Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Know Your Enemy: Quinnipiac

We round out 2015's Know Your Enemy series with last year's top team from November through February. For the second time in three years, Quinnipiac didn't just finish first in the ECAC standings, they dominated the perch. While the Bobcats weren't quite as dominant last season as they were in 2013 when they advanced all the way to the national championship game, the Q still made clear that they were the league's top program during the regular season. The real goals - hardware - have remained elusive.

Nickname: Bobcats
Location: Hamden, CT
Founded: 1929
Conference: ECAC
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2015
Last Frozen Four: 2013
Coach: Rand Pecknold (22nd season)
2014-15 Record: 23-12-4 (16-3-3 ECAC, 1st place)
Series: Quinnipiac leads, 11-6-8
First Game: October 16, 1999 (Albany, NY)
Last RPI win: February 19, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Last QU win: January 9, 2015 (Hamden, CT)

2015-16 games: January 21, 2016 (Hamden, CT); February 19, 2016 (Troy, NY)

Key players: D Alex Miner-Barron, sr.; G Michael Gartieg, sr.; F Soren Jonzzon, sr.;  F Travis St. Denis, sr.; F Sam Anas, jr.; D Connor Clifton, jr.; F Tim Clifton, jr.; F Tommy Schutt, jr.; D Derek Smith, jr.; D Devon Toews, jr.; F Tanner MacMaster, so.; F Bo Pieper, so.; F Landon Smith, so.; F Andrew Taverner, so.; F Tom Aldworth, fr.; D Daniel Fritz, fr.

Key losses: F Matthew Peca, D Justin Agosta, D Danny Federico

Previous KYE installment:
For the third straight season, the Bobcats were present at the ECAC semifinals (after surviving an all out war with Union in the quarterfinals) and for the third straight season, they got nothing out of the experience. Many pointed to the injury loss of Anas for the weekend in Lake Placid as a major contributing factor to Quinnipiac's failure to follow up their regular season dominance with their first ECAC title, but his return to the lineup didn't help the Q repeat their magical 2013 run through the NCAA tournament either as they fell decisively to North Dakota - although playing in Fargo essentially made them the road team in what normally would have been a neutral-site matchup.

Among Quinnipiac's losses, Peca's will be felt the most intensely, as he put together a 143-point career in Hamden, but when it comes to offense, there's plenty left to like about the Bobcats. Anas' return for his junior season is cause for optimism enough, but St. Denis and Landon Smith are both crucial offensive elements from last season's squad who will be back as well. Throw in a defense loaded up with upperclassmen who have proven themselves more than up to the task - now with a senior netminder to boot - and you've got a program that's ready to take another crack at the upper echelon.

Overlooked compared to such stacked squads as Yale and Harvard in the preseason polling, it's tough to forget that this is a team which won the ECAC regular season by six points last year, practically running the table. With the exception of a home-and-home series against Merrimack, there wasn't a game weekend on the entire schedule last year in which the Bobcats failed to garner at least at tie - and on every single ECAC weekend, the Bobcats picked up at least two points.

They've been a tough out for years - witness that the Engineers have beaten every other team in the ECAC twice since the last time they beat Quinnipiac (and every other team besides Harvard at least four times). If RPI can't manage a win against the Bobcats on the road in January, it will have been six full calendar years since they've managed the feat by the time the Q comes up to Troy. So until that changes, you've got to pick out the Bobcats as favorites against the Engineers.

But make no mistake about it - the rest of the league sleeps on Quinnipiac to their own despair, too. With the amount of talent that the Bobcats return from what was already a very successful team, a repeat of 2013 - and better - certainly isn't outside the realm of possibility.

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