Column: Miner-Barron, Toews key for Bobcats postseason push

Column: Miner-Barron, Toews key for Bobcats postseason push

Max Molski

Stars have undoubtedly led Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey to its No. 1 ranking.

Goalie Michael Garteig has set a program single-season record for shutouts (seven) and has been endorsed as a 2016 Hobey Baker Memorial Award candidate. Not to be outdone, Sam Anas leads the ECAC with 42 points, 21 goals and has a 15-game point streak.

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Yet, Quinnipiac’s prolific offense steers eyes away from its defensemen, who, along with Garteig, have the team fifth in the nation in goals allowed per game (1.97).

Connor Clifton is third among team defenders in points (16) and linemate Kevin McKernan, who is the only Bobcat to play in 20 or more games and have a negative plus/minus (minus-3), has put together a point in each of the last two weekends.

Derek Smith made his mark in the Bobcats’ season as he put home the overtime winner in the game against Harvard at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 9. His linemate, freshman Chase Priskie, has put in a more consistent offensive output this season. He is tied for third on the team in assists (19) and has just one penalty on the season.

Yet, the indisputable generals of the Quinnipiac defense are Alex Miner-Barron and Devon Toews. And they aren’t just leaders for the Quinnipiac defense. They are the security blanket for the nation’s No. 1 team.

Toews has been on an exceptional tear in February. He had a point in each of the Bobcats’ first six February games, including four multi-point games. He has been one of the most clutch players for Quinnipiac as of late. The junior hit an overtime winner on Feb. 13 at Clarkson, only to come back and hit a late goal to tie the game on Feb. 19 against Rensselaer, leading to captain Soren Jonzzon’s overtime winner.

Toews remains the Bobcats’ leading point-scoring defenseman with seven goals and 19 assists.

On the other hand, you will find it hard to find Miner-Barron’s name on the scoresheet. The graduate student has just six points (two goals, four assists) on the season. But as Miner-Barron exemplifies, the pair’s impact doesn’t rely on numbers.

Miner-Barron is the team’s epitome of consistency. He played in 79 straight games coming into this season and was a hybrid forward and defenseman. Before the Bobcats kicked off their 2015-2016 campaign, it seemed improbable that Miner-Barron would even put on a gold jersey again because of his limited eligibility. Instead, the NCAA agreed to a waiver Quinnipiac filed and Miner-Barron received a five-game suspension and was good to go. He has played in all 26 games since the suspension.

The defensive pair has been instrumental in developing the other defenders. In a weekend series against Cornell and Colgate, Toews and Miner-Barron separated from each other in Derek Smith’s absence. The two rotated with the team’s other active defensemen, including Luke Shiplo, who made just his seventh and eighth collegiate appearances over the weekend. The Bobcats got three ECAC points in the weekend and Smith has since returned to the backline.

Toews and Miner-Barron have also made their print in the Bobcats’ special teams.

Tim Clifton, Travis St. Denis and Anas have certainly done most of the finishing for the Quinnipiac power play as they are all tied for second in the nation in power-play goals (eight). Yet, Toews often gets the power play going from the Bobcats’ defensive zone.

The most memorable instance came on Oct. 15 as Toews rushed the puck up the ice, flicked the puck over a defender and flicked a shot past the goaltender in Quinnipiac’s 4-0 win over Maine. Regardless, Toews has worked alongside the first power play line and helped put Quinnipiac as the fourth-best power play in the country (36-for-129).

Both Toews and Miner-Barron have also kept the Quinnipiac penalty kill sound. The defensive pair, which plays on the first penalty kill line, ranks third in the nation (106-117). The pair also operates in 5-on-3 disadvantages. The pair frantically kept Rensselaer out of the net on a 5-on-3 power play during a tied game in a chaotic second period on Feb. 19. Miner-Barron has even led the charge for a goal while down two men, assisting Tim Clifton with a pass off the goalie’s pad for a shorthanded goal in a 5-0 win against Union on Jan. 7.

Toews has the second-highest plus/minus in the ECAC (plus-20) and Miner-Barron is not far behind in eighth (plus-14). This is the only number that remotely portrays the direct impact the duo has on the Bobcats’ ECAC-winning season. When the lights go dim tonight and the public address announcer reveals the starting lines, instead of giving your warm-up applause to Toews and Miner-Barron, appreciate the foundation they provide for the top team in the nation.

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