Men’s and women’s ice hockey preview

By on October 3, 2012

The Quinnipiac men’s and women’s ice hockey teams kick-off their respective seasons in the coming weeks.

The men’s team begins play Saturday, Oct. 6 when it travels to Maine. The men’s ice hockey team was ranked fourth in the ECAC Coaches Pre-season Poll. Ranked above them are Union, Cornell and Harvard. The Bobcats annual showdown with Yale will take on a national feel with NBC Sports Network picking up the coverage for the contest on Feb. 22, 2013.

The expectation in Hamden is that the Bobcats have the talent to build upon their play from last year. Last season, the Bobcats finished with a 20-14-6 record after losing to Colgate in the ECAC quarterfinals.

Senior captain, Zack Currie, believes this roster has more talent than any of the last three Bobcat teams he has been a part of.

“We all know we’ve got a really good shot this year, we’ve got a great group of guys coming back and some good guys coming in to help us out,” Currie said. “Everybody is aware that this is a big year for us and there’s a lot of opportunity coming up, so we expect big things.”

The 11 returning seniors returning will provide veteran leadership and game experience. The top five scorers are all returning, including the productive scoring line of Kellen Jones, Matthew Peca, and pre-season all ECAC forward, Connor Jones.

The defensive unit, directed by Currie and senior Loren Barron, is deep and game-tested. They will work in front of senior goalie Eric Hartzell, who will look to repeat the success of his junior season in which he posted a 2.20 goals allowed average, setting a Quinnipiac record in the process.

Supplementing the incumbents is junior, Jordan Samuels-Thomas, a transfer from Bowling Green State University. Samuels-Thomas was the leading scorer during both his freshman and sophomore campaigns. He sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules.

“Jordan will score for us. He’ll put up points,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “It’s different than adding an 18, 19, or 20-year-old freshman. He’s game ready and should be ready to go right out of the gate against Maine.”

Pecknold plans to use Samuels-Thomas on a line with senior Jeremy Langlois to produce a dynamic scoring tandem. Langlois is currently the active leading scorer in the ECAC. Pecknold is also considering the addition of freshman forward Travis St. Denis to this pairing as he feels he can make an immediate contribution.

With the plethora of seniors and talented underclassmen, the Bobcats have as good of a chance this year as any in recent memory. The team’s goals indicate its understanding of this.

“If you win your last game you’ve won the whole thing,” Currie said. “There’s no reason for us to lose to anybody this year. We’re good enough to say that. So unless we win that last game I won’t be satisfied.”

The prospects of the women’s ice hockey team may be more exciting than that of the men’s.

The women’s ice hockey team was in the middle of the pack last year finishing sixth in the ECAC before being eliminated in the conference semifinals. The Bobcats begin the season ranked 14th in two separate national polls for USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine. However, ECAC coaches voted the team to finish sixth in the conference again this year.

“It’s the first year since [associate head coach] Cassie Turner and I arrived that we have had four full recruiting classes,” Quinnipiac head coach Rick Seeley said. “It’s far and away the strongest team, in the pre-season anyway, we’ve had. We have what we consider star power, in every class.”

According to senior captain Regan Boulton the team has its sights set on an appearance in the NCAA tournament. Given the ability of the returning players, they may be poised to break that barrier. Junior Kelly Babstock, the team’s leading scorer the past two years, is returning. Last year, as a sophomore, Babstock became Quinnipiac’s all-time leader in points, goals and assists.

Seeley is counting on his freshmen to make a smooth transition to the collegiate ranks.

“The freshmen are some of the best in their age group so our talent this year is going to be much better,” Boulton said. “This is the year,” she added.

To reach the NCAA tournament, the Bobcats must either win the ECAC or get a bid based on their performance in non-conference games. If a team performs well against a slate of tough non-conference adversaries, it will be looked on more favorably when the bids are given out.

“We’re happy with our out-of-conference schedule,” Seeley said. “Again [it’s] another tough one, but if you’re going to continue to move in the right direction you’ve got to keep making your schedule tougher.”

In the season’s first three weeks, the Bobcats face off against Mercyhurst, Maine and Syracuse, all teams which are consistently among the best in the country. Later in the season, they will match up against Boston College in the Nutmeg Classic Tournament.

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