The Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team had a tremendous season last year, as they claimed their first ever MAAC championship and NCAA tournament birth. The Bobcats defeated their heavy rival Mercyhurst 6-4, the same Lakers team that beat them the previous year.
Quinnipiac won the MAAC championship in Worcester, Mass. on the campus of Holy Cross. Ironically, they will return to the Hart Center to take on the Crusaders when they open the season on Oct. 8.
Worcester was also the site of their final game last year in the NCAA tournament at the Worcester Centrum, when they lost to Cornell 6-1.
This year, the Bobcats will try to get back to the NCAA tournament with leadership from seniors Dan Ennis and Matt Erhart, the two captains for the 2002-2003 campaign.
“Its nice to get there, but at the same time we would like to make a better effort and better showing,” said Ennis.
Ennis and Erhart will play key roles on the blue line for the Bobcats this season, along with strong goaltending from Justin Eddy and Jamie Holden, who returns after his terrific freshman season.
Another reason the Bobcats were so successful last season was because of the strong team chemistry the players had on and off the ice. Dan Ennis emphasized, “We’re all about the team this year.”
The team will still be young with 11 returning freshmen, but the good news about those freshmen is their talent and poise.
Although no Quinnipiac player was selected on the Itech All-MAAC first team at the end of the regular season, the Bobcats had quite a bit of hardware by the end of the MAAC tournament.
Freshman goalie Jamie Holden, Chris White and Matt Craig were all named to the all-tournament team, along with defenseman, Matt Erhart. Matt Craig also took home honors as the Most Valuable Player in the entire tournament.
“We have the best talent in the league,” said Erhart about the club this year.
The pre-season polls didn’t agree with Erhart. Quinnipiac has been selected to finish second in the league behind the Mercyhurst Lakers.
Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold will enter his eighth season behind the Bobcat’s bench. Pecknold last year became the all-time winnigest hockey coach in the school’s history on March 1, in a 6-2 win over UConn.
The team has also added a new assistant coach Scott Robson to help out behind the Quinnipiac bench. Robson has a great relationship with Pecknold, benefiting from the four years he played at Quinnipiac himself.
The MAAC will be considerably more competitive this year, with Sacred Heart and Holy Cross bringing back talented squads from last season. Both could pose a threat to the two powerhouses in the league, the Lakers and Bobcats. Iona will be a team to watch out for, along with Army and Canisius, and as in years past, Fairfield and Bentley should be toward the bottom of the league.
Quinnipiac has done a great recruiting job as they have brought in another excellent freshman class to stay on top of the league.
Goaltending is one of the strongest aspects of the Bobcats team this year. Last year, Jamie Holden was named defensive rookie of the year, while Justin Eddy played well throughout the season and in the clutch, including an off the bench performance in the double overtime quarterfinal game versus Iona.
The defense in front of the net minders should be strong as well, with seniors Erhart and Ennis along with the size of Tom Watkins and Wade Winkler.
Offense may again be a concern. The freshmen from last season will have to pick up right where they left off. Brian Herbert will be an important factor in the strength of the forwards upfront.
Herbert led the MAAC in point scoring among juniors and was an important piece of the puzzle on the power play.
Matt Craig is also a player that is expected to help put the puck in the net for the Bobcats.
Ryan Morton and Chris White are X factors. If these two players continue their success from last season, there is a very good chance Quinnipiac could win back-to-back MAAC Championships and as a result, get back to the NCAA tournament.