Maintaining momentum: New additions, improved power play guiding No. 2/3 Quinnipiac men’s hockey to success


Daniel Passapera

Sophomore goaltender Yaniv Perets has started all 16 games for the Bobcats this season.

Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

An 11-game unbeaten streak and eight- straight wins to open conference play has put the No. 2/3 Quinnipiac men’s hockey team in a prime position at the midway point of the 2022-23 season.

The Bobcats’ dominance echoes that of last year’s squad, which had the same record of 12-1-3 through 16 games. But while their culture and style of play have remained the same, there are some fundamental differences that set this team apart from its predecessor.

One of those differences is the Bobcats’ power play.

The man-advantage, which was Quinnipiac’s achilles’ heel last season, has become a strength for the team this year. The Bobcats currently sit tied for 15th in the nation on the power play, converting at a 23% clip. For reference, in 2021-22 they finished the season ranked 51st in NCAA Division I, 16 spots below the next closest tournament team.

A big reason for this has been new additions. Only graduate student defenseman Zach Metsa and graduate student forward Ethan de Jong return to the Bobcats’ first unit this season. Joining them are forwards sophomore Collin Graf, freshman Sam Lipkin and sophomore Cristophe Tellier – the latter often being interchanged with senior forward Skyler Brind’Amour for his size.

“I think (the power play has) been building each game,” Lipkin said. “We had a really good weekend in Belfast scoring power play goals. We’ve been practicing a lot and it’s good to get rewarded in games.”

Graf operates from the left dot in Quinnipiac’s 1-3-1 formation, acting as the primary one- time threat. This has translated into a team-high four power-play goals. Lipkin mans the front of the net with Tellier on the ice, but moves to the right circle when the Quebec native is swapped for the 6-foot-2-inch Brind’ Amour.

Up top, Metsa serves as a distributor, quar- terbacking the play from the point, while de Jong operates in the slot area as the bumper, drawing defenders out of position.

An effective man-advantage is crucial for the Bobcats, especially in the march to a national championship, where a number of high-scoring western opponents from the Big Ten and NCHC will stand in their way.

Quinnipiac’s scoring offense is up from last season, averaging 3.64 goals per game as of publication. But head coach Rand Pecknold would like to see more from his team’s offense.

“I think we need to score more goals than we’ve been scoring,” Pecknold said after the Bobcats beat St. Lawrence 2-1 on Dec. 2. “We should’ve had more tonight, we didn’t do a good job of screening the goaltender.”

Between the pipes, Quinnipiac no longer has the two-man tandem of last season, where sophomore star and 2022 Richter Award finalist Yaniv Perets shared the net with graduate transfer Dylan St. Cyr.

Perets is managing the entirety oft he goaltending load for the Bobcats, seeing all but five minutes of game action this season. His stats are not quite as record-breaking as his freshman season, but a number of key saves have helped Quinnipiac to its successful start.

“He’s got an elite compete level, a really high IQ,” Pecknold said. “He’s an excellent goaltender, and when we need him, he makes those big saves. We know what he can do, he wins a lot of hockey games for us.”

The back half of this campaign will be a big test for Perets, as he will likely start all 18 of the Bobcats remaining regular season contests. Pecknold has made no indication that he’ll turn to freshman goaltender and Washington Capitals draft pick Chase Clark. And given that Clark wasn’t given the net in meaningful minutes in the early-season slate, it’s very likely he’ll be shelved until next season.

Continuing to dominate in the win column is important for Quin- nipiac with the postseason on the horizon. The Bobcats currently sit No. 2 in the PairWise rankings, the objective ranking that determines most of NCAA Tournament seeding and regional placement.

As it stands, Quin- nipiac would stay close to home in the tournament, its PairWise ranking placing them as the No. 1 seed in the Bridgeport regional. This near-home ice advantage could be what the Bobcats need to make the leap and advance to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2016.

But between now and a trip to Tampa, this year’s host site, there are a number of oppo- nents looking to dethrone one of the nation’s best. A top national ranking puts a price on the Bobcats’ heads, something they acknowledge, but won’t let define how they approach any given game.

“I think the biggest key is just playing our game like we know how to play it,” graduate student forward TJ Friedmann said. “Whether we’re ranked second in the nation, whether we’re ranked 56th, whatever it may be, we’ve got to go out and do our job.”