Thursday, August 25, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Quinnipiac

It's really not fair to call Quinnipiac the "new kids on the block" anymore. It seems like just yesterday they were replacing Vermont in the ECAC, but they've now been in the league for seven years and although they've been difficult to pin down in pre-season outlooks in the past, they've certainly shown over the last six seasons that they're no pushover.

Nickname: Bobcats
Location: Hamden, CT
Founded: 1929
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2002
Last Frozen Four: None
Coach: Rand Pecknold (18th season)
2010-11 Record: 16-15-8 (6-9-7 ECAC, 7th place)
Series: RPI leads, 6-5-6
First Game: October 16, 1999 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: February 19, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Last QU win: November 15, 2008 (Troy, NY)

2011-12 games: December 3, 2011 (Hamden, CT); February 17, 2012 (Troy, NY)

Key players: F Yuri Bouharevich, sr.; D Mike Glaicar, sr.; F Scott Zurevinski, sr.; F Ben Arnt, jr.; D Loren Barron, jr.; D Zack Currie, jr.; D Zach Davies, jr.; G Eric Hartzell, jr.; F Jeremy Langlois, jr.; F John Dunbar, so.; F Connor Jones, so.; F Kellen Jones, so.; D Jack Callahan, fr.; D Dan Federico, fr.; F Matthew Peca, fr.

Key losses: D Zach Hansen

Previous KYE installment:

Something about RPI/Quinnipiac brings out the ties... in 17 total games between the schools, six have been ties, including both of last year's affairs. The 2010 women's playoffs sort of bore this out as well, but let's not go there.

Basically, when you look at the series it's almost as though the three possible outcomes have an equal chance of coming true - roll a three-sided die, or something. Perhaps not coincidentally, that's practically how Quinnipiac's ECAC season went last year as well - their six wins were tied for next-to-last in the league, but at only nine losses, had just as many in that column as the Engineers, Tigers, and Big Red, who all tied for fourth.

A good chunk of those ties - including both with the Engineers - came in a frustrating stretch run in which the Bobcats went 1-3-5, but the Q finished strong, spanking Brown in the first round before taking Cornell to the limit in the quarterfinals, dropping Game 3 in overtime. It was a finish that had all the hallmarks of a young team learning how to win late in the season.

And make no mistake - Quinnipiac was painfully young last year, as Hansen and two little used players were the only graduating seniors. While there really weren't any "blow you away" scorers on the team outside of Langlois (18 goals) and Zurevinski (14 goals, 25 points), the Jones brothers certainly showed their ability in what were a pair of solid freshman seasons, and were part of what was at least a fairly balanced attack, as six different players notched at least six goals on the year.

They add to that attack one of the more impressive incoming freshmen in Matthew Peca, who will likely be a candidate for Rookie of the Year, if he plays to potential. So while the Q's overall output last year was fairly low (2.44 goals per game), that will probably be improving this year.

Defensively, the Bobcats were average last year and endured a shakeup in net. Dan Clarke, who'd had an outstanding sophomore campaign for the Q (impressive enough to earn my pre-season nod as the top goaltender in the league last year) struggled early on and was usurped between the pipes by Eric Hartzell, who put up numbers most teams wouldn't have too much issue with at 2.22/.927. Hansen was a stalwart on the blueline, but he led a squad of mostly sophomores back there. If Hartzell plays this season as he did last year and those younger defensemen improve the way most young defensemen have under Rand Pecknold (who was recently extended behind the bench), the Bobcats could be solid here as well.

Overall, Quinnipiac projects as a team that will be a tough win for much of the league. Unless Langlois, Zurevinski, or Peca go berzerk, they don't have that one guy that is going to stand out as being an individual star, but they do have a well-rounded team, and last time we checked, hockey's a team sport. They have the chops to vie for a first-round bye... or more, if everything falls into place. Overlook them at your own peril.

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