The No. 1 Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team will have had 13 days since its last time on the ice when the puck drops on Friday as the Bobcats host No. 9 seed Cornell at 7 p.m. After winning the Cleary Cup with a 17-2-3 conference record, Quinnipiac earned a first-round bye in the ECAC tournament.
The two teams met twice this season and both times, the Bobcats came out on top, 4-1.
In the first meeting of the year, on Nov. 10, 2012, at home, Kellen Jones put the Bobcats on the board with a power-play goal in the second period. Almost seven minutes later, Ben Arnt extended the lead to 2-0. Jeremy Langlois and Cory Hibbeler also scored for Quinnipiac, which outshot the Big Red, which was ranked No. 4 in the country at the time, 38-23.
In the final regular season meeting, this time on the road, the Bobcats scored quickly as Clay Harvey hit the twine just 1:13 into the first period. In the second period, Jordan Samuels-Thomas scored a power play goal and in the third, Matthew Peca extended the lead to three. Greg Miller, who scored the lone goal for the Big Red in the first game, scored again for Cornell but Connor Jones ended denied any chance of a comeback with an empty net goal to complete the season sweep. Shots on goal were much closer in the second meeting but the Bobcats still held the edge, 28-25.
In the two games, Quinnipiac’s special teams were effective halting the Big Red on the man advantage as they went 0 for 8. The Bobcats, on the other hand, went 2 for 10 in the series on the power play.
Neither of Cornell’s special teams units breaks the top 40 as their penalty kill comes in at 78.6 percent and power play unit at 14.4 percent. Quinnipiac has the best penalty kill unit in the nation stopping 91.7 percent of opponents’ chances. Its power play, however, is worse than Cornell’s at 14.1 percent.
Miller, the senior and offensive leader for Cornell will be the top threat to the Bobcats. Last season as a junior, he led the Big Red in scoring and also had a team best plus/minus of +21. This season, he’s done the same with 32 points and showed why he is one of the best defensive forwards in the conference with a +21 rating for a second straight season.
Sophomores Joel Lowry and Brian Ferlin are also be dangerous players putting up 22 and 21 points respectively as well as a +9 and +11 rating. Joakim Ryan has the most points among defenseman with 21 and is tied for the team lead in assists with Miller with 18.
For the Bobcats, senior forward Jeremy Langlois had another productive regular season leading the team with 28 points off of 12 goals and 16 assists. Second on the team in points is the junior transfer from Bowling Green, Jordan Samuels-Thomas. After leading his squad in his freshman and sophomore seasons, Samuels-Thomas arrived at Quinnipiac and made an immediate impact when he scored the game-winner against Maine on Oct. 6 at Maine, in his first game wearing blue and gold. He has 22 points on the season off of 13 goals and nine assists. His 13 goals leads the team. He’s hoping the long break hasn’t cooled him off as he finished the season strong with six points in his final three games. Wrapping up the Bobcats at the 20 point plateau is Matthew Peca who has 10 goals and 10 assists on the season.
While Langlois, Samuels-Thomas and Peca are the top three scorers on the team, Quinnipiac has shown its lineup is deep. Connor and Kellen Jones both have 17 points on the season. Three of its four senior defenseman have double digit point numbers and the fourth senior defenseman, captain Zack Currie has a +9 rating and has taken just three penalties in 34 games.
The No. 1 team for the past five weeks would not have gotten to this point though without its goaltender, Eric Hartzell. Hartzell has had a phenomenal season for the Bobcats with a 24-5-4 record. He also has a .936 save percentage and 1.49 goals allowed average which is third in the nation.
Andy Iles stands between the posts for the Big Red and has shown improvement from his freshman season. This year he has a 14-14-3 record and has a 2.28 goals allowed average, which is 24th in the nation, along with a .916 save percentage and two shutouts. He picked up one of those shutouts in the first round of the tournament, as Cornell swept No. 8 Princeton with 4-0 and 4-2 victories last weekend. He combined to stop 46 of 48 shots in the first series and has won five of his last six outings.
In their past eight games, the Big Red have played to a 6-1-1 record, including victories over Rensselaer and Union.