Tall task awaits men’s hockey

Doug Manners

The Quinnipiac men’s hockey team knows it will play a playoff series at home. What will be determined this weekend, the final of the ECACHL regular season, is whether the Bobcats will begin the playoffs the following weekend or get a first-round bye.

The Bobcats will host the top two teams in the conference this weekend, playing St. Lawrence at 7 p.m. Friday and Clarkson at 8 p.m. Saturday. Both teams are riding five-game unbeaten streaks and have already secured a first-round bye, but each is fighting for positioning among the top four.

Quinnipiac (16-11-5 , 10-6-4 ECACHL) enters the weekend tied for third place with Cornell. Fifth-place Dartmouth trails by just one point. The Bobcats can finish anywhere from second to fifth. The top four teams earn a bye in the first round and host a quarterfinals series March 9-11, while teams seeded five through eight will host a series March 2-4.

The Bobcats need three points to guarantee a top-four finish without any help from other teams. Cornell and Dartmouth play each other Friday, and if that game doesn’t end in a tie, Quinnipiac would need only two points.

“One of our goals at the beginning of the year was to finish in the top four and get a first-round bye,” senior captain Reid Cashman said. “Now we’re in that position, we have two home games and we control our own destiny, so we’re excited about the weekend coming up.”

After allowing four or more goals in three straight ECACHL games, sophomore goalie Bud Fisher bounced pack with a pair of sound performances last weekend. He allowed two goals each in games at Cornell and Colgate as the Bobcats split the weekend, losing 2-0 at Cornell before defeating Colgate 3-2 Saturday afternoon.

“Bud’s been our best player all year. There’s no doubt about it, he’s our MVP,” Cashman said. “When he’s in net, we know we have a shot to win.”

Strong goaltending will be key this weekend for the Bobcats as they’ll be facing the two top goalies in the conference based on goals-against average in Clarkson’s David Leggio (2.19) and St. Lawrence’s Alex Petizian (2.29).

Both teams also have potent offenses. Quinnipiac leads the league in scoring, but Clarkson is right behind in second place and has the third-best power play in the nation, while St. Lawrence ranks fourth in the ECACHL in goals.

“They’re the two top teams in the league for a reason,” Cashman said. “We’ve got to more worry about what we can do – limit their shots, limit their scoring opportunities and take advantage when we get on the power play.”