Pete’s pond: Quinnipiac’s power play has been its Achilles’ heel all season, aching now more than ever


Aidan Sheedy

The Bobcats have fallen to No. 5 in the USCHO poll after peaking at No. 1 this season.

Peter Piekarski, Sports Editor

Since October’s Ice Breaker tournament, the main point of Quinnipiac’s game I’ve highlighted as needing work is the power play. Fast forward to today, and it’s still the most concerning issue this team faces.

It’s not just the power play either now. The offense that opened the season with vigor and imposing endurance seems to have lost a level of its execution in more crucial games.

I don’t mean to diminish the success this team has accrued thus far, considering how dominant Quinnipiac has been in most of its games. It controls the pace of the game, the time of possession and the shot share.

The scoring disparity between Quinnipiac and its opponents is staggering. Through its first 18 games, the Bobcats averaged 3.39 goals per game while only allowing 1.11 goals against. Since Jan. 14, they have averaged 3.2 GPG while holding opponents to a shocking .87 GPG. Currently, the Bobcats are tied for 12th in the country in GPG with 3.3 and in first for goals against per game at 1.0. 

Quinnipiac’s ability to dominate teams has been evident all season long. Just look at the shot comparisons. The Bobcats lost on the shot board in only one game this entire season, and that was in the CT Ice championship game against UConn.

Almost every aspect of this team exclaims elite national contender.

However, despite their level of dominance, a couple of flaws need to be tidied up. The offense has stumbled a few times down the stretch, specifically in high-profile matchups against conference foes such as Cornell, Harvard and Clarkson. Quinnipiac only managed to score a total of two goals in those three games.

The one aspect which seemingly matters most is the power play that continues to suffer. With three games to go, Quinnipiac has mustered a measly 13.0% on the power play, seventh-worst in Division I. During games against ECAC Hockey opponents, Quinnipiac’s man-advantage has converted seven times on 62 opportunities, which sits at a woeful 11.3%.

The league average is 19.1%, which Quinnipiac substantially falls short of.

In five total games against Cornell, Harvard and Clarkson, Quinnipiac went 1-for-15, a dreadful 6.7% conversion rate.

What’s the issue? Why can a team this good struggle so much when the other team is without a skater?

Senior forward and assistant captain Ethan de Jong only has one power-play goal this year after scoring eight last season. (Aidan Sheedy)

Well, it’s quite simple. The Bobcats do not shoot for volume on the power play. They focus too much on trying to tee up the best shot possible. They have two elite shooters in respective senior and sophomore forwards Wyatt Bongiovanni and Ty Smilanic. Opposing penalty kills recognize this and adjust to prevent one-time opportunities for the both of them.

The team fails to realize that one of the more vital scorers on the power play for them is senior forward Ethan de Jong. During the 2020-21 season, de Jong scored eight of his 14 goals on the power play, which led the team.

His area of strength is around the crease, creating screens and providing traffic in front of the goaltenders’ eyes. de Jong feasted on creating chaos around the goal line and would frequently find ways to corral or poke rebounded pucks for another shot.

Despite potting all those goals last year, de Jong only has one power-play tally this year. That’s in part due to the first power-play unit not throwing enough pucks on the net. The top unit tries to be too fancy rather than resort to a simplified approach.

Even if a goal doesn’t occur on a power play, a team’s overall confidence level does not diminish if shots get through to the net. Team morale depletes if a top unit can’t generate anything and spends most of the opportunity trying to re-enter the offensive zone.

Outside of that, Quinnipiac’s only noticeable issue is a consistent effort in the opening minutes. Sometimes the energy level is lacking, and the intensity that the Bobcats tend to play with is fairly flat. That’s being slightly nitpicky, but it will matter come time for conference playoffs.

This team displays a lot of aspects that previous contending Quinnipiac teams have not. The defensive approach and goaltending performances continuously baffle teams. Quinnipiac’s penalty kill has been otherworldly, boasting the best in the country at 92.6%.

It also happens to be Quinnipiac’s best penalty-kill percentage of the 21st century.

That level of effectiveness can largely be credited to arguably the best blue-line core in the country. In addition to star senior Zach Metsa, performances have skyrocketed from senior Marcus Chorney and junior Jayden Lee. That’s not to mention the outstanding play from graduate transfers Griffin Mendel and Brendan Less, which have put this Quinnipiac team on a new level.

Of course, the team would not be where it is without the unexpected sovereignty of its two netminders. Led by freshman Yaniv Perets with graduate student transfer Dylan St. Cyr backing him up, the goaltending continues to shock the nation.

They have a combined .947 save percentage, .96 goals against average and 14 shutouts. If those stats belonged to one goalie, it would rank third, second and first, respectively.

With only three games remaining in the regular season, all of which are home games, Quinnipiac does not have a lot of time to amend its blatant blemish. Of those games, only Colgate poses a solid penalty kill. Yale and Cornell factor more towards the middle of the league.

Beyond that, the ECAC Hockey standings remain a two-way dog fight between Quinnipiac and Clarkson. The Bobcats hold a one-point lead with a game in hand over the Golden Knights. Two wins for Quinnipiac secure back-to-back Cleary Cups as well as the first seed in the conference playoffs.

Three games in five days. A lot can unfold. It’s Quinnipiac’s conference to lose.