|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 He has been replaced by former Alabama Huntsville head coach Mike Corbett.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.
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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