Murphy’s Law: What the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team should be thankful for

By on November 19, 2018

Morgan Tencza | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
With Thanksgiving in just a few days, it’s a time to reflect on everything in our lives that we’re thankful for.

And after wrapping up arguably its biggest weekend on the season, with wins against now-No. 15 Cornell and Colgate, there are a few things in particular that the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team should be thankful for this Thanksgiving season.

There are a couple obvious ones that I’ll cross off right away. The team is sitting at the top of ECAC Hockey with a 4-2-0 record, and is now ranked No. 10 in the USCHO poll, the first time cracking the top 10 in those rankings since December 2016.

Not a bad way to go into Thanksgiving, and certainly something to be thankful for.  

But there a few other things that have gone a bit under the radar this year for the team and I believe deserve some recognition.

No. 1 – Associate head coach Bill Riga

The big talk this season is the large freshmen class that has taken over this team. Twelve are rostered, and with forward Marcus Chorney receiving his first crack in the lineup this past weekend, now 11 have played in a game for the team.

However, none of these players would be sporting the Bobcat uniform if not for Riga.

Riga, while also being the associate head coach, is the recruiting coordinator for the team. It’s his responsibility to look for possible future Quinnipiac players at the junior/high school levels, contact them and ultimately, bring them to Quinnipiac.

And the 2018-19 freshmen class that Riga helped recruit have shown out this season.

Forward Wyatt Bongiovanni is third on the team in goals with five, and also has him tied for fifth in the conference in that category. He leads all ECAC Hockey freshmen with the five goals, and coming off a two-goal performance against Colgate, earned himself ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week.

Among the other first-years, forward William Fällström is currently tied for fourth on the team in points with nine. Forward Ethan de Jong has a goal and six assists, and defenseman Peter DiLiberatore has four assists as well.  

So while the players are getting it done on the ice, it’s Riga that is the one that brought them to Quinnipiac. Stick taps to you, sir.

No. 2 – The goaltenders

When it comes to the netminders, I discussed in my season preview of the team that Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold expected both goalies to make a leap. And coming into this weekend, the tandem of sophomore Keith Petruzzelli and junior Andrew Shortridge certainly have improved from last year.

Before this weekend, Petruzzelli was seeing a majority of the play, starting seven out of the nine games with a 5-2-0 record. But he was coming off back-to-back losses where he gave up four and five goals. Pecknold was beginning to split time between Petruzzelli and Shortridge, who was 2-0-0.

So this weekend, Shortridge got the nod in net against Cornell on Friday and made 21 saves to get his third win on the season. He’s now undefeated with a 3-0-0 record, 1.00 goals against average (GAA) and a .946 save percentage. The two previous wins were against AIC and RPI, not exactly top tier teams, but it was no small feat in winning against Cornell.

Petruzzelli responded to Shortridge’s performance…well, perfectly. With a 21-save win against Colgate on Saturday for his second shutout on the year, Petruzzelli’s record improved to 6-2-0.  

You can argue that Shortridge is the hotter goalie right now since he’s undefeated, but you also can’t disregard the fact that Petruzzelli has two shutouts on the year.

“We have two good goalies,” Pecknold said. “We’ll give them both a chance to play. We’ll play it by ear [each weekend].”

In terms of who will lead the team onto the ice each game, it will never be a guarantee who it is.  

No. 3 – The penalty kill

Quinnipiac has successfully killed 84.6 percent of its penalties, placing it at second in ECAC Hockey. Yes, Pecknold has stressed on multiple occasions that the team needs to take less penalties, but the penalty kill is certainly doing an efficient job.

Not only is the team killing the usual, two-minute penalties, but Quinnipiac has had to kill two major penalties this year, where the other team was on the power play for five minutes. The two opponents, UConn and Union, were held without a goal on each of those opportunities.

It’s been a solid mix of both freshmen and veterans getting time on the kill, something that Pecknold did not want to have to do, but given the amount of freshmen, almost had no choice.

“We’ve had to roll a lot of freshmen [out on the penalty kill],” Pecknold said. “I typically never use freshmen on the penalty kill. We’ve got a ton of them out there and they’ve done a great job.”

No matter who Pecknold sends out, the penalty kill units are getting the job done.

No. 4 – The Lynah Rink endboards

When a team is finding success, it may find that the bounces are going its way. And boy, did the puck bounce just the right way for Quinnipiac at the Lynah Rink.

In the third period on Friday against then-No. 17 Cornell, Quinnipiac and Cornell were tied 2-2 with under 10 minutes to go. Priskie clapped a slap shot into the Cornell defensive zone. The puck hit off the endboards, and then bounced off the back of Cornell sophomore goaltender Matt Galajda, into the net.

Look, I know Priskie has a wicked slapper. But I’m going to guess that he didn’t plan on intentionally banking the shot in off the glass.

Regardless, that ended up being the game-winning goal and Quinnipiac won arguably its biggest ECAC Hockey matchup so far, 4-2, as Cornell was a team that Pecknold had heavily praised beforehand.

“I think Cornell is the best team in our league, and they’re a top-10 team in the nation,” Pecknold said in the days prior to the matchup against Cornell.

Quinnipiac caught its biggest break of the season at the perfect time. And much in thanks to that glass at the Lynah Rink.

Looking ahead, Quinnipiac will have six more games before the winter break, two-a-piece against Maine, No. 18 Princeton and No. 4 UMass Amherst. These games will tell a lot about where this team is at, as Princeton is sitting in second in ECAC Hockey and UMass Amherst is one of the best teams in the nation.

So while it can sit back for a bit and enjoy Thanksgiving, the tough road ahead has just begun for this Quinnipiac team.

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About Bryan Murphy

Associate Sports Editor