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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey returning to form as quarterfinal series with Cornell looms

Graduate+student+forward+Julia+Nearis+scores+a+wrap-around+goal+in+Quinnipiac%E2%80%99s+9-0+win%0Aover+Harvard+in+the+first+round+of+the+ECAC+Hockey+Tournament+on+Feb.+25.
Jack Spiegel
Graduate student forward Julia Nearis scores a wrap-around goal in Quinnipiac’s 9-0 win over Harvard in the first round of the ECAC Hockey Tournament on Feb. 25.

After gliding into 2024 looking almost unstoppable, Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey skidded through the last six weeks of the regular season looking, well, pretty stoppable.

The team’s fumbles in that final stretch cast serious doubt on the prospect of a deep playoff run. But with the ECAC Hockey playoffs now underway, those doubts seem unreasonably pessimistic — maybe even unwarranted altogether — in retrospect.

The Bobcats turned their first taste of the playoffs into a nine-course meal on Saturday, swallowing Harvard whole in a 9-0 blowout.

“We like playoff hockey,” head coach Cass Turner said.

It’s important to point out that last-place Harvard is the runt of the ECAC litter as far as opponents go — and Quinnipiac’s upcoming conference quarterfinals opponent, No. 4 Cornell, most definitely isn’t.

But even then, Quinnipiac’s all-star showing on Saturday gives at least some indication of the team’s vibe heading into this coming weekend.

Statistically, the Bobcats put on one of their best performances of the season against the Crimson.

Of course, Captain Obvious will point out Saturday’s score. And rightfully so: you shouldn’t be able to measure a hockey game’s score in field goals.

The Bobcats hounded the Harvard net with an overwhelming 42 shots on goal, recording both their fifth-highest shot count and fifth-highest shot percentage of the season.

But even against a team that has been shut out more times than it has won, nine goals in 60 minutes is a feat — particularly because those nine goals came from seven different forwardsacross all four of Quinnipiac’s lines.

“It’s just being relentless in our mentality and playing a team game,” Turner said. “And when you play that way, it could be anybody who puts the puck in the net.”

It’s worth remembering that offensive woes were a key component of Quinnipiac’s late-season slog. For the better part of the six weeks leading up to Saturday’s matchup, the Bobcats lacked their characteristic offensive coordination and struggled to create scoring opportunities — even when they did, they struggled to capitalize.

All this to say that the team’s offensive consistency against Harvard is undoubtedly a promising sign of a return to the status quo.

But the scoreboard was far from the only place where Quinnipiac excelled against the Crimson.

Defensively, the Bobcats allowed just 19 shots on goal Saturday, the same number they recorded in the first period alone.

For perspective, the Bobcats haven’t held a team to fewer than 20 shots since December. But Quinnipiac’s ability to win is, to no one’s surprise, tied directly to its ability to defend its own zone. The Bobcats are 13-1 when allowing fewer than 25 shots but 4-10 when allowing at least 35. How well the Bobcats play in front of Angers will determine the outcome of the three-game series at Cornell.

Discipline — and, more accurately, a lack thereof — has defined Quinnipiac’s season. The Bobcats won or tied 84% of games in which they served seven or fewer penalty minutes (20-4-1). But when the Bobcats racked up eight or more penalty minutes, their chances of winning dropped to 50% (5-5).

To put it another way: more than half of Quinnipiac’s nine losses this season came in games where the Bobcats committed at least four minor penalties (or, in one instance, two minors and a major).

But, for the first time in over a year, the Bobcats managed to avoid the penalty box entirely against Harvard. And with only a middle-of-the-road penalty kill, trips to the sin bin have the potential to make or break Quinnipiac’s postseason run. The Bobcats proved in Saturday’s blowout win that they can stay out of the box — the question is whether they can continue to avoid the box under pressure.

“It’s going to continue to be really important,” Turner said. “We have a great goalie who can really help us in the PK, but if we can find ourselves out of the box, that’s where we want to be.”

Quinnipiac may not beat the Big Red by nine but that’s not to say it can’t win.

Of all the ECAC teams the Bobcats could face in the postseason, Cornell is probably the easiest to beat. Because Cornell isn’t Clarkson or St. Lawrence, and it certainly isn’t ECAC top-seeded Colgate.

The last time the Bobcats took on the Big Red in Ithaca, they left the Empire State with a 3-1 win. And back in January, it had taken Quinnipiac just 39 seconds to erase Cornell’s late two-goal lead, even if the Bobcats then let up the game-winner with under a minute to play.

Bottom line: Cornell is beatable.

Take what you will from Quinnipiac’s dominating defeat of a team batting .200 on the season. But if the Bobcats can replicate even half of their opening round performance in the quarterfinals, they have more than a solid chance of coming out of this weekend’s best-of-three series at Cornell on top.

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