Men’s Hockey beat all but one ECAC team in inaugural season in league

Doug Manners

For the first time in a long time, the Quinnipiac men’s hockey team entered the 2005-06 season with low expectations from the outside. Accustomed to finishing near the top of its conference, Quinnipiac was picked to finish in last place in the ECAC by both the league’s preseason coaches and media polls.

Of course, with the Bobcats making the jump from the weaker Atlantic Hockey conference, their placement in the preseason polls shouldn’t have come as a shock.

But the Bobcats proved they could compete and win at the ECAC level, going 8-13-1 in conference play to tie for ninth-place and then sweeping RPI on the road to win a first-round playoff series.

Quinnipiac beat 10 of its 11 ECAC opponents during the season and defeated five teams that were ranked in the top 20 in the nation at one point during the season.

“I don’t think anybody would have given us either of those things,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “We had a very successful first year in the ECAC.”

If there was one problem that plagued the Bobcats, it was preserving leads and winning one-goal games. Not counting empty-net goals, Quinnipiac went 3-9 in one-goal ECAC games during the regular season.

It was an especially glaring problem early in the season. After beating Harvard and Dartmouth in its first two ECAC games, Quinnipiac went 1-7 in its next eight games leading up to the winter break. Six of those losses were by one goal.

“We talked about it as a team – that a point in November is as big as a point in February,” Pecknold said. “It just didn’t register and that’s something we figured out that we have to do better next year so we can move up in the rankings.”

The Bobcats were led by a strong freshman class, the only class that was recruited to play in the ECAC. Freshman Bud Fisher grabbed the starting goaltender job at the beginning of the season and went on to play in all but five of the team’s 39 games.

Up front, freshman Brian Leitch, the ECAC Rookie of the Year, led Quinnipiac in points (45) and freshman David Marshall finished first in goals (22).

Of the 20 players to play in at least half of Quinnipiac’s 39 games, eight were freshmen and six were sophomores. Senior captain Ty Deinema had the challenge of leading a young team trying to adjust to the higher level of play in the ECAC.

“They looked at me as a father and I took that challenge on,” Deinema said. “Ultimately, our senior class was just working hard and making things happen. I think it was the perfect group of guys to make things happen.”

Next season, Quinnipiac will add forward Brandon Wong, who led the British Columbia Hockey League in scoring this season with 116 points (50 goals, 66 assists) in 60 games.

The Bobcats will also receive the additions of two University of New Hampshire transfers – juniors John Doherty and Dan Travis – who both had to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Both players have already been drafted by NHL teams in 2003. Doherty was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round and Travis was taken by the Florida Panthers in the fifth round.

Quinnipiac will also move into its new 3,500-seat area atop the Sherman Avenue campus next season. It is tentatively scheduled to open in January.