Pete’s pond: New USCHO poll drops QU to No. 6, power play woes continue to handcuff Bobcats


Connor Lawless

The Bobcats have scored only three goals through 33 man advantages this season.

Peter Piekarski, Associate Sports Editor

Although Quinnipiac didn’t complete a weekend sweep over AIC, the ability to not surrender a loss to a buzzing Yellow Jackets lineup indicates how resilient this team can be.

Moving down one spot in the USCHO poll is appropriate due to the caliber of this Quinnipiac roster. There were opportunities for the Bobcats to win both games before overtime.

However, this home-and-home series happened to be the solid opportunity for a gritty AIC team to pick off a ranked team. Quinnipiac entered the weekend, playing three games in five days and exiting after playing five games in nine days.

Tired legs made for an excellent chance for AIC to take advantage. Despite only having one win this season against Army West Point, AIC battles hard every night and makes every game difficult for the opponent.

To open its season, the Yellow Jackets played and lost to then-No. 12 Providence and twice to then-No. 9 UMass.

On Quinnipiac’s end, the only aspect to its game that raises any concerns continues to be the power play. To this point, the Bobcats only have three power-play goals on 33 opportunities for a poor 9.1%, almost a third of last year’s 25% conversion rate.

I still firmly believe that the only way this power play will start filling the net is by swapping the position of graduate forward Oliver Chau and senior defenseman Zach Metsa. The two best shooters on the team, forwards senior Wyatt Bongiovanni and sophomore Ty Smilanic, are being attended to more than anyone else on the ice.

If Quinnipiac wants shots to come off the blades of Bongiovanni and Smilanic, moving Chau to the ‘quarterback’ spot and dropping Metsa to the left faceoff dot is the best way to ensure that happens. Currently, Chau manning the left dot while being left-handed eliminates a one-time shot from him and thus allows the penalty killers more time to shift and clog lanes.

Since opposing penalty killers often use the diamond formation, they receive more time to react to whatever Chau does. This allows the weak-side defender to tie up Smilanic in the bumper spot and get a body in the way of a cross-ice pass to Bongiovanni. Another option is that the top defender can drop down to tie up Smilanic, and the weak side can eliminate a one-time shot from Bongiovanni.

Switching Chau and Metsa creates an optimal setup for one-time shots from Chau, Smilanic and Bongiovanni when Metsa controls the puck. When Chau has it up top, Bongiovanni and Metsa will have shooting lanes.

The most significant difference between this season’s rough power play start and last year’s lights-out power play is the usage of senior forward Ethan de Jong. Since fewer shots are coming to the net from one-timers, de Jong isn’t being effectively used as a screen or dig for loose pucks and rebounds around the crease.

Last season, de Jong scored a career-high eight power-play goals. Several of those can be attributed to Quinnipiac using a right-hand shot in then-captain Odeen Tufto on the left dot and several different left-handed shots from the right dot.

Outside of the power play, the Bobcats look strong in all facets. The penalty kill continues to dominate, only allowing two goals on 24 chances for an impressive 91.7% rate.

Going forward, Quinnipiac only plays one more stretch of several games in a short period of time. That doesn’t occur until the first week of January when the Bobcats face Princeton twice, along with Brown and Yale in seven days.

ECAC Hockey matchups begin this weekend for the Bobcats with the first leg of the Battle of Whitney Avenue on Friday, Nov. 5, when Quinnipiac travels to Yale.