Monday, November 15, 2021

Thoughts and Observations from Quinnipiac's sweep of Arizona State

Quinnipiac swept Arizona State in two games this past weekend

Quinnipiac went into the weekend facing off against a high power offense in the Arizona State Sun Devils. The last time these two teams met back in the 2019-2020, Arizona State swept the Bobcats in the desert by scores of 5-3 and 4-1. It was only appropriate that Quinnipiac returned the favor this weekend and they did by having an offensive explosion scoring ten goals total in the two wins. This type of scoring has been few and far between this season. Maybe this was the weekend in which the Quinnipiac offense starts to put it together and now continues to build off this weekend as they head into the final stretch of games here in the first half of the season. Here are my thoughts and observations from the weekend.

- Lets start with my disastrous take on Friday night after Arizona State scored its third goal. I said I would be shocked if the Bobcats mounted a comeback because they have don't a big time offense that can score at will. I think up to that point you could question that, especially over the prior four games where they really struggled offensively scoring only eight goals total against some weaker opponents. Arizona State came in as one of the top offensive and power play teams in the country with some really skilled players. What I didn't expect was for Arizona State to start to lose steam in the second period and for Quinnipiac to continue to get stronger as the game on. The physical toll wore on Arizona State and the Bobcats made them pay with five unanswered goals. I have no problem eating crow and even having the team account having some fun at my expense.

-  This sweep was just massive for Quinnipiac for pairwise reasons. I know people think its early in the season still but wins like these will help later in the season. Just ask the 2016-17 or 2019-2020 teams. A couple early season losses against non-conference teams flipped to wins and those two teams are NCAA tournament teams. Note the 2019-2020 season was ended by the pandemic but Quinnipiac was still past the pairwise cut line. The Bobcats sweep pushed them to 7th in the pairwise. Had they split they would have been 12th. Had Arizona State swept they would have fell to 24th. The comeback Friday will prove big in the long run and there is no denying that.

- It is looking like the Quinnipiac power play could be turning a corner. They went 3 of 10 on the weekend with goals by Ty Smilanic, Michael Lombardi and Oliver Chau. I still think there is too much passing and not enough shots on goal along with traffic in front. I also think you need to take the fact that Arizona State is not a disciplined hockey team. They take way too many penalties and that costs a team like that in the long run. 

- One of the big things that won Quinnipiac the game on Friday was their conditioning. They are probably in the top five of top conditioned teams in the country and it showed against Arizona State as they rallied from a three goal deficit only to continue to get stronger as the game went along. That is impressive to say the least and strength coach Brijesh Patel should get a ton of credit working with these players. 

- It will be interesting to see how long the goaltender split will continue for Quinnipiac. I think Yaniv Perets has outplayed transfer Dylan St. Cyr with the eye test and frankly on the stat sheet. I am to the belief that there comes a point in the season where you need to ride one of the two goaltenders especially down the stretch. 

- Brendan Less was out of the lineup on Saturday due to an injury. Less has been a very consistent player on the back end for Quinnipiac. If there is any silver lining, its that Quinnipiac has the depth on defense this year to sustain an injury on the back end. In other years they may not but the Bobcats go at least nine deep and that doesn't include freshman Jack Babbage who has yet to see game action.

- Saturday saw the season debut of Chrtistophe Fillion who missed the first 11 games of the season. He immediately contributed with an assist on the Michael Lombardi power play goal. Fillion is expected to be a solid contributor especially after an 11 point campaign in his freshman season. He should be a boost to the lineup for the Bobcats going forward.

- Quinnipiac plays the next four games in league play with the North Country teams coming to Hamden this upcoming weekend followed by a road trip to the New York Capital region the following weekend to play RPI and Union. Friday night will see Quinnipiac play Clarkson in a match up with two of the top teams in the ECAC. The following night I expect to see Quinnipiac with some revenge in their eyes against St. Lawrence who won the Whitelaw Cup on the Bobcats home ice last March.

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Monday, November 8, 2021

Thoughts and Observations from Quinnipiac's ECAC opening weekend

Ethan de Jong had a goal this weekend in a win against Yale

It was the opening weekend of ECAC play for Quinnipiac and the Bobcats got off to the start they were expected to in conference play. They took care of business against both Yale and Brown shutting them both out on consecutive nights. Getting off to a good start in conference play is always a must as you never want to be playing catch up. Quinnipiac will now dive into non conference play with two home games against Arizona State this weekend. Here are my thoughts and observations from the opening weekend in ECAC play.

- We are almost a third of the way through this season and you can tell what the identity of the Bobcats is already. They are a defense oriented team first. When the Bobcats defense is on and playing its game it is going to be difficult to beat them because they essentially smother opponents into submission. This past weekend they gave up 24 shots total in two games. Its rare to see a team consistently give up so few shots but the Bobcats are one of those teams that just a fundamentally a great defensive team. Just ten games into this season and Quinnipiac already has four shutouts. Very impressive what they are doing on the back end. 

- For a team that is 7-1-2 you would think there wouldn't be any concerns but to me they are just struggling offensively right now. Quinnipiac has scored just eight goals in the past four games and none of these teams were world beaters either. That is just very concerning especially with the talent they have up front. This past weekend alone saw 72 Quinnipiac shots on goal and just four goals. And one of the goal was an empty net variety by TJ Friedmann in the Yale game. The offense has to improve if this team is going to be able to go toe to toe with some of the high powered offenses this year. 

- Sophomore Nick Bochen hasn't seen a ton of game action this year and a lot of that is due to the depth on the back end. He played in both games this weekend and scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Brown on Saturday. Bochen is a player who flashed last season especially on the power play. His goal on Saturday came on the power play. I wonder if Rand Pecknold will start to play Bochen more especially with the massive struggles on the Bobcats power play to the start of this season.

- Yaniv Perets saw back to back games for the second time this year and was rewarded with two shutouts on the weekend. His performance earned him ECAC goaltender of the week. He made 24 saves in two games this weekend but he was rarely challenged and didn't have to face an onslaught of shots because of his defense in front of him. Its kind of hard to get a read on his performance and Dylan St. Cyr's for that matter because the defense in front of them has been so good. 

- The power play struggles have continued and don't seem to get any better. It's same cycling of the puck that hasn't produced many results always looking for the one timer from the side. Can they get some traffic in front of the net and just fire on pucks and get some redirects? Both Ty Smilanic and Skyler Brind'Amour are big players who should be in front of the net to create space. They need to put more pucks on the net instead of always looking for that bomb from the side. 

- One thing I am concerned with almost a third of the way through the season is that while Quinnipiac is 7-1-2, ranked 5th and has beaten teams such as North Dakota, they are only 15th in the pairwise rankings. Its not a great spot to be in even though there is a ton of season left. One reason I am concerned is Quinnipiac hasn't played a great schedule to begin the season outside of Boston College and North Dakota and even Boston College has struggled so far. Looking ahead they really don't have any quality non conference games left as Arizona State is a mid tier team while Long Island is a bottom feeder and they are playing two games against them. They possibly could get a game with Connecticut should they meet in the Connecticut Ice Final. Coupled with the fact that the ECAC looks kind of weak this season gives me some concern. I don't think Quinnipiac can slip up many times remaining if at all because of where they are currently in the pairwise.

- This weekends series against Arizona State is a very important one. It is tough say to how good the Sun Devils are but they have a lot of talent especially offensively and a roster with six NHL draft picks. The last time these two teams played was the 2019-2020 season in which the Bobcats were swept out in the desert. 

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Thursday, November 4, 2021

Defenseman Lucas Sorace commits to Quinnipiac

Lucas Sorace during his time with Burnaby Winter Club

Quinnipiac this past week picked up another future defenseman commitment when Lucas Sorace of the Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) verbally committed to the Bobcats per the press release from Chilliwack. Sorace is a 6'1, 170 pound left shot defenseman. The 2004 born native of Port Moody, BC, Canada has only played in one game this season for Chilliwack and is currently skating with the North East Chiefs U18 team. He previously played for the Burnaby Winter Club in the 2019-2020 season. Not much is known about Sorace who isn't expected to arrive in Hamden until the 2023-2024 season.


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Monday, November 1, 2021

Thoughts and Observations from Quinnipiac's weekend series with AIC

Zach Metsa scored the game winning goal 51 seconds into overtime

Quinnipiac this past weekend had a home and home series against AIC of Atlantic Hockey. A short drive up I-91 saw the Bobcats and Yellow Jackets skate to a 2-2 on Friday before Quinnipiac won a thrilling 2-1 game in overtime on Saturday on Zach Metsa's goal. I didn't get the chance to see the Friday game because I was not going to fork over cash to something that wasn't ESPN Plus in which all leagues should be on. So with that you will only get my thoughts on Saturday's game.

- It was a struggle this weekend for Quinnipiac against a lesser opponent. The Bobcats are fortunate to come away without a loss and that is the best part you can say about a weekend like this. AIC probably is better than their record showed as four the losses came against Boston College, Providence and UMass Amherst. AIC is also a well coached team under Eric Lang who has turned the Yellow Jackets into a respectable program that was once a laughingstock. 

- What a game winning goal that was by Zach Metsa to send the Bobcat faithful home with a win after really dominating Saturday's game on the stat sheet but not with goals. Quinnipiac out shot AIC 45-15 and won 39 face-offs to AIC's 23. It was a pretty dominant effort and the Bobcats were not rewarded for it until the Metsa rocket of a goal just 51 seconds into overtime. Metsa has heated up with four points in his last three games and has seven points in eight games this year.

- I am little concerned so far with Quinnipiac's lack of scoring this season as in five of the eight games played, the Bobcats have scored two goals or less in them. They are averaging 2.75 goals per game this season, but ten of those goals game in two games against North Dakota and Holy Cross which means they are averaging just two goals per game in games they don't score five or more goals. More is needed from the forwards and on a consistent basis if the Bobcats want to be playing deep into March and April this year. 

- Defense is clearly the strength of this game and will win them a lot of games until they can score consistently on offense. It's such a deep unit that Nick Bochen who played 24 games last season has only played in one game while graduate transfer Tony Stillwell who played 80 games at Brown has only been able to get into the lineup for three games.

- The power play is a real challenge now for Quinnipiac. This weekend they went 0 for 7 and on the season they are a measly 8.6%. That just isn't going to cut it especially for a team in the top ten. They need to figure something out fast because its not trending well for them. 

- On the flip side the penalty kill continues to be strong as they kept AIC off the board on five opportunities this weekend. At 91.7% and in the top ten in the country in this category, this is more like a Quinnipiac team on the special teams. 

- Dylan St. Cyr had to come on in relief on Friday night as Yaniv Perets didn't play in periods two or three. Its unknown if Perets suffered some sort of injury in Friday's game so that is a situation that will have to be monitored as the duo of St. Cyr and Perets has been good to start the season. 

- Quinnipiac will open ECAC play this weekend when they travel to down Whitney Avenue Friday night to play Yale and then head to Providence on Saturday to face Brown. It is the first time Quinnipiac has faced rival Yale since February 29, 2020 to conclude the regular season. The two teams were supposed to meet in the ECAC quarterfinal before the season got shut down due to COVID-19. 

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