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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