Murphy’s Law: Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey splits opening ECAC Hockey weekend

By on November 6, 2018

What started as a weekend with a lot of promise for the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team took a drastic turn on Saturday.

A win against Harvard on Friday gave the team its first ECAC Hockey win on the season and brought a lot of momentum. But all of that momentum vanished against Dartmouth on Saturday – the team had a long ride home back to Hamden to think about how it ended the weekend.

Quinnipiac split its opening ECAC Hockey weekend, winning the opener against Harvard, 5-3, but getting heavily outplayed by Dartmouth and losing, 5-1.

“This past weekend was really our first challenge as a young team to go out, win in an away opponent’s barn, and then come back the next night and repeat the same performance,” senior defenseman Chase Priskie said. “Obviously we didn’t play well enough against Dartmouth whatsoever. It shows that it was a lack of mental and physical preparation for that Dartmouth game.”

Morgan Tencza | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
To put it simply, the team that went out and defeated Harvard seemed to have gotten stuck somewhere between Cambridge, Massachusetts and Hanover, New Hampshire. Because the team that showed up against Dartmouth was far from the team that had won the night before.

Let’s start on the bright side. The team’s win against Harvard was a big one. Quinnipiac outplayed Harvard for a good chunk of the game, going up 4-0 at one point before Harvard finally woke up and decided to make it interesting.

“I was really happy with how we played at Harvard,” Priskie said. “It wasn’t exactly a clean game, but our compete level was really high and we just won a lot of little battles. I think in the end, that’s why we ended up winning that game, just how hard we decided to play for a full 60 minutes.”

It was a game, where as we’ve seen before, the points were very much spread out. Junior defenseman Brogan Rafferty had three assists, and senior defenseman Brandon Fortunato, sophomore forward Odeen Tufto and Priskie all contributed a goal and an assist.

Freshmen forwards Ethan de Jong and William Fällström finished the goal scoring and junior defenseman Karlis Cukste added two assists.

It hasn’t been just one or two players that are getting the points. Through seven games, the team has nine players who have at least five points on the year.

Most notably, it’s been the top line of Tufto, de Jong and freshman forward Wyatt Bongiovanni that has been producing. The line has combined for nine goals and 11 assists on the season, good for 20 points through seven games.

“I’m excited to have them as linemates,” Tufto said. “They’ve had a big adjustment from playing juniors and now they’re on the first line and the power play, so it’s a big adjustment for them. They’ve had a lot of responsibilities right off the jump. But they’ve been good.”

Not only was the first forward line and the offense clicking against Harvard, but the defense, and more specifically the penalty kill, was very effective. Harvard had gone 5-for-7 on the power play in its first game of the season against Dartmouth. It went 0-for-3 against Quinnipiac.

It was one of the key points heading into the game that head coach Rand Pecknold knew his team needed to focus on, especially with junior defenseman Adam Fox, who Pecknold called “probably the best power play defenseman in the country.”

But the penalty kill units limited Harvard to only four power play shots on goal and came out of the game at a perfect 100 percent on the kill.

“I thought we had great buy-in [on the penalty kill],” Pecknold said. “We know how good Fox is, we know how good the Harvard power play is…we just weren’t going to let them score.”

That excellence on the penalty kill was absent 24 hours later. Two power play goals propelled Dartmouth to a 5-1 win in a game in which Quinnipiac was heavily outplayed. This against a Dartmouth squad that was on the Quinnipiac side of the script just the night before, losing handedly to Princeton, 7-1.

After the game, Pecknold said the penalty kill simply wasn’t good enough in all aspects.

It wasn’t just the penalty kill that wasn’t good enough. The passing was ugly, as pucks were either going into skates, missing sticks by inches or simply just not being handled. It seemed that there were more missed passes than those that connected.

The team had multiple turnovers throughout the contest, with one causing the puck to end up in the back of the Quinnipiac net. There was miscommunication by the defense behind their own net and the puck found its way to a wide open freshman forward Jeff Losurdo who had all the time in the world to fire it past sophomore goaltender Keith Petruzzelli.

According to Bongiovanni, communication is one of the key things the team needs to work on moving forward.

“We got to communicate out there,” Bongiovanni said. “I think we lack that at times, and we need to be able to build a trust with one another…as a unit, we just need to grow together.”

Quinnipiac has been a team that has come out flying in the opening minutes of games. In the previous three games before Dartmouth, it had scored a goal within the first three minutes of the game each time. But it was Dartmouth that had the immediate advantage out of the gate.

“There’s games where we know we can win in the first five minutes and we wanted to do that against Dartmouth, but we just came out flat,” Tufto said. “We gave them the jump and we didn’t have it.”

The Dartmouth game was so bad that even Pecknold had a hard time coming up with a positive after it was all over.

“I don’t have [a positive] right now,” Pecknold said. “I probably could eventually come up with one.”

While Pecknold may not have had a positive from the Dartmouth game, there were a number of positives from the weekend in general.

Priskie scored his team-leading sixth goal on the year, which also brought him tied for the Division I program record for career goals (28) with Dan Ennis (‘03). And de Jong’s goal against Harvard was his first of his collegiate career.

Also, despite the loss to Dartmouth, Quinnipiac moved up in the USCHO rankings from No. 15 to No. 13. So while it didn’t end on the best note, it certainly was a good learning experience.

“We’ll be ready as the season progresses on how to be able to [prepare for back-to-back games],” Priskie said. “It wasn’t how we want out first ECAC weekend to go, but at the same time, there are a lot of positives and there a lot of things we can learn from and get better from. In conclusion, it was a good weekend. Disappointed with the Dartmouth game, but very happy with Harvard.”

It won’t get easier for the Bobcats. This upcoming weekend, they’ll be paired with matchups against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and No. 12 Union. RPI is sitting at first in ECAC Hockey with a 3-1 conference record. It took down Union twice and also St. Lawrence, but were beaten by Clarkson.

Union, while only 2-2 in ECAC Hockey, boast a 6-2-1 overall record. This includes wins against Clarkson and two wins against No. 15 Northeastern.

“It’s the same game plan we have every weekend,” Priskie said. “We need to go in, sustain a forecheck and we need to have all 19 players just be able to roll over the boards and be tough to play against. When we do that, we have a lot of success.”

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About Bryan Murphy

Associate Sports Editor