Murphy’s Law: Better late than never

Bryan Murphy

Seven losses.

You really hate to be nitpicky about a team with a record of 23-7-2 and is tied in the nation for the second-fewest losses on the year.

But with playoffs coming around the corner, it’s never a better time to dissect what the No. 5 Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team can improve upon. It really comes down to defense and mental toughness.

[media-credit id=2200 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Defense, or lack thereof, has been one of the main reasons as to why this team has lost a handful of games. In its seven losses this year, the team is giving up an average of 4.1 goals per game, a much higher number than its season total average of 1.9. The defensive struggles were evident this past weeked in the 5-3 loss on Saturday to No. 13 Clarkson.

“Not leave our goalies out to dry,” senior defenseman Chase Priskie said after the Clarkson loss on what the defense needed to change. “Seventh loss, seems like they’re all pretty much–we give up five goals. All of them. You can count them, we give up five goals, that’s not good enough. You’re not going to win games in this league or any league 6-5, 7-6, we’ve got to be better. We can’t give up grade-A [scoring chances] and leave our goalie out to dry. We just didn’t give [junior goaltender Andrew Shortridge] a chance on a lot of those goals.”

Priskie, for the most part, is right. In the seven games that Quinnipiac has lost, it has given up the amount of goals as follows: five, five, three, five, two, four, five. Outside of a game against UMass and one against Harvard, the team gives up four or more goals when it loses.

The game in which Quinnipiac gave up four goals was against Brown, the team’s upcoming opponent. Quinnipiac fell 4-1 to Brown on Feb. 2, a day after shutting out Yale 4-0. Defense will be the biggest difference maker when Quinnipiac looks for revenge against Brown this Friday.

“I think defending, going in and just not giving them anything, not allowing shots,” Priskie said on what it will take it to beat Brown. “I think the best games we play, we’re really good at retrieving pucks in our D-zone, we break the pucks out easily and we transition to offense.

“You can see in some of the games we’ve won, we limit teams to single digit shots each period and that seems to be a good recipe for success. Games that we don’t seem to do that, like we gave up 18 shots [in the second period] to Clarkson, and they capitalize on four of those and that’s kind of the game right there.”

Quinnipiac is tied for fourth for the least amount of goals given up this year (61).

There’s something that else that connects the losses together for Quinnipiac. Most of them have come on Saturdays.

In Quinnipiac’s seven losses, six of them have been on Saturdays. All six of them have been the second night of a back-to-back. In fact, Quinnipiac’s record on the second night of the weekend series is a lowly 6-6-1, and is an even worse 1-4-1 at home on those nights.

This is where mental toughness has an impact on a team, and for Quinnipiac, it hasn’t necessarily been a positive one.

“Saturday it’s a recurring thing that we’ve had pretty much all year,” Priskie said. “We haven’t been able to mentally rebound back and get up for those games Saturday. It’s still a working process but we’re working to get better.”

You can certainly look to the fact that the team is rolling out eight to nine freshmen every night. It’s a pretty young team and with that may come some adjustments that are needed.

“We’ve struggled on Saturday nights with our emotion and our passion, which is one of the things that makes us good,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “Friday game or if it’s a single game in the week, we get fired up all week, we reload really well for that. So that’s a little bit of a mental barrier that our young team has to overcome.”

Quinnipiac has the same mindset as most teams do–focus on the next game. Don’t look ahead to the game on Saturday, the focus is Friday. So after having almost an entire week to prepare for Friday, there’s really less than 24 hours for the team to prep for Saturday.

“Once Friday happens, you’ve got to get your mind right, get your body right, try and reset and get a good night’s sleep,” sophomore forward Odeen Tufto said. “You need to mentally prepare for Saturday. I just don’t think we’ve done a great job at fully mentally preparing. It’s hurt us some nights and I think it’s kind of something that has cost us on Saturday. We’re a little mentally fatigued.”

This will be more crucial than ever for the team to figure out how to mentally prepare for Saturday night games as one loss could end its season with playoffs looming ahead. Yes, it has been an issue for most of the year, but it’s better late than never to figure it out.

“We’ve got to understand that back-to-back nights have been tough for us, but there have been nights like the RPI night where we’ve played pretty well and have come out with a victory,” Tufto said. “We have it in us, we just kind of have to bring it out of us…I think we’ll be alright. We’re learning late in the season now that Saturdays are really important especially for the freshmen who are new.”