Pete’s pond: Allentown aftermath

Peter Piekarski, Sports Editor

While Quinnipiac didn’t achieve its goal of a Frozen Four appearance, the run this team made is still impressive. For the first time since the 2015-16 season, the Bobcats finished with more than 30 wins, just the third time to do so this century.

Along the way, this team collected a CT Ice championship and the Cleary Cup for finishing atop the ECAC Hockey standings winning a program-record 32 games. The record-setting performance from freshman goaltender Yaniv Perets made for an exciting and successful season for a team that drastically changed from the previous season.

This season was just one year removed from a shortened schedule where neither fans nor media were allowed to experience it in person. Quinnipiac took advantage of playing in the People’s United Center, winning 17 of its 20 homes games, including the home opener against then-No. 6 North Dakota, a shootout win over Clarkson, a shutout win over Harvard and blanking Yale to claim the Heroes’ Hat.

Three players took major strides in their game to contribute to the teams’ success this year. T.J. Friedmann, the senior forward from St. Louis, Missouri, had only accrued 13 career points with Quinnipiac prior to 2021-22. He finished the season with 10 goals and 13 assists in 40 games.

Another forward, junior Joey Cipollone, potted 10 goals this season along with eight assists, trouncing his production of two goals and five assists in the previous year.

Junior defenseman Jayden Lee finished the campaign with five goals and 10 assists, more than double his two previous seasons combined. Not to mention, he scored three game-winning goals along with arguably some of the most impactful goals for the team this season.

Lee scored the game-tying goal in the ECAC Hockey championship against Harvard late in the third period. Additionally, he opened the door for Quinnipiac to crawl back against Michigan Sunday night with a spin move that resulted in a shot that banked in off the post.

“In general, with Jayden I’m really happy with the season he had, I think he took a big jump,” head coach Rand Pecknold said. “He was outstanding all year long, he took another jump not just tonight but in the playoffs in general. Really high IQ player.”

It’s been nothing short of an emotional season, beginning with the death of Quinnipiac’s Team IMPACT member Michael Torello over the summer, who Pecknold spoke about multiple times over the past few weeks. Team IMPACT pairs kids with serious illnesses to college teams to create a sense of community around the family.

It ended with senior captain and forward Wyatt Bongiovanni trying to maintain his composure and hold back tears during the post-game press conference following the Allentown regional final loss to Michigan.

Wyatt Bongiovanni and Garrett Van Wyhe embrace after Michigan’s 7-4 victory (Cameron Levasseur)

The team now enters an interesting offseason as the five graduate student transfers and seven seniors are set to move on. Brendan Less, the Dartmouth defenseman that transferred to Quinnipiac over the summer, already signed a contract with the New York Islanders’ ECHL affiliate, the Worcester Railers HC.

In search of a new opportunity, sophomore defenseman Nick Bochen just entered the transfer portal, depleting the Quinnipiac blue line further. Following suit, freshman defenseman Jack Babbage and junior forward Ethan Leyh have also opted for the portal.

Though there is a possibility that some return, nothing has been confirmed. Pecknold maintained his focus on the team and the season, allowing the students to make their choices once it ended.

“To me, recruiting is 365 days a year if you want to win,” Pecknold said. “There’s a ton of kids in the portal right now. The grad transfers changed everything, we’ve got three more years of that. I refer to it like the Wild West right now.”

As of now, only 13 players are returning, which leaves the door open for incoming freshmen or graduate student transfers. Quinnipiac currently has 12 incoming freshmen, eight of which are forwards. It’s a position of dire need for this Bobcats squad should seniors move on.

It’s very possible that Pecknold explores the transfer portal if he feels this team is good enough to compete. As the regional round concluded, many players entered the portal once their team had been eliminated.

Not much information is available on what the team’s plan is. But with the breakout performance of Perets this year, it should not shock anyone if Quinnipiac targeted a defenseman or two to bolster its defensive core.

There are a few intriguing players that likely will crack the lineup of that incoming freshman forward group. Sam Lipkin, a seventh-round draft pick by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, who is currently lighting it up in the USHL with the Chicago Steel. In 59 games this season, Lipkin has 29 goals and 56 points which rank sixth and 15th respectively in the league.

As the Frozen Four comes to an end, more questions surrounding the team will be answered.

It’s an exciting and mysterious end point of my four years covering this team. Four years worth of recaps and content have led to this point. My skills as a writer and journalist have grown tremendously from my experience with this team. For the last two years, I was able to cover the team in extreme detail, writing this column and providing analysis on multiple platforms. I’ve enjoyed every second of it, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to do so.