ECAC quarterfinals preview: Quinnipiac takes on Cornell in best-of-three series

For the third time this season, Quinnipiac (25-2-7, 16-1-5) will be facing off against Cornell (15-9-7, 8-8-6 ECAC) in a best-of-three series with the winner moving on to Lake Placid for the ECAC semifinals.

Victoria Rutigliano gives the preview of the series ahead and MJ Baird gives his take on what he thinks will be the biggest impacts of the games.

Series Preview:

By: Victoria Rutigliano


“The Monsters of Cornell.”

That’s the way Tim Clifton described the team Quinnipiac will be playing in the ECAC quarterfinals this weekend. It’s no surprise Clifton described Cornell this way, with the Big Red measuring in as the tallest team in the NCAA (average 6-feet-2-inches) and having the second largest weight in the country (average 200 pounds), according to College Hockey News.

Travis St. Denis, who had a goal and an assist in Quinnipiac’s victory against Brown in the team’s final weekend of the regular season, isn’t too worried about the strong players he’ll be facing off against.

“I mean obviously they have a bigger lineup,” St. Denis said. “But we gotta use that to our advantage. We’re a fast team so we gotta slip by those big bodies and get to the net.”

However, St. Denis doesn’t mind going up against bigger players.

“I honestly like it,” he said. “I like playing against bigger guys because I can use my speed more against them and it’s kinda easier for me to work my way around and find those little open areas.”

It’s going to be a battle of the goaltenders in net with Michael Garteig and Mitch Gillam each being key players on both teams defensive ends. Garteig holds a 1.82 goals-against-average, second best in the ECAC. Mitch Gillam is two spots behind Garteig on the leaderboard, holding a 1.94 GAA. Gillam is also tied for second in the ECAC with a .933 save percentage.

On the offensive end of the ice, Quinnipiac has three players in the top five for points in the ECAC. Sam Anas leads all forwards with 43 points, Travis St. Denis’ 38 points and Tim Clifton’s 35 points are close behind him. Clifton also leads the Bobcats in penalty minutes, which could become problematic in a game that in the past has become emotional.

While Clifton knows he’s spent his fair share of time in the penalty box, he knows he still has to play the physical game he’s used to playing.

“Hopefully I get a hold of it and don’t spend half the game in the penalty box, that’s the goal,” he said. “But I still feel like I need to play with an edge, be physical, be aggressive, and be loud.”

Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said the biggest test for the team is going to be infiltrating the Big Red’s defense.

“They’re one of the better shot blocking teams in the country,” Pecknold said. “It’s tough to get pucks through the net. They play kind of a trap, grind it out style and we want to do the opposite.”

The opposite of a grind-it-out style could be tough for a team that’s second in the ECAC in penalties. However, Pecknold said there are two things the team needs to focus on to take on Cornell’s trap-game style.

“We want to play at pace and tempo, so it’s a little contrast to style but for us we often push tempo and we also at the same point we’re all pushing tempo,” he said. “We gotta be patient.”

Cornell’s strongest line this season has been Mitch Vanderlaan, Jeff Kubiak, and Anthony Angello. These players lead the Big Red in goals and points combing for 63 points this season between the three forwards. Vanderlaan scored in both games the Big Red took on the Bobcats this season and Kubiak had a goal in the teams’ second matchup.

The Bobcats pulled out a victory the first time the two teams squared off in November, scoring four unanswered goals to rally to a 5-4 victory in overtime. Andrew Taverner netted two goals for the Bobcats in the victory. While this was a high-scoring game, it was also a game high in penalty minutes. Between the two teams, the referees blew the whistle for 21 penalties and one game-misconduct.

Cornell was the team to come from behind in the second game between the two teams, with Mitch Vanderlaan scoring late in the third to help the Big Red edge a point out of the Bobcats with a 2-2 tie.

The puck drops in the first meeting of the series at 7 p.m. Friday night at High Point Solutions Arena.

MJ’s Analysis:

By: MJ Baird


Physicality:

The first time these two teams played each other, they combined for 21 penalties. Watching the game, it was one where every other whistle seemed like a penalty call. Thomas Aldworth began the onslaught with a major and game misconduct for hitting from behind. From there, the teams rattled off 10 more penalties in the first period alone.

In the second regular season game, the teams toned things down a bit, only recording nine combined penalties. However the hatred for the opponent was still in the air.

Both of these performances come on the heels of Quinnipiac’s battle with Cornell last season in which things did not end so smoothly. Cornell head coach Mike Schafer had some choice words for Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold following a major and a game misconduct from Quinnipiac’s Matthew Peca.

There is nothing previously stated that hints at this weekend not being similar to the regular season matchups. The Big Red are trying to knock off the No. 1 seed, and using their size and strength to get the Bobcats off their game is something I expect to see this weekend.

 

Net front presence:

With big bodies comes a knack for finding the front of the net. Setting screens on the goaltender, tipping pucks that are loose out front, and causing confusion are some examples of what those players do.

Cornell has a multitude of players who can score in this area of the ice. Cornell players (average 6-foot-2-inches in height) crashing the crease can be intimidating for a goaltender, in particular players like Anthony Angello and Christian Hilbrich who have double-digit point totals for the Big Red. Given that, I would expect a heavy workload for Quinnipiac’s Michael Garteig this weekend, needing to fight off bodies in his crease. The Big Red will need to force bodies to the crease and create scoring opportunities through confusion out front.

The same holds true for the Bobcats on Mitch Gillam. Players like Tim Clifton and Landon Smith need to find their way to the front of the net and facilitate the play through there in order to get pucks past Gillam.

 

Three games:

I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see this series go to a third game. Some may look at the matchup and see a one versus an eight seed and think it will be easy for the Bobcats, but that likely will not be the case.

Two teams that play a physical style of hockey going head-to-head with a Lake Placid berth on the line is fit to be a good series. Remember, both regular season matchups went to overtime this season.

The home-ice advantage for the Bobcats may be the bit of edge that they need, but the Big Red are ready and willing to try to dethrone the No. 1 seed. After all, Cornell will more than likely need to advance in the conference tournament to earn an NCAA tournament berth.

As it stands, they would likely not get an at-large bid if they lose to the Bobcats this weekend. Quinnipiac better be ready for a desperate Cornell team this weekend.

 


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