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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

Quinnipiac’s two-faced regular season finale shows postseason floor and ceiling

Quinnipiac+fired+46+shots+on+net+in+an+8-1+win+over+St.+Lawrence+on+March+2%2C+21+more+than+in+its+overtime+loss+to+Clarkson+the+night+before.+
Tyler Rinko
Quinnipiac fired 46 shots on net in an 8-1 win over St. Lawrence on March 2, 21 more than in its overtime loss to Clarkson the night before.

There’s no better dichotomy of the best and worst that Quinnipiac men’s hockey can be than this weekend’s series against Clarkson and St. Lawrence.

The Bobcats crashed and burned against the Golden Knights on Friday, playing a low-effort, high-mistake brand of hockey light years away from their identity. That translated into a 3-2 overtime loss, their first ECAC Hockey loss on home ice in 735 days.

A “disappointing effort,” as head coach Rand Pecknold put it postgame.

Saturday’s regular season finale against the Saints could not have been more different. Quinnipiac played with pace and moved the puck effectively, spreading St. Lawrence’s defense thin and capitalizing on a rookie goaltender to the tune of an 8-1 win.

“That’s how we respond,” Pecknold

said Saturday.

Applying a critical eye to Friday’s game gives cause to believe this team could be a first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament. Doing the same for Saturday suggests there’s nothing stopping the Bobcats from repeating as national champions.

The reality of what the weekend actually shows is somewhere in between. Quinnipiac has both glaring superpowers and undermining flaws, and the impetus of either comes back to the systems this program has long relied upon.

With a week off before jumping into the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals on March 15, there’s no better time to evaluate them than now.

IT’S A TRAP!

Quinnipiac’s 1-1-3 neutral zone trap has been the staple of its game for the last decade-plus.

The aim is to force attackers wide and suffocate their passing options through the neutral zone by swinging forwards in from the center of the ice and having defensemen play tight to their own blue line.

It’s incredibly frustrating to play against, but also the most effort-intensive structure a team can play. The easiest way to beat it is to dump and chase, which in turn requires the defensemen to turn on their heels and hunt the puck down in their zone.

This works well to invigorate a forecheck when a team has good puck-moving defensemen (like Quinnipiac does) who can make quick decisions on the breakout.

It didn’t work for the Bobcats against Clarkson because those defensemen either tried to force passes into high-traffic areas or just flat out lost the race to the puck in the first place.

The Golden Knights didn’t score on any opportunity created off even-strength dump-ins, but they did hem Quinnipiac into its own zone for significant periods of time, limiting the Bobcats’ ability to generate chances on the other end.

The fix is not a question of skill, but rather one of effort and thinking within the structure of the system. Clarkson came prepared to beat the trap, but so does every team Quinnipiac plays.

The concern is elevated when you reach the NCAA Tournament. High-powered, physical teams from the Big Ten or NCHC will crash dump-ins harder than Clarkson will. So if the Bobcats struggle to turn the play south quickly as they did on Friday, teams will capitalize off turnovers and dig them into a hole.

SURF’S UP

For a team known for its defense, Quinnipiac has maintained historically good offense the last two seasons.

The Bobcats’ offense last year (4 goals per game) finished third in the nation. In 2024, their scoring (4.3) has outpaced that mark through the end of the regular season. Momentum has been a driving factor behind that increase.

Against St. Lawrence, the Bobcats scored within the first four minutes of every period, keeping sustained pressure through the intermissions. Against Brown the week before, they scored four goals in six minutes to take a commanding first-period lead.

This — as was the case a season ago — is fueled by their ability to roll four lines capable of causing damage in the offensive end.

But a more active defensive core is creating higher numbers of chances in transition.

Each of the team’s six everyday defensemen are good skaters and comfortable leading the play with the puck on their stick, a complete strength that wasn’t there last season. When they’re on — like they were against St. Lawrence — plays rapidly turn north-south and unrelenting pressure causes teams to break.

Sophomore Charles-Alexis Legault, who had a career-high three points against the Saints, is in the midst of a breakout campaign that’s seen his production more than double. But more importantly, he’s adjusted to the speed of college hockey and taken strides in properly leveraging his 6-foot, 3-inch frame to his advantage.

“I’ve gotten more comfortable with the pace, just how fast the game is, how big the guys are, the speed,” Legault said. “Just play fast, play north, and things will go your way.”

Four of Quinnipiac’s defensemen, graduate student Jayden Lee, senior Cooper Moore, junior Davis Pennington and Legault, have all already crossed the 20-point threshold. Former captain Zach Metsa (37 points) and Lee (20) were the team’s only blue-liners to do that last season. The group’s 3.14 points per game average is nearly three-tenths higher than their predecessors.

Whenever the Bobcats score goals in bunches, most of those six have factored in scoring plays. They’re a major reason why Quinnipiac can gain momentum and then ride the wave.

WHAT’S NEXT? 

Entering the ECAC Tournament as the No. 1 seed, Quinnipiac has the luxury of a week off before vying for a spot in Lake Placid in a best-of-three quarterfinals series.

“We’ve got to get healthy, we’ve got some guys that are banged up a little bit,” Pecknold said. “That’s the big bonus of the bye, you get healthy and you have that week to rest up.”

Its opponent in that series will be the lowest seed to make it out of the first round of the tournament, meaning one of No. 8 Harvard, No. 9 Princeton, No. 10 Yale, No. 11 Brown and No. 12 RPI.

The Bobcats went a perfect 10-0 against those teams in the regular season, outscoring them by a combined 59-14 margin.

That’s not to say that whoever they face will keel over and die, but the focus for Quinnipiac will be on its own systems, not its opponents.

The final weekend of the regular season showed both this team’s ceiling and floor, but most importantly, it showed how effective buying into those systems can be.

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Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

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