Three takeaways from 2022 Connecticut Ice: A breakdown of the Bobcats’ performance, plus what the second installation of the tournament means for local hockey


Aidan Sheedy

The Bobcats won the trophy in the 2nd ever Connecticut Ice tournament

Quinnipiac struggles in back-to-back CT Ice tournaments – Peter Piekarski

 The inaugural Connecticut Ice tournament in 2020 ended with the hosts, the Sacred Heart Pioneers, lifting the championship trophy. Two years later, the Quinnipiac Bobcats knocked off the reigning champions and ultimately claimed the trophy for themselves.

Multiple parallels can be made from the first tournament to this year for Quinnipiac. The main similarity was the Bobcats failing to assert themselves and play a full 60-minute game.

What was the difference this time around for Quinnipiac? Even with a lackluster performance in the opening round against Sacred Heart, the team displayed a more levelheaded approach, scoring clutch goals against both the Pioneers and UConn.

Quinnipiac squeaked by in the first game, nearly losing before junior forward Joey Cipollone netted his second goal of the game with 89 seconds left to send it to overtime.

The performance was uninspiring, but it makes a huge difference during the season to win games that are undeserving. Following the overtime win, Quinnipiac played a hard-fought, grind-it-out championship against UConn.

The Bobcats played a better overall game to win the championship, but it still was not the expected performance of a No. 2-ranked team in the country. No, a blowout was not expected, as UConn has played fairly well against a tough schedule. Regardless of its record (12-11-0), UConn recorded five wins against ranked teams this season.

This is not and will not be an easy tournament going forward. All four teams are hungry to beat one another and hold the bragging rights for a year. However, that should not change Quinnipiac’s approach to any of the games.

In the 2020 opening game against UConn, Quinnipiac surrendered 16 shots and two goals, with former captain Nick Jermain referring to it as “probably the worst period of the year.” The Bobcats went on to win the game 3-2 and their play rebounded substantially.

Their efforts against Sacred Heart in 2020 were mysterious. I remember vividly how intense Quinnipiac opened the game, but for some reason, all that momentum disappeared once the second period began. Sacred Heart went on to win due to four straight second-period goals.

Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold talked about what that loss would do for his team going forward.

“The best lesson of the night was Sacred Heart’s celebration, it was awesome,” Pecknold said. “It teaches you those kids wanted it, they wanted this win. They deserved it. It was awesome to see that celebration, that energy, that enthusiasm, that passion. That’s what we need to take away from the game.”

Just days later, Pecknold and his Bobcats smoked No. 1 Cornell at home. Safe to assume the team learned its lesson.

Quinnipiac securing the championship this time around provides a sense of reward to a hard-working team that has dominated all year long. Though it may not be the main priority for what the team accomplishes on the year, it’s still important to collect some form of hardware to know what effort level is expected.

How QU’s first trophy of 2022 will impact the rest of its title hopes – Ethan Hurwitz

The Bobcats found a way to win the championship, but it took a wacky path to get there. Currently ranked No. 2 in the country, Quinnipiac played down to the competition in the bracket, an uninspiring showing if this program wants to make its first Frozen Four since 2016.

Saturday’s effort against Sacred Heart was poor. For the first 58 minutes against the Pioneers, the Bobcats struggled in almost all phases of the game. Physically, they were outmatched. Mentally, they were not fully invested in the game. But the semifinal match was a classic example of good teams finding ways to win, and a showcase of how deep this roster is.

The final against UConn the next day was a better game, but not by much. First-year goaltender Yaniv Perets stopped all 29 shots he faced, and the two goals from senior forwards Desi Burgart and Ethan de Jong were the only scores from either team. A good bounce-back game against a solid Huskies’ team gave a glimmer of solace from the tournament, but it’s hard to view the weekend as a success.

Yaniv Perets was named the 2022 Connecticut Ice MVP after a shutout against UConn (Aidan Sheedy)

The Bobcats have been led by Perets, whose elite play landed the Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, native a Hobey Baker Award nomination. His program-record ninth shutout of the season has given head coach Rand Pecknold’s defense a brick wall in net. In addition, Sunday’s shutout was also Quinnipiac’s 12th of the year, tying an NCAA Division I record, set by Niagara in the 1999-2000 season. As the strongest unit on the squad, the defense will need to play more physically to set the tone for the rest of the program.

Coming up next is a three-game homestand where the Bobcats host Union, Rensselaer and Brown in a five-day stretch. Currently at 21-2-3, Quinnipiac is in control of its destiny when it comes down to the ECAC Hockey playoffs and can use these final few weeks as a starting point to prepare for the conference playoffs.

Ten games are left on the docket for Quinnipiac, all of them within the conference, which will be a good test for Pecknold’s team. If the season ended now, the Bobcats would win their sixth Cleary Cup, awarded to the conference’s best regular season team, including their second straight. A second trophy heading into the playoffs would go a long way for the morale of the program going into tournament time.

Pecknold detailed how “special” this team was in his postgame interview with SNY’s Michelle Margaux, but for the Bobcats, the season will only be special if they can be on top of the mountain. With the ECAC Hockey playoffs in the future, Quinnipiac still has a few points of weakness, but like this past weekend showed, until the clock hits triple zeros, the game is not over.

CT Ice looks to inspire the younger generation – Cameron Levasseur

When you think of hockey, Canada is likely the first country that comes to mind, but over the past decade or so, there have been major strides made in the sport’s popularization here in the U.S.

Prior to the start of the pandemic, youth hockey participation in the state of Connecticut had been steadily on the rise for three years straight. Of course, the past two years have caused a significant decline in that aspect, but events like this past weekend’s Connecticut Ice tournament are trying to turn the tide once more.

“I was a young Connecticut hockey player, and I know what it’s like to go watch college games,” Sacred Heart head coach C.J. Marottolo said in a pre-tournament press conference. “I used to go watch the Yale games every time I could and that inspired me, that made me love the game of hockey. It made me want to be a college hockey player.”

This is an opportunity to showcase the wealth of hockey talent held by the state’s four Division I schools, something that Yale head coach Keith Allain believes needs to have more limelight.

“I think youth hockey players don’t get to watch enough college hockey,” Yale head coach Keith Allain said. “They don’t get to see how exciting it is. They don’t get to see the pageantry … (so) when they look at the rosters and see that there are Connecticut players on all of our rosters, I think it’s a ‘well if they can do it, maybe I can do it as well.’”

That thought process has been behind the surge of youth participation in nontraditional hockey markets around the US. The rise of NHL players such as Auston Matthews, an Arizona native, as well as Jack and Quinn Hughes, who hail from central Florida, have enthralled and inspired young sports fans with their speed and skill.

The success of professional teams also has also served to boost participation. After the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019, the state of Missouri saw a 28.2% increase in USA Hockey memberships in the eight and under age group.

Marottolo, a North Haven native, hopes this tournament will, on a smaller scale, have the same positive effect on young players in the area.

“I think the youth teams that come and watch us play are going to gravitate towards our sport and give them a goal to hopefully reach one of our schools in the future,” Marottolo said.

With two kids in local youth programs, Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold has a strong grasp on how the success of these college teams is beneficial to the younger generation.

“I’ve got an 05’ that started with the Riverhawks and Mid Fairfield. I’ve got a 13’ that started with the Wonderland Wizards and now Mid Fairfield. So I’m in it,” Pecknold said. “I’m in the trenches, and I see the growth in it … I’m getting texts and emails, all those kids are coming (to the tournament) with their parents.”

With the popularity of the tournament in its short lifespan, Pecknold hopes it will prosper far into the future.

“I think it’s fantastic for our state,” Pecknold said. “I know it’s only year two, but hopefully this tournament is going to continue for a long, long time.”