Quinnipiac blue line, veterans lead Bobcats to 4-2 win


Jack Spiegel

Graduate student forward Michael Lombardi puts a shot on net in Saturday’s exhibition matchup against the University of Toronto.

Ryan Maher, Contributing Writer

HAMDEN, Conn – When the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team fell at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA Quarterfinals 188 days ago, an interesting offseason was yet to come. Despite significant roster turnover over the last six months, the Bobcats were able to open up the 2022-23 campaign with a 4-2 win against the University of Toronto.

Many questions surrounded the leadership future of the team after former captain Wyatt Bongiovanni signed a professional deal with the Winnipeg Jets, Oliver Chau and Ethan Mendel signed AHL deals, and Quinnipiac’s highest ever draft pick Ty Smilanic transferred to Wisconsin.

Some were skeptical of where the goal scoring would be coming from after some prevalent scorers like Bongiovanni moved on. A greater role would be needed for the older players coming back like graduate student defenseman Zach Metsa and senior forward Skyler Brind’Amour.  This role came to fruition today against Toronto as both Metsa and Brind’Amour were both able to net one for the Bobcats.

This was the Bobcats’ opening game of the 2022-23 season, and the exhibition game allowed Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold to dress three more forwards and two extra defenseman for the coaching staff to get a look at. 

The University of Toronto entered the game with an 0-4 record on the season so far, allowing an average of 4.5 goals per game. The Bobcats were able to capitalize on the Varsity Blues defensive inadequacies tallying four goals on their way to a 4-2 win at the M&T Bank Arena. 

The Bobcats blue line was a big factor in the score, featuring goals from Metsa and senior defenseman CJ McGee. 

Sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets saw the start today for the Bobcats, allowing one goal on five shots. Pecknold then handed the blue paint off to sophomore goaltender Noah Altman, The 6-foot-7-inch netminder’s showing was quite impressive, saving 9 of 10 shots in his nearly 26 minutes of play. Pecknold said first-year goaltender Chase Clark would have played as well,but fell ill this morning.

Though the Bobcats struggled with their power-play offense last season, it was a positive sign to see the extra man unit succeed tonight. Early in the middle frame, Skyler Brind’Amour redirected a puck home off a setup pass from sophomore forward Collin Graf to give the Bobcats a three goal lead. A fantastic look by Graf to Brind’Amour parked in front of the cage using his big frame was a perfect way for the Bobcats to grab their first power-play marker of the 2022-23 campaign.

The power play was one-for-five on the night, but Pecknold was content with their efforts and the goal. Given the challenging nature of scoring on the extra man, the Quinnipiac power play tally was a good sign for the long haul.

“We got enough great looks, and to me about the power play if you get enough good looks, you’re gonna get your goals,” Pecknold said.

Toronto countered when graduate student forward Owen Guy propelled a puck over Perets’ shoulder to get the Varsity Blues on the scoreboard halfway through the game. This was the first high-danger scoring chance for the opposing team and they were able to capitalize. Up until this point, the stifling Bobcat defense gave them all sorts of trouble.

Perets would give way for Altman, who stopped all nine of the Blues’ first shot attempts before they were able to pot one on him with seven seconds remaining in the game with the extra attacker on the ice. It appeared the game would be a 3-2 final, but freshman forward Victor Czerneckianair deposited the puck into the empty net for the Bobcats to extend their lead.

Although a preseason question for Quinnipiac would be where they would get their scoring from, it is always nice for hockey fans everywhere to see the new guy score. 

Going forward, the Bobcats will need scoring from his first-year forwards. Fellow freshman forward Tim Heinke was a plus one tonight and impressed at times. 

“They’re a little bit raw right now, but it’s a good group and a really good class that will be good players for us for the next four years,” Pecknold said.

Overall, Quinnipiac came out and got the job done in its home-opening exhibition game against a physical opponent. Of course, there will still be room to grow. The team will need to continue to come together as a unit as practices continue and the season progresses. The Bobcats will want to look to build off their efforts and momentum.

The Bobcats will take on Providence in their final exhibition matchup on Oct. 2 at the M&T Bank Arena.