Goaltending carries men’s hockey to No. 1 seed, Bobcats await quarterfinal matchup



The Bobcats fell to No. 6 in the USCHO poll on Feb. 28, after a loss to Cornell.

Peter Piekarski, Sports Editor

Back on Sept. 8, 2021, during the first media conference before the season began, each player that spoke repeated the same goal: win the Frozen Four.

Six months and 36 games later, that goal remains unchanged. Quinnipiac finished the regular season with a 28-5-3 record and clinched a Cleary Cup for being the best regular-season team in ECAC Hockey in the process.

The name of the game for Quinnipiac is possession. Opponents struggle to generate consistent offense as the Bobcats suffocate breakouts, forcing teams to dump the puck frequently. The Bobcats have several puck-moving defensemen that quickly transition play back to the offensive zone.

Though its shot differential is the best in the country, Quinnipiac’s defense allows several high-danger scoring chances every game, forcing the goaltending to bail out the team on numerous occasions.

Speaking of goaltenders, freshman sensation Yaniv Perets has been a stalwart in the crease, finishing the season as the best goalie in the nation. He claimed the No. 1 spot in save percentage (.955), goals-against average (.82) and shutouts (11). He still remains on single-season record watch for all three categories, currently boasting the best GAA, and second-best SV% and shutouts in Division I history.

Graduate student Dylan St. Cyr has been nearly as impressive in net. He posted a .939 SV%, 1.11 GAA and five shutouts on the year. Granted, both goalies don’t see much action as the Bobcats hold opposing teams to the least number of shots per game in the NCAA (18.5).

Now that the ECAC Hockey playoffs have arrived, it’s time for Quinnipiac to deliver on its goal. Even though it’s likely the Bobcats will receive an automatic tournament bid, this team has a history of choking away games and series.

Just last year, Quinnipiac lost the championship game to St. Lawrence. Predating that, Brown upset the Bobcats in the conference quarterfinals, despite being the top seed.

There are several weak points to this Quinnipiac team, one of which was previously mentioned. Beyond the intermittent defensive lapses, the offense has been quite lackluster for the majority of the season.

Even though the Bobcats finished with the second-most shots for in the country, they only scored on 9.6% of them. Of Quinnipiac’s 117 goals, 47 were scored in eight games. That’s 40% of the season’s goals in 22% of the games.

This means that Quinnipiac scored 2.5 goals per game through the other 28 games in the season.

In comparison, the No. 1 team in the country, Minnesota State, whom Quinnipiac lost to in the 2021 NCAA regional playoff round, averages 3.12 goals per game outside of its eight highest-scoring performances.

Why such a drastic difference in offensive performance?

Minnesota State scores on 25% of its power plays. Quinnipiac scored just under 14%. Over the Bobcats’ last 10 games, they only managed to score four times on 32 chances. In the three biggest contests during those 10 games against Harvard, Clarkson and Cornell, they went a combined 0-for-8.

Quinnipiac can take 34 shots per game and hold the puck in the offensive end for most of each game, but if it can’t find the back of the net, the ECAC Hockey playoffs will not be kind. Neither will the NCAA tournament.

Since Quinnipiac received a first-round bye, it will face one of Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, Brown or St. Lawrence depending on how the opening rounds play out. Yale sits as the bottom seed, so a Whitney Avenue battle could be on tap for the quarterfinal matchup if the Bulldogs manage to upset Colgate in their series beginning March 4.