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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Men’s hockey’s big three turned down pro offers to stay. Their midseason struggles — and how they recover — will define Quinnipiac’s title defense

From+the+left%2C+goaltender+Vinny+Duplessis+along+with+forwards+Jacob+Quillan%2C+Collin+Graf+and+Sam+Lipkin+head+to+center+ice+after+winning+The+Connecticut+Ice+Tournament+on+Jan.+27.
Ethan Hurwitz
From the left, goaltender Vinny Duplessis along with forwards Jacob Quillan, Collin Graf and Sam Lipkin head to center ice after winning The Connecticut Ice Tournament on Jan. 27.

Three days after Quinnipiac won the 2023 NCAA men’s hockey national championship, forward TJ Friedmann signed with the AHL’s Utica Comets. That night, goaltender Yaniv Perets inked a two-year entry-level deal with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Then went defenseman Zach Metsa two days later, followed by forward Michael Lombardi.

As the dominoes continued to fall for the Bobcats, it seemed like Quinnipiac’s top line of underclassmen — Collin Graf, Jacob Quillan and Sam Lipkin — would be next. But the trio stayed, opting to run it back for another — and likely final — season in Hamden.

“Me, Q and Lip talked about it,” Graf said. “It was the right decision to come back. The wins (and) losses you don’t really remember. The games, the goals you score, it’s more like the good times that you have.”

The good times started during a 4-1 beatdown of Princeton in November 2022.

An injury prompted head coach Rand Pecknold to alter the lines, bringing Graf, Quillan and Lipkin together.

“It just sort of stuck and the other lines clicked,” Graf said. “We had really good chemistry. We can all pass, we can all shoot. We’re multidimensional.”

Throughout the 2022-23 season, the three totaled 140 points. Graf tied Quinnipiac’s Division I single-season points record of 59, with Lipkin tallying 43 and Quillan reaching 38.

As expected, the line continued into the 2023-24 season, but the road to success has become exceedingly rocky.

In an early season 8-0 clobbering of AIC on Oct. 14, the line combined for 11 points. Against Princeton on Jan. 12, it totaled eight. But from Jan. 19 to Feb. 2, the line produced just one point in four games.

Teams caught on to what Pecknold calls “one of the best lines in the country,” and the Bobcats couldn’t break through the barrier.

“They were just in a little bit of a funk,” Pecknold said on Feb. 2.

Midway through the Connecticut Ice Tournament championship on Jan. 27, Pecknold made a change.

Quinnipiac’s new first line of Graf, freshman Mason Marcellus and senior Travis Treloar, along with its second line of Lipkin, Quillan and junior Cristophe Tellier have been dominant in the week they’ve played together.

“It’s definitely different, you know?” Graf said. “I played with Lip and Q for two years straight and it was a lot of fun, but there was doubt when we went to UConn.”

Since the line has been broken, Graf, Quillan and Lipkin have separately gotten back into a groove. On Feb. 3 against Dartmouth, Graf and Quillan racked up three points each while Lipkin walked away with two.

Most notably, the trio still dominated on the Bobcats’ first power play unit, which has remained the same. Combined with Treloar and graduate student defenseman Jayden Lee, the power play scored three of Quinnipiac’s five goals against Dartmouth, including a tic-tac-toe goal from Graf to Lipkin to Quillan for the 5-1 advantage over the Big Green.

“(Quillan, Lipkin, Graf) they’re so good together,” Pecknold said. “They’re so dominant so at some point we will put them back together.”

For nearly two seasons, Graf, Quillan and Lipkin were one of the NCAA’s deadliest offensive lines.

“When you got guys like Collin Graf and Jacob Quillan it makes it easy,” Lipkin said on Oct. 15.

It’s no surprise the three piqued NHL interest in the offseason. But it’s certainly surprising that they chose to stay in Hamden.

“I’m only 20 years old,” Lipkin said. “I didn’t think I was fully ready to make the jump. I wanted to be all in.”

Lipkin is a 2021 seventh-round draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes, and attended their development camp over the summer. Graf went to Nashville development camp, and Quillan to Boston.

“If I played in the AHL I don’t know how my development would have been,” Quillan said.

In what is likely their last season together, Graf, Quillan and Lipkin are continuing to make the most of what is left.

“I think that was the reason I came back last year, it was so much fun here,” Graf said. “You spend every day with (the team) becoming more than friends and becoming brothers. I don’t regret coming back at all.”

It’s a matter of when, not if the trio moves back onto the same line. But no matter who they play alongside, Graf, Lipkin and Quillan will remain all in as the Bobcats turn toward the postseason and the chance to defend their throne.

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Amanda Dronzek, Associate Sports Editor
Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

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    PatFeb 7, 2024 at 12:37 pm

    Great article!!! Go Bobcats!!!

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