Pete’s pond: No. 9 men’s ice hockey team, ECAC Hockey bolstered for battle

Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team enters 2021 season ranked No. 9 in the country

Peter Piekarski, Associate Sports Editor

With the USCHO’s release of the preseason Division I men’s poll, it’s safe to say that the ECAC Hockey conference is going to be a bloodbath in order to secure the Cleary Cup.

Four of the conference’s teams, including Quinnipiac, are currently ranked within the top 20, and three other ECAC Hockey schools received votes to be ranked.

In the ECAC Hockey preseason coaches poll, Quinnipiac finished No. 1 in the rankings, receiving four first-place votes. Among the other schools to receive first-place consideration were Clarkson, Harvard, Cornell and St. Lawrence.

“I don’t put a lot of stock into the preseason poll,” Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey head coach Rand Pecknold said. “I’ve never really looked at a study of how often it’s right and how often it’s wrong. But we know we’re going to be good this year.”

What does that mean for Quinnipiac? This year is going to be a “put your money where your mouth is” type of season for the Bobcats. They will face a total of 13 teams that are either nationally ranked or were considered for ranking this season.

That’s even before a single game has been played.

Quinnipiac beat then-No. 1 Cornell 5-0 at home the last time the two teams faced off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Brendan O’Sullivan (Chronicle Archives))

For a team that is verbally committed to returning to the Frozen Four, the regular season will be an early indicator of how dedicated the team will be.

“That’s number one,” senior forward and captain Wyatt Bongiovanni said. “That’s the biggest thing on my mind, it’s the biggest thing I want to check off on my to-do list. At the end of the day, I’m worried about getting our team to the Frozen Four.”

Eleven of Quinnipiac’s first 14 games are against ranked teams or teams that received votes. That’s nearly a third of the season.
The ECAC Hockey conference is loaded with teams that boast strong upperclassmen as well as elite incoming freshmen recruits. Most specifically, Harvard and Cornell have a large incoming freshman class that played in top tier leagues such as the USHL and BCHL.
Of that incoming class for Harvard and Cornell, several players were also drafted in the NHL entry draft. The most notable name is Harvard forward Matthew Coronato, who was recently drafted No. 13 overall in the 2021 draft.

“I think we’re in a dogfight with some really good teams,” Pecknold said. “Harvard is absolutely loaded. I voted for them. I think they might be one of the most talented teams in the country.”

Clarkson is also heavily overlooked. The Golden Knights battled the Bobcats all year last season and proved to be the toughest ECAC Hockey opponent to play against. They deserve to be ranked but being listed as No.19 feels very low.

“Cornell is always good, Clarkson is excellent,” Pecknold said. “They were great last year. They have most of their team back. I thought they did a really good job getting (graduate forwards Zach) Tsekos and (Jack) Jacome to come back. Those are going to be two of the better players in the league.”

It certainly won’t be a cakewalk to the conference playoffs or to reappear in the NCAA playoffs, but according to the rankings, Quinnipiac is the team to beat in the ECAC Hockey.