Pete’s Pond: Winning out west

Men’s hockey rises to No. 3 after successful weekend at North Dakota


Jack Spiegel

Quinnipiac’s win over North Dakota on Saturday marks the first in program history for the Bobcats in Grand Forks.

Peter Piekarski, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac’s ability to execute against the No. 3 team in the country proved two things: the Bobcats can compete on the road, and they’re a top team in the country.

A lackluster effort against LIU in an eventual tie during the season’s opening weekend made the ensuing series at North Dakota seem much more difficult to overcome. Based on the first weekend, I expected that Quinnipiac would get walked over in the first game and that the second game would be a one-goal or overtime finish.

That depended on whether or not Quinnipiac showed up in the opening period and demonstrated what head coach Rand Pecknold frequently refers to as its “identity.” That being relentless forecheckers, winning battles on the boards and in the corners and forcing turnovers in all three zones.

The Bobcats did, in fact, play to their identity.

“We expect to win, we have that confidence to win.” Pecknold said. “I think it’s a strength.”

In both first periods combined, Quinnipiac outscored North Dakota five-to-one, converting on 41.7% of its shots on goal. The Bobcats generated most of their chances by dumping in the puck and applying pressure to North Dakota’s breakout, forcing turnovers that allowed them to score at a high rate. Only one goal was scored on the rush for Quinnipiac this weekend, which is very telling considering they found the back of the net 11 times.

This series will ultimately play a key role in providing the Bobcats confidence as the season rolls on while also majorly impacting the PairWise rankings. Outside of the Fighting Hawks, Quinnipiac is only lined up to play at at most two ranked non-conference teams during the season. Beyond that, there are currently four total conference clashes with ranked opponents in Harvard and Cornell. Clarkson would bring the total to six but it is currently on the fringe of being ranked.

“The Friday game was just a roller coaster emotionally,” Pecknold said. “They dominated, we really struggled. We had some players that struggled for whatever reason, just weren’t playing well.”

There were several performances of note, headlined by two graduate student forwards. T.J. Friedmann and Ethan de Jong both potted two goals and an assist this weekend. The latter was named ECAC Hockey Forward of the Week for his efforts.

Friedmann’s goal off of a turnover during the first game seemed to be the dagger to put away North Dakota before a monumental comeback from the home squad brought the game even. The following night, Friedmann again scored during the second period, but this time it tied the game at two and swung momentum into Quinnipiac’s favor.

However, de Jong did manage to put the nail in the coffin by redirecting a pass on the power play to put Quinnipiac up by two and then scoring off of a deflection in the third period sealing the game for the Bobcats.

Though it’s early in the season, there are four Quinnipiac players that look to be growing more comfortable in their roles. The collection of these sophomore forwards: Collin Graf, Cristophe Tellier, Jacob Quillan and Christophe Fillion, are starting to click with flashes of their game starting to show out.

Of the four, Quillan is the most notable, as he already tallied five points in four games on the season, which ranks second on the team. Just last year, he only collected nine in 36 games. His goal against North Dakota was a product of outhustling the opponent. He skated into the zone for strong-side support and found open space inside the faceoff dot, snapping Friedmann’s pass right over the goaltender’s shoulder.

Looking at the overall play in both games, Quinnipiac was toe to toe with North Dakota in five of the six periods in terms of shots and possession. The lone period was the second period during the first matchup, in which North Dakota outshot Quinnipiac 21-7.

Cameron Levasseur

“This is what I love about our program right now, where we are,” Pecknold said. “We tied that game and no one was happy. We didn’t walk out saying, ‘Hey, we just tied North Dakota on the road.’”

Quinnipiac’s special teams didn’t quite statistically perform this weekend, with the penalty kill allowing three goals on eight opportunities and the power play converting once out of its six. While the penalty kill performance may look poor on the scoresheet, the timing was a major factor.

The North Dakota fanbase was rabid this past weekend, providing a backdrop that rivaled the 2016 National Championship between these two schools.

“We talk a lot about, as a team, attacking adversity,” Pecknold said. “That’s what gets created when you have to go on the road.” During the first game, North Dakota scored on its fourth man- advantage and managed to draw another power play just before scoring. With the deficit cut to just one goal, all the momentum fed into the fifth power play, which the Fighting Hawks naturally capitalized on to tie the game up.

So far, the Bobcats’ power play seems to have taken a step forward from last year. That likely is due to some personnel changes, as both Tellier and Graf are set up on opposite sides of the 1-3-1 formation. Now that Quinnipiac has a right-handed forward with a tendency to shoot and score, the power play will probably open up shooting lanes from four locations. Freshman forward Sam Lipkin also is on the first unit. He’s tasked with hovering around the crease and causing chaos.

Get used to seeing those three names in the box score next to power-play goals throughout the season. They will be vital for Quinnipiac to compete against the stronger ECAC Hockey teams.

As for the upcoming games, Quinnipiac will head to Maine for a two-game road series before returning back to Hamden the following week to kick off conference play against Colgate and Cornell. The season is young, but expectations for Quinnipiac are already high.