On thin ice: Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey’s rocky final stretch leaves questions heading into conference tournament


Aidan Sheedy

Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey dropped to No. 8 in this week’s national polls after being swept at St. Lawrence and Clarkson.

Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

 There’s an old saying that goes: “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” But after an 0-2 weekend to end the regular season, the No. 8 Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey team hopes it can finish how it started the year: by winning. 

The Bobcats fell 4-1 to St. Lawrence Friday before losing 2-1 to No. 9 Clarkson Saturday, marking the first time they’ve been swept in uostate New York since the 2008-09 season. It’s the fourth game Quinnipiac has dropped in its last eight, playing .500 hockey after starting the season 23-3-0. 

After a weekend sweep of top-10 opponents at Cornell and Colgate in mid-January, this team looked invincible, but inconsistent play has plagued the Bobcats as of late. Quinnipiac has struggled to play a complete 60 minutes at times in the last month – digging itself into holes it hasn’t been able to climb out of. 

No. 2 Yale scored three unanswered on the Bobcats in the first period of a Jan. 21 game that ended in a 4-2 Bulldogs win; similarly, Clarkson notched two in the first seven minutes of Saturday’s contest. In both cases, Quinnipiac put on a late surge to pull the game within one, but couldn’t find the equalizer and left the ice with a loss. 

And that’s excluding the elephant in the room – an 11-3 loss at Princeton on Jan. 29 that garnered national attention and left many scratching their heads. The Bobcats allowed five goals in the game’s first 11 minutes after shutting out the Tigers in dominant fashion a day earlier. 

The loss was the worst in Cass Turner’s eight-year tenure as Quinnipiac head coach and equaled the program record for goals allowed in a game set in 2004. 

But in between the losses, the Bobcats have put together complete games that make you forget about their woes. 

On the back of its embarrassing trip to Princeton, Quinnipiac shut out Dartmouth 8-0 the following weekend, then battled to hard-fought victories over RPI and Union a week later. It’s impossible to go through a season without adversity, and the Bobcats proved they can respond to that adversity in those wins. 

“You need that (connectedness) down the stretch to have a good playoff run, you need your team to be connected,” Turner said after a 2-1 win over RPI on Feb. 10. “You need to be able to bounce back from tough moments and we’re showing we can do that.” 

Heading into the ECAC Hockey Quarterfinals, Quinnipiac will once again have to find the strength within itself to build out of hardship – and do so against one of the teams that caused it. The Bobcats will face St. Lawrence at home this weekend in a best-of-three series with a semifinal spot on the line, less than a week removed from their upset loss to the Saints. 

Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey dropped to No. 8 in both national polls after being swept at
St. Lawrence and Clarkson this past weekend. (Ethan Hurwitz)

There’s no question Quinnipiac is the better team on paper, but as the past month has proved, this team is certainly not perfect. It has things it needs to clean up in order to advance. 

Most of the Bobcats’ troubles come from puck management. Giveaways, misplaced passes and failed break-ins have been plentiful in stretches of recent games – and it’s cost them on the scoreboard. Four of the five non-empty-net goals Quinnipiac gave up this weekend came in transition, highlighting this issue. 

This team is elite at creating sustained offensive zone pressure and peppering opposing goaltenders with shot after shot, averaging over 35 per game this season. But attacking zone turnovers have hurt their ability to convert on such opportunities. 

Especially this past weekend, the Bobcats coughed up the puck a number of times trying to make too complicated plays at the blue line. A key against St. Lawrence will be to not overcomplicate things. Make simple plays from the point and keep the puck deep, putting unrelenting pressure around the Saints’ net. 

Another point of note, junior defenseman Kendall Cooper, the team’s leading point producer on the back end, exited Saturday’s game against Clarkson midway through the second period and did not return. Cooper’s absence against St. Lawrence would be big. The Burlington, Ontario, native has five goals and 19 points in 30 games this season. 

Limiting turnovers and maintaining consistent play for a full 60 minutes will be vital for Quinnipiac’s success this postseason. Something that Turner acknowledged after the game against RPI, citing the contest’s playoff-like atmosphere. 

“It was a playoff hockey game today is what it felt like,” Turner said on Feb. 10. “It was nice to see our team play pretty consistently from the beginning to the end of the game with real urgency to work to score.” 

The Bobcats are every bit as talented as the team that was one bounce away from the Frozen Four a season ago, and they’ve proved so this season. But recent struggles leave question marks as to how they’ll fare under the bright lights of playoff hockey. Either they’ll rise to the occasion and bounce back from another difficult series or St. Lawrence will have their number for the second-straight weekend. 

Game 1 of the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals is set for Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. at M&T Bank Arena, Game 2 will be played the following day at 3 p.m. and Game 3 will be played at the same time a day later if necessary.