Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Know Your Enemy: Quinnipiac

Quick. Besides Union, what was the only other ECAC team to make it to 20 wins last season? OK, you've already seen the title and the logo below tends to draw your eye's attention right away, so you've already figured out the answer, but would you have said Quinnipiac before opening this page? Probably not, but they're it - Cornell and Colgate topped out at 19 wins each. They're a team that tends to quietly surpass expectations, and they did it again last season, especially outside the conference.

Nickname: Bobcats
Location: Hamden, CT
Founded: 1929
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2002
Last Frozen Four: None
Coach: Rand Pecknold (19th season)
2011-12 Record: 20-14-6 (9-8-5 ECAC, 5th place)
Series: Quinnipiac leads, 7-6-6
First Game: October 16, 1999 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: February 19, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Last QU win: February 17, 2012 (Troy, NY)

2012-13 games: December 1, 2012 (Troy, NY); January 11, 2013 (Hamden, CT)

Key players: D Loren Barron, sr.; D Zack Currie, sr.; D Mike Dalhuisen, sr.; D Zach Davies, sr.; G Eric Hartzell, sr.; F Jeremy Langlois, sr.; F Connor Jones, jr.; F Kellen Jones, jr.; F Jordan Samuels-Thomas, jr.; D Zach Tolkinen, jr.; F Matthew Peca, so.; G Michael Gartieg, fr.; F Zach Luczyk, fr.; F Travis St. Denis, fr.

Key losses: F Scott Zurevinski, D Mike Glaicar, F Yuri Bouharevich, F Spencer Heichman

Previous KYE installment:
The Bobcats survived a bit of a scare last month when it was reported that Pecknold, the guy who practically built Quinnipiac hockey from scratch, was offered the vacant head coaching position at UMass. The school threw together what was termed an "aggressive counter-offer" and Pecknold will stay in Hamden earning a little extra dough. As UMass fans can tell you, July (and for the Q, it surely would have been into August) is not the time to be looking for a new head coach - especially considering what there is to work with at "The Bank."

One of the most striking features of Quinnipiac last year was their ability to strike from just about anywhere. As a matter of fact, every single forward on the team, and all but two defensemen, had at least two goals on the season last year. That's impressive just by itself. Then throw in the fact that the Bobcats' top five point producers (any of which would have led the Engineers in scoring last year) are all returning this season, and you've got some good mojo. The attack is led by the Jones twins (Kellen with 14 goals and Connor with 13), Langlois (17 goals), and Peca (8 goals and 31 assists).

Meanwhile, their defense returns almost entirely intact with the exception of the defensive-minded and tough Glaicar. Hartzell had another solid year in net for the Bobcats, and now holds down the fort for his senior season with four classmates in front of him on the blue line and, speaking to the future, plays mentor to a prospect in Gartieg who is coming off a season in which he was the first-choice goaltender for a Penticton Vees team in the BCHL that put together a flat-out moronic record of 54-4-0-2 last season on their way to the Canadian national junior championship, the Royal Bank Cup.

The Bobcats get to tap not only Penticton's goaltending but also their scoring prowess, as St. Denis was one of Gartieg's teammates last season, finishing fourth on the Vees in scoring. He adds to an already dangerous lineup, and the Q also brings in Samuels-Thomas, a Winnipeg Jets draftee who returns to his home state after two seasons at Bowling Green (2010 and 2011) in which he led the Falcons in scoring - you may remember him from the final RPI tournament in 2010, where he was named to the All-Tournament Team.

How does it all add up? This team is ready to rock. They're absolutely stacked offensively and they should at the very least be competent on defense and probably more. Given that the team tied for fourth place in the standings last year and ended up hosting a first round game on fewer league wins (for the second time), anything less than the program's first ever first-round bye has got to be viewed as a failure this year, and if there's one team that comes in with the bonafides to chase down Union, it may well be the Bobcats.

As far as the Engineers are concerned, they lost a heart-breaker to the Q last year in Hamden when Bouharevich scored with 2 seconds left in regulation, then got out worked in Troy. Quinnipiac are the likely favorites when they face each other this season, but the relatively short turnaround time of just over a month could be a little advantageous - less time for injuries to heal means both sides will probably see largely the same team they faced off with in December once they see each other in Connecticut. Also, it should be pointed out, if Quinnipiac lands that bye this year and RPI doesn't, it'll leave the Engineers as the only team never to claim it since the league expanded to a 12-team playoff in 2003. Something to chew on.

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