Pete’s pond: No. 8 Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team delivers on high expectations

The X’s and O’s of the Bobcats’ impressive performance at the Ice Breaker Tournament

Peter Piekarski, Associate Sports Editor

Sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets was a surprise starter this weekend and impressed with a .947 save percentage. Photo from Connor Lawless

The Ice Breaker Tournament was a major success for No. 8 Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey. A shootout goal was the deciding factor in winning the tournament and finishing second overall.

Two crucial games for the Bobcats served as platforms to make a statement early in the season. Quinnipiac did precisely that, tying with No. 6 Boston College (BC) in a shootout and dominating No. 18 Northeastern.

An aspect of the game that still needs some fixing is allowing a first or last-minute goal in the opening frame or in important games. I’m sure the last thing Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey head coach Rand Pecknold expected or wanted was to allow a goal against in the season opener less than a minute after the first puck drop against BC.

The opposite happened against Northeastern when Quinnipiac scored just 76 seconds into the game and never let up after.

“It’s a lot more fun to play with the lead, then try and catch up from behind,” senior forward TJ Friedmann said. “We got that first one, and then we’re off and running and never looked back.”

Outside of that, Quinnipiac’s game looked very strong in all aspects. Of course, there are areas that need tidying up, but overall, the Bobcats played two solid hockey games to begin the season.

The brightest spot from the tournament: sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets looked confident between the pipes. Yes, in two very important games, Quinnipiac had its backup goaltender in, and he looked sturdy and promising. The expected starter, graduate transfer Dylan St. Cyr, suffered an injury before the tournament and is currently sidelined until further notice.

Pecknold said there was no timetable for his return.

Luckily enough, Perets was up to the task. He made several key saves in both games and even though he didn’t face a high shot volume, he saved every puck the team would expect him to. Perets only faced 38 shots in two games plus an overtime period. The only goals against were a rebound that kicked out to an unmarked forward and a deflection that popped off of junior forward Ethan Leyh.

Perets earned his first career win and shutout in his second career start against Northeastern.

“This was a great opportunity for Yanni to step up,” Pecknold said. “I thought he was excellent both nights. We’re excited about him, he’s a big talent, he’s focused, he’s locked in and he deserves what he got tonight.”

The defense did an outstanding job throughout both games by limiting shots. High-danger shots were almost non-existent as the defense tied up forwards trying to screen Perets or get a deflection, blocking shots and suppressing offensive zone time for BC and Northeastern.

In the offensive end for Quinnipiac, the forecheck appeared to be in peak form, more notably in the Northeastern game. The forwards put tremendous pressure on the opposing breakout and forced several turnovers in the process. That’s what allowed the Bobcats to come back against BC and to shut down Northeastern.

Quinnipiac played very physical in both contests, making the neutral zone a war zone. This slowed down the opposition and prevented shots off of zone entry.

“That’s just something we try to do game in game out,” Friedmann said. “We know our system works, we know we’re a good team, you know we work hard, and when we do that we’re going to find success. Those first two periods… we’re telling everyone, ‘Play our own game, we know what we got to do, we know we’ll be good and be successful with it,’ so we just stuck to the plan and came out on top, so it was fun.”

The most impressive aspect of Quinnipiac’s weekend was the penalty kill, shutting down four BC power plays and another two against Northeastern, who finished fourth in the country with a 26.9% conversion rate last season. Not only that but many crucial shot blocks were made on the penalty kill.

Respective senior and junior defensemen Marcus Chorney and Jayden Lee put their bodies on the line in overtime, blocking multiple shots and clogging passing lanes against BC’s four-on-three man advantage.

The Bobcats tied one game and won one game at the Ice Breaker Tournament, boosting their national ranking from No. 9 to No. 8. Photo from Connor Lawless

At the other end of the ice, on the power play, it didn’t look as efficient as the rest of Quinnipiac’s game, but it also didn’t look bad. The Bobcats’ first unit of respective seniors, graduate and sophomore forwards Ethan de Jong, Wyatt Bongiovanni, Oliver Chau and Ty Smilanic and senior defenseman Zach Metsa, moved the puck decently but failed to generate prime scoring chances outside of a couple of one-time shots off the stick of Bongiovanni.

The power play did not generate enough movement to pull the defenders out of the 1-2-1 formation, allowing the penalty kill to stay relatively compact which undid most of the passing work the first unit completed. To add to that, the power play let up two short-handed breakaways, one of which occurred with less than a minute to go against BC.

The confidence will come once the first power-play goal of the season gets scored.

“I think we can get a little bit cleaner and crisper on our power plays,” Pecknold said. “Boston College is a really good penalty kill team, they came at us hard and we just have to make some more plays, but that’ll come as we get our legs under us.”

The most common power-play formation in college and at the pro level is the 1-3-1, also known as the umbrella. This accounts for a point man, essentially the quarterback, to set up the best scoring chances for the power play.

Two more players position themselves on the faceoff dots, while the other two line up in front of the goaltender, one directly around the crease and the other in the slot, also known as the bumper position.

This setup allows the offense to create shot opportunities from multiple spots and opens up passing lanes that force the goaltender to move across the crease. Normally, the two players on the faceoff dots are on their off-hand, which opens up the opportunity for a one-time shot.

In Quinnipiac’s situation, it has Chau on the left dot. The issue is he’s left-handed. He does an excellent job creating space for himself to receive a pass by dropping back towards the blue line and skating in to take a shot or find another player to pass to.

The problem is, it eliminates a one-time shot from his spot, and it also takes longer to move back towards the dot, where he can pass the puck to Smilanic in the bumper or find Bongiovanni on the opposite dot.

This allows the defense more time to react and thus makes it more challenging for Quinnipiac. The best route would be to switch Chau and Metsa, making Chau the point man and putting Metsa on the left dot with a right-hand shot.

I would assume Pecknold has run it like that in practice, and it’s early in the season so he’s likely still experimenting. But if the power play struggles to convert at points in the season, it wouldn’t hurt to shake up the formation a little and keep the opposing penalty kill guessing.

Realistically, if that is the only major issue Quinnipiac has in its opening weekend, then that means Pecknold has the team prepared to compete all season long.

The wheels are rolling, now it’s time for Quinnipiac to keep the momentum going through this weekend at Vermont and into the following weekend when it hosts No. 7 North Dakota in the Bobcats’ home opener.