Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Know Your Enemy: Quinnipiac

A season after falling short in the national championship game, Quinnipiac put together another solid performance and another NCAA tournament appearance, but this time couldn't replicate the magic that saw them basically cruise to the 2013 regular season title in the ECAC and assemble a convincing run to the season's final game. Two years removed from the Frozen Four now, most of the names that the college hockey world learned of from that run are now gone, but there's still plenty of talent around in Hamden to keep the Bobcats competitive.

Quinnipiac
Nickname: Bobcats
Location: Hamden, CT
Founded: 1929
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2014
Last Frozen Four: 2013
Coach: Rand Pecknold (21st season)
2013-14 Record: 24-10-6 (12-6-4 ECAC, 3rd place)
Series: Quinnipiac leads, 9-6-8
First Game: October 16, 1999 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: February 19, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Last QU win: January 11, 2014 (Hamden, CT)

2014-15 games: November 15, 2014 (Troy, NY); January 9, 2015 (Hamden, CT)

Key players: D Danny Federico, sr.; F Matthew Peca, sr.; D Alex Barron, jr.; G Michael Gartieg, jr.; F Travis St. Denis, jr.; F Sam Anas, so.; D Connor Clifton, so.; F Tim Clifton, so.; F Tommy Schutt, so.; D Derek Smith, so.; D Devon Toews, so.; F Tanner MacMaster, fr.; F Bo Pieper, fr.; F Canon Pieper, fr.; F Jonah Renouf, fr.; F Nathan Renouf, fr.; F Landon Smith, fr.; F Andrew Taverner, fr.

Key losses: F Kellen Jones, F Connor Jones, F Jordan Samuels-Thomas, D Zach Tolkinen, F Bryce Van Brabant, F Cory Hibbeler

Previous KYE installment:
Quinnipiac got some vengeance on their hated nemesis from down the road last season, beating them 4-0 in February to deal a blow to Yale's hopes of grabbing a first round bye, then ending the Bulldogs' season with a sweep in Hamden in the quarterfinals. In the last three seasons, the Bobcats are 7-1-2 against Yale. But oh that one...

While it's true that most of the firepower that led the Bobcats to the 2013 national championship game has now left the building, you'd be hard pressed to find a team in the ECAC that doesn't wish it had Peca and Anas up front and Gartieg between the pipes. However, the losses from 2014 are certainly more significant than the losses from the 2013 team with the exception of goaltending, so if the Q isn't quite as strong as they have been over the last two years, that won't be overly surprising, either.

The big thing with this iteration of the Bobcats: while the last two teams were laden with upperclassmen (and lost only 18 games in the last two seasons combined), this year's squad is centered more around younger players.

Anas (22 goals, 43 points), Peca (12 goals, 38 points) and St. Denis (15 goals, 28 points) are the top returning scorers, and the trio makes for a solid core upon which the team can rebuild from the loss of the Jones twins, Samuels-Thomas, and Van Brabant, each of whom potted 13 or more goals for the Bobcats last season. Peca and St. Denis played well together on the same line last year, the challenge for Anas will be to prove that he can replicate his success from last season without Kellen and Connor Jones to his right.

Quinnipiac is very high on this year's incoming class of freshmen, and it isn't hard to see why. MacMaster, who decommitted from Boston College before signing up for the Q, has been compared to Peca. Smith fielded offers from Denver and North Dakota before choosing Hamden. Taverner just put up 60+ points in Alberta. Even incoming goaltender Sean Lawrence was the MVP of the USPHL with the Boston Jr. Bruins - he projects to be starting in net eventually for Quinnipiac and should even see a decent amount of ice time this season.

Perhaps by design, with the Kellen twins graduating, Pecknold brings in a set of twin forwards to replace them in the Renoufs, but don't expect them to be at the same level right away. The same can be said for the Pieper brothers, who are a year apart in age but will arrive on campus at the same time.

Last year, the question was how well the Quinnipiac defense was going to hold up after losing the star goaltender and four senior defenseman. The answer? Just fine, thank you. The Bobcats had the nation's best defense in 2013 with a GAA at 1.67, and while that dropped to 2.02 in 2014, that was still good enough for second in the nation. This time around, only one senior is departing from the Q's defensive front.

As long as Quinnipiac can get the kind of offensive distribution they had from the talented players that have departed over the last two seasons from the new breed, they'll easily remain one of the ECAC's best teams, and a formidable opponent for the Engineers, whose winless streak against the Bobcats is longer than that of any other opponent in the conference. Last year's seniors graduated without tasting a win against the Q during their college careers, earning victories over every other ECAC team at least once since the start of calendar year 2013. Unless RPI's offense manages to put up a fight against Quinnipiac's rock-solid defense, more of the same lies in store.

No comments:

Post a Comment