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Men’s ice hockey shooting for title return
There is no doubting the Quinnipiac men’s hockey team had a magical season last year. The accolades and accomplishments speak for themselves. Cleary Cup and conference regular season champions. Runner-up in the national championship game. A nation-best 21-game unbeaten streak that spanned three months.
This season, the Bobcats hope to end up in Philadelphia, the site of this year’s Frozen Four, ultimately to get the prize that left a sour taste in their mouths: a national title. In order to do so, Quinnipiac will have to adapt quickly if they want to make it back to college hockey’s center stage.
The Bobcats boast a mix of experienced and talented upperclassmen with a slew of highly-recruited newcomers this year. The Bobcats will have to face the tough task of replacing Hobey Baker Hat Trick Finalist Eric Hartzell, as well as 10 additional seniors.
One key component of this year’s squad is experience. Captain Cory Hibbeler and assistant captains Connor and Kellen Jones will shoulder the load as the most experienced players.
Hobey Baker Award candidate and Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick Matthew Peca is looking to continue the success he had from last year. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound junior speedster finished second on the team with 30 points, including 15 goals and 15 assists.
Last year, Jordan Samuels-Thomas led the Bobcats with 17 goals and also added 12 helpers for 29 points. Connor recorded 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points, while brother Kellen added 27 points on 13 goals.
Travis St. Denis and Bryce Van Brabant will look to try and make up for the loss of Jeremy Langlois. A trio of talented freshmen will also add depth to the offense. Columbus Blue Jackets’ seventh-round draft selection Peter Quenneville will be called upon to provide scoring, as will Sam Anas, who scored 37 goals last season while playing for the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League. Tim Clifton, a former New Jersey Hitmen of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, will also be counted on for his scoring ability.
Defensively, the Bobcats took perhaps their biggest hit. The loss of defensemen Mike Dalhuisen to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, as well as Zack Currie, Zach Davies and Loren Barron all leave big holes on the defensive side. However, Quinnipiac will look to a trio of defensemen to shoulder the load and lead a group of inexperienced newcomers.
Senior Zach Tolkinen, junior Danny Federico and sophomore Alex Barron, all return with valuable postseason experience. The Bobcats will have 6-foot-6, 235-pound sophomore Tom Hilbrich on the blue line and Phoenix Coyotes’ prospect Connor Clifton. Devon Toews and Derek Smith will see playing time as well.
Overall, Quinnipiac welcomes 10 newcomers to the team. Sophomore transfer K.J. Tiefenwerth will sit out the upcoming season after transferring from the University of Massachusetts.
Without question, the biggest hole will be replacing Hartzell. Sophomore Michael Garteig will now be the go-to guy between the pipes. Garteig rarely saw game action last year, making appearances in just five games. Garteig was a highly-touted recruit after leading the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League with a North American record 42 consecutive wins.
Sophomore Jacob Meyers and freshman Brady Rouleau will serve as back-ups.
One takeaway from being national championship runner-up is that the Bobcats seem to enter this year with a so-called “target” on their backs. Nonetheless, the No. 14 team in the country has a difficult schedule.
The Bobcats have a home-and-home series with national semifinalist and last season’s Hockey East winner UMass-Lowell. Quinnipiac plays Bentley and Holy Cross in mid-October before hosting Providence College and UMass in late November. Quinnipiac also hosts Maine on Jan. 3, before a home-and-home with Hockey East foe Merrimack on Jan. 17 and 18.
Quinnipiac was picked to finish third in the ECAC media and coaches poll, finishing with two first-place votes. Defending national champion Yale was tabbed to finish first, with a league-high four first place votes, followed by Rensselaer with two votes. Union tied as the coaches’ pick to finish second.