thing to do. This weekend, I think will be big in determining what sort of trajectory we expect North Dakota to take this year. If they get swept, it’ll be gut check time but if they split most sane Fighting Hawk fans would be happy with that. If they sweep convincingly, then North Dakota fans might start looking at Frozen Four tickets.

@QHockeyBlog: The team lost 60% of its goal production from last season to graduation/early departures. Tell us who are some of the players us as Quinnipiac fans need to watch out for in this series?

@UofHockeyBlog: Jake Sanderson on the back end, is the 5th overall pick from the 2020 draft by Ottawa, is someone I think will be a big variable in how this series goes. I’m looking at the scores from Quinnipiac's first few games and it appears they can really shut down teams defensively. North Dakota admittedly doesn’t have the firepower coming from the forwards like they did the past couple years. That being said, I think scoring will have to be supplemented from the talented players on the back end like Jake Sanderson. In the forward group, Riese Gaber, may be smaller in stature but he’s a pitbull on the ice and can beat any goalie in the country with his shot. As far as freshman go, Jake Schmaltz has been really good to start his North Dakota career. He’s scored goals and assisted on the game tying goal with 30 seconds left last Saturday, so he’s a gamer.  

@QHockeyBlog: North Dakota has 9 NHL draft picks. How do you think this team compares talent wise to the 2015-2016 National Championship team which was the last time these two teams faced?   

@UofHockeyBlog: I’m not sure many teams compare favorably with that 2015-16 national championship team. That team seemed to have the rare quality of having younger high draft picks (Boeser, Schmaltz) and skilled upperclassmen (Caggiula, Stecher) that developed later and held the younger talent accountable every day.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we under-performed the following season after those older guys were picked up by NHL teams.

@QHockeyBlog: So far four games into the season what do you think are the strengths of this North Dakota team?   

@UofHockeyBlog: The strengths so far seem to be work ethic as I haven't seen guys taking shifts off along with the physicality and resiliency in the comebacks they’ve produced.
@QHockeyBlog:What would you say are the weaknesses so far in this young season?   

@UofHockeyBlog: I think experience is the main weakness I see. We could see some growing pains as they figure out how to add 14 guys to their roster in the most effective manner. Whether it be on the power play, penalty kill, or in the line pairings, finding the guys that click together could take longer but a 3-0-1 start isn’t a terrible start all things considered.

@QHockeyBlog: What are you thoughts on how transfer goaltender Zach Driscoll from Bemidji State has played so far this season?   

@UofHockeyBlog: Speaking as someone with no idea what to look for, I think he’s looked solid in most situations so far. He seems to be well positioned and stays calm under duress. I haven’t seen any weak goals yet. I know he’s a smaller goalie than North Dakota has had lately but he seems to fill the net fairly well.

@QHockeyBlog: The North Dakota fan base is one of the most passionate fan bases in all of college hockey if not number one. From you view do you think that the fan base respects Quinnipiac going into this series as it is a match-up of two top ten teams and I say that because North Dakota is 4-0 all time against Quinnipiac with two NCAA tournament wins? 

@UofHockeyBlog: I think you have two types of North Dakota fans. Casual fans that go to games and don’t follow the team much past that. Then there are the diehards that follow every single press conference and re-watch all of the games and highlights. The casual fan may look at Quinnipiac and dismiss them as a school we’ve never lost to in the past so it should be an easy sweep.  The diehard fans that follow college hockey understand that it will be a tough series and a road split would be a fine result as long as North Dakota is scoring goals and trending in the right direction.  That being said, it sure would be nice to keep North Dakota's unbeaten streak against the Bobcats alive. Thanks for having me! 

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Monday, October 18, 2021

Thoughts and Observations from Quinnipiac's 2-0 win over Vermont

Michael Lombardi had a goal and an assist in Quinnipiac's win

Quinnipiac played just a lone game this weekend when they traveled to Burlington, Vermont to face the Vermont Catamounts. The Bobcats used suffocating defense in a 2-0 victory in their final game before the home opener on Friday night against North Dakota. Here are some of my thoughts and observations from the game.

- Its clear that the Quinnipiac defense has gelled pretty quickly. That was a defensive clinic that the Bobcats put on Saturday against Vermont. The Catamounts didn't have a shot on goal until more than midway through the second period. You read that folks, the second period. Quinnipiac held Vermont to just 14 shots on goal throughout the game and very few even threatened to go in. You might never see that happen again holding a team without a shot for a half of a game.

- Dylan St. Cyr returned from injury and picked the perfect night and opponent for his first game action with Quinnipiac. He was rarely tested with only 14 shots as his defense did the job in front of him. The shutout by St. Cyr gives Quinnipiac back to back shutouts just three games into the season. As of now it looks Quinnipiac has a nice combo with St. Cyr and Perets in goal.

- Quinnipiac once again struggled on the power play going 0 for 4 on the night. They have yet to score a man advantage goal three games into the season. On the flip side, the penalty kill units continue to be a strength of the team as they have yet to yield a power play goal to an opponent. The talent up front is too talented for the power play to be struggling three games into the season so they really need to get that figured out.

- Senior Michael Lombardi is off to a very good start. Three games into the season he already has four points on two goals and two assists. He scored the insurance goal against Vermont and assisted on Wyatt Bongiovanni's goal in the second period. After a 16 point season as a junior, Lombardi looks poised to have a greater impact in his final season in Hamden.

- I wasn't a fan of Quinnipiac losing the face-off battle to a lesser opponent. That probably kept Vermont in the game way longer than they should have been. Winning face-offs helps get extra possessions especially ones in the offensive zone. They need to do a better job than losing the battle 30-26. 

- Quinnipiac returns home for one of the biggest home series ever in Hamden when they take on #6 North Dakota on Friday and Saturday. The Fighting Hawks have 9 NHL Draft picks on their roster including four on the back end alone. It will be a stiff test for the Bobcats who last faced North Dakota in the 2016 National Championship game. Quinnipiac is 0-4 all time against North Dakota but this will be the first meeting of the teams on the Bobcats home ice.

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Monday, October 11, 2021

Thoughts and Observations from the Ice Breaker Tournament

Michael Lombardi had a goal and an assist in the tournament

The 2021-2022 officially kicked off and for the Quinnipiac Bobcats they started the season off on a good note. Playing in the Ice Breaker Tournament at DCU Center in Worcester, MA, Quinnipiac went 1-0-1 on the weekend to finish in second place in the tournament behind Boston College. Friday night saw Quinnipiac rally from a two goal deficit to earn a tie with Boston College though the Eagles took the shootout which was for tournament purposes only. Saturday night saw the Bobcats race to 3-0 lead after two periods and used a suffocating defensive performance to shut out the Northeastern Huskies behind a 19 save effort from sophomore Yaniv Perets. Here are some of my thoughts from the opening weekend.

- You couldn't have asked for a better start to the season other than starting with two wins. But a tie and a win against two top 20 opponents is nothing to sneeze about. Boston College is a top 10 team with loads of talent while Northeastern is in the top 20 with solid talent and coaching. While the effort against Boston College wasn't great in the opening period plus, give credit to Quinnipiac who fought back from two goals down to force a tie. The effort against Northeastern was outstanding which saw a wire to wire win and in pretty dominating fashion too. I thought Quinnipiac controlled the game from the start and really never let their foot off the gas. It was one of the more complete performances they played in a long time against a really solid team.

- With the loss of Peter Diliberatore on defense there was some questions in my mind who would step up and fill those shoes on the defensive end outside of Zach Metsa and some of the other returning players on defense. I thought the defense was very solid in their own end this weekend especially in the second the half of the Boston College game and all throughout the Northeastern game. They were downright suffocating at times. Graduate transfers Tony Stillwell (Brown), Brendan Less (Dartmouth) and Griffin Mendel (Denver) slide right in like they had been with the program for the past few years. The Bobcats have a lot of depth on defense and they didn't even suit up players like Nick Bochen or CJ McGee who gave the Bobcats a lot of games played last season. While the questions remain about offensive production from this group so far they are sound in their own end which is the most important thing.

- Last season was suppose to be a step forward for Skyler Brind'Amour but his production dipped from his freshman season. Part of that could have been due to the pandemic but more was expected from the Edmonton Oilers draft pick. So it was great to see Brind'Amour have a strong weekend with a goal and two assists and a plus three rating. His weekend was worthy of being named to the All-Tournament team for the Ice Breaker along with being named the ECAC player of the week. A breakout season for Brind'Amour will go a long way to help replacing the production of Odeen Tufto.

- Speaking of the All-Tournament team. Two other Bobcats joined Brind'Amour on the squad as TJ Friedmann (2 goals) was named the tournament MVP while Yaniv Perets (1-0-1, 0.96 goals against, 1 shutout) earned tournament honors. Players like Michael Lombardi and Ty Smilanic had good tournaments as well but missed out on the all-tournament team.

- I was really impressed by Yaniv Perets this weekend. The sophomore goaltender only played in two games last season in relief of starter Keith Petruzzelli so not much was known about the Quebec native. With graduate transfer Dylan St. Cyr on the shelf with an injury, Perets more than was up to the task for the Bobcats. He struggled a bit with rebounds in the Boston College game which led to both goals but settled in and became more comfortable late. Against Northeastern he was very solid in goal but a lot of that was due to the defense as well as he only faced 19 shots.

- If there was any area that Quinnipiac struggled with on the weekend it was the power play. They went a combined 0 for 7 on the weekend and that includes having two five minute power plays each game. The power play was not very good and they didn't get a ton of good chances on the weekend. With the talent they have that should improve but it was kind of worrisome to see.

- While the power play was not good, the penalty kill was. The Bobcats killed off all six of their opponents power play opportunities on the weekend. Quinnipiac is usually a very good team at killing penalties so getting off to a good start on the penalty kill is a good thing to see.

- Quinnipiac will play just a lone game this weekend on the road against Vermont who is 0-2 on the season. The Catamounts are in the second season of a rebuild under head coach Todd Woodcroft. In a COVID plagued season a year ago, Vermont went 1-10-2 but has added some quality young talent that should help improve the program in the next couple of seasons. After this weekend, Quinnipiac will return home in front of a home crowd when they host a weekend series against national power North Dakota.

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Friday, October 8, 2021

2021-2022 Quinnipiac Season Preview

Wyatt Bongiovanni will captain the Bobcats in 2021-2022

The 2021-2022 season is upon us and the Quinnipiac Bobcats are fresh off their fifth ECAC regular season title in program history and the seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament in the Division I era. After losing 4-3 in overtime to eventual Frozen Four team Minnesota State, the Bobcats suffered some big losses with the graduation of forward Odeen Tufto and goaltender Keith Petruzzelli along with the early departure of defenseman Peter Diliberatore to the Vegas Golden Knights. They also lost associate coach Bill Riga who took the head coaching position at Holy Cross. He has been replaced by former Alabama Huntsville head coach Mike Corbett. Quinnipiac returns a good amount of talent and added five graduate transfers to boost the depth of the roster.

The Bobcats open the season as the ECAC preseason favorite in the coaches poll edging out Clarkson for the top spot. However in the media poll, the Bobcats slide in at third just behind Clarkson and Harvard. They also open the season ranked 9th in the USCHO poll. With fans back in the building for the first time since the 2019-2020 season, this should give the program a boost. The Bobcats playing a challenging non-conference schedule this season with Boston College, Northeastern, North Dakota and Arizona State just some of the teams that highlight the Quinnipiac schedule. It is time to take a look at how the Quinnipiac roster shapes up for the 2021-2022 campaign.


For the first time in four years, Quinnipiac will not have Odeen Tufto suiting up for them. 168 career points is always tough to replace but there is no better player that can pick up the production than sophomore Ty Smilanic. The second year player is coming off a 14 goal, 21 point season in 29 games for the Bobcats and the expectation is that the production will increase. Newly named captain Wyatt Bongiovanni only played in nine games due to a knee injury but put up 8 points in those games. When healthy he is a double digit goal scorer and someone you can count on to have 25-30 points. Senior Ethan de Jong had 29 points a season ago and is one of the top goal scorers on the team returning. One player that will help replace Tufto's production is graduate transfer Oliver Chau who comes from National Champion UMass to Hamden. He is a play maker up front who had 84 points in 135 games with the Minutemen. Other players that are expected to pick up the load are Desi Burgart, Ethan Leyh, Skyler Brind'Amour, Guus van Nes, Christophe Fillion, Joey Cipollone and Michael Lombardi. Freshman Jacob Quillan, Christophe Tellier and Liam McLinskey should compete for game action. 


Quinnipiac lost a big defensive piece in Peter Diliberatore who left after his junior season to sign with the Vegas Golden Knights. Senior Zach Metsa will lead the defense this season as he is coming off a career year with 26 points in 29 games. However after Metsa there is not a ton of offensive production from the blue line. The Bobcats will need players like Jayden Lee, Nick Bochen and Iivari Rasanen to take bigger steps offensively to bring much needed production from the back end. Quinnipiac has a ton of depth on the blue line with Marcus Chorney, swing player TJ Friedmann who can also play forward and CJ McGee. They added to that depth with graduate transfers Griffin Mendel (Denver), Tony Stillwell (Brown) and Brandon Less (Dartmouth). Neither Stillwell or Less have played a game in over a year as the Ivy League schools didn't play last year. Skilled freshman Jack Babbage rounds out the defensive unit. Babbage is a player that might be able to give the Bobcats point production from the blue line as he had 29 points a season ago for Chicago in the USHL. This is clearly a veteran defensive group for Quinnipiac but how much offensive production they get from them is still yet an unknown.


For the first time in over a decade the Bobcats go into a season with some questions at the goaltender position. The only returner on the roster is sophomore Yaniv Perets who played in just two games a season ago in relief of the now departed Keith Petruzzelli. Joining Perets will be graduate transfer Dylan St. Cyr who most recently played for Notre Dame. In 22 games last season for the Fighting Irish, St. Cyr was 11-9-1 with a 2.44 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. Prior to that he had only played 11 games in three years for the Irish. The son of former Canada women's national ice hockey team goaltender Manon Rhéaume, St. Cyr is an undersized goaltender at 5'8, 170 pounds, not the prototypical Bobcats goaltender which is usually over 6'1. Rounding out the goaltender room is 6'7 freshman Noah Altman. The starting position will be a battle between Perets and St. Cyr and it would not surprise me to see head coach Rand Pecknold play both early in the season to see which one can seize the job.

2021-2022 Outlook

Expect Quinnipiac to be a team that finishes in the top three in the ECAC to compete for both the Cleary Cup and a Whitelaw Cup Championship. While the goaltender situation is probably somewhat of a question mark at this point, there is enough talent on the roster to get back to the NCAA tournament and the Bobcats should be tested more this season than they were a year ago when they played a rotation of three other ECAC teams and a pretty weak non-conference slate. This should help prepare the team in the stretch run of February and March as they look to return to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.


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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Forward Mason Marcellus commits to Quinnipiac

Mason Marcellus during his time with Drayton Valley Thunder

The Quinnipiac Bobcats picked up their third future commitment since August when 2002 born forward Mason Marcellus committed to the program via an Instagram post this week. Marcellus, a native of Greely, Ontario, Canada is a 5'9, 170 pound left shot forward who primarily plays the center position. The USHL news release goes a lot more into Marcellus commitment to the program.

A skilled offensive player, Marcellus was over a point per game player in a shortened season for the Drayton Valley Thunder of the Alberta Junior Hockey League where he had 22 points in 16 games (6 goals, 16 assists). This season, Marcellus is playing for the Lincoln Stars in the USHL before coming to Hamden likely for the 2022-2023 season. 


EliteProspects Player Page

USHL Player Page


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