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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Questions remain as women’s ice hockey begins postseason

Tyler Rinko
Freshman forward Kahlen Lamarche battles for the puck in a Feb. 3 game against Princeton.

It’s been a weird season for the Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey team.

On one hand, the Bobcats have won 24 games, sit fifth in the ECAC Hockey standings and are in control of a third-straight NCAA tournament berth. But on the other hand? There just seems to be something missing – a level that they haven’t risen to, a potential they haven’t reached.

It’ll have to find that next level soon as, come Saturday, Quinnipiac will face off against Harvard in a first round win-or-go-home matchup of the conference tournament.

“We’ve really been a group that has found ways to win,” head coach Cass Turner told ESPN+ on Feb. 10. “We have so much experience and a belief … (players) go into some games like ‘We’re just not going to lose, we’re just not.’”

The team’s belief in its ability to win may come in handy in the coming weeks, but it doesn’t change the facts. The Bobcats finished their last 10 games of the regular season 4-6, not necessarily playing their best hockey when they needed to. That said, they did go toe-to-toe with No. 7 St. Lawrence and No. 3 Clarkson, but fell at home in overtime both nights.

“We work really well together, and we come off of lower moments really well,” senior forward Kate Villenueve told ESPN+ on Feb. 10. “Coming off after a loss, we really pick up the next day of practice and don’t kind of dwell on anything, which is really important.”

Quinnipiac finished the regular season with a weekend sweep on the road against RPI and Union. Not exactly the cream of the crop in the ECAC, but the Bobcats handled business and scored six goals in the finale against Union — their highest total since Jan. 12 at Harvard.

Amid the weekend sweep, the Bobcats may have found something within their depth. Junior forward Maya Labad was all over the ice, racking up six points (three goals, three assists). Labad’s most impressive play was a no-look dish to the other standout of the weekend, Alexa Hoskin.

The graduate student forward has been battling a lower-body injury all season and hasn’t been able to get into a groove on the scoring sheet. But Hoskin may have finally broken through, tallying three goals and an assist and could be another much-needed weapon for Quinnipiac in the postseason.

“(Hoskin) truly believes in herself, and going through an injury like she had, it’s challenging,” Turner said. “It showed her resilience and toughness. She loves this game. She loves this team, and she’s going to do everything she can to help them.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s first-round matchup, the facts say the Crimson are not a very competitive hockey team. Only winning five games all year and sitting at No. 37 of 44 teams in the Pairwise, the Bobcats should make quick work of a team that has only scored 38 goals compared to their 123. Just looking at the head-to-head matchups this season, Quinnipiac went 2-0 with a combined score of 15-1. The Bobcats should cruise towards an eventual quarterfinal series against Cornell.

The Big Red — who clinched a first-round bye — are a much higher-caliber team than Harvard, winning 22 games and unlike the Bobcats, finished the final 10 regular season games strong at 9-1. Both teams split their regular season matchups, each winning on the road – Quinnipiac back on Nov. 17 and Cornell on Jan. 20.

“The key for us is just to play for 60 minutes,” senior forward Sophie Urban told ESPN+ on Feb. 9. “We can stick to our game plan … I think those are gonna be keys for us.”

A series against the Big Red should be highly competitive, but as of now, Cornell has been playing better hockey. That doesn’t mean Quinnipiac doesn’t stand a chance – it very well does, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the Bobcats advance to the ECAC Hockey championship weekend.

Quinnipiac’s performance in the conference tournament will have a direct effect on its participation in the NCAA Tournament, and it’s fair to say its situation is a little muddy.

The tournament is made up of the five conference winners and six at-large bids. Currently sitting at No. 8, the Bobcats are still on the bubble especially with two conferences — the CHA and NEWHA — receiving automatic bids, though neither has a team sitting inside the top 11. That leaves two spots for Quinnipiac, Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State and UConn. An early exit against Harvard could end the Bobcats’ season entirely.

“We want to play at the end of the year and we want to win games at the end of the year,” Turner said. “No matter what happens, it’s not always about finding the easiest path. There’s going to be challenging moments in any of those games. So we just want to play our best and recognize that we have a good opportunity in front of us. We’ve put ourselves in a good position.”

The Bobcats have a group that’s been here before ­ – a group that’s both won and lost some big playoff games. They have an experienced core that when playing their best can go head-to-head with the country’s best.

Whether or not they reach that level, we’ll find out.

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Colin Kennedy, Associate Sports Editor

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