NCAA Tournament preview: Quinnipiac and Clarkson meet up for the fourth time this season

Photo Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Sierra Goodwill 



The first round of the NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Tournament between two familiar faces is bound to be low-scoring.

T.T. Cianfarano vs. Cayley Mercer. Sydney Rossman vs. Shea Tiley. It’s a battle of the ECAC elite.

While Quinnipiac is 2-0-1 this season against Clarkson, the victories didn’t come easy. Pushing, shoving and other extracurricular activities is what the ECAC Championship consisted of between the acquainted foes.

The Bobcats’ 1-0 conference tournament triumph was their first in program history. The night was filled with awards, broken records and elation for the Bobcats. However, head coach Cassandra Turner was not completely convinced with her squad’s showing that night and plans to make a few tweaks going into the next meeting.

“We think we can be better,” Turner said. “It was a hard fought game, one-to-nothing, but there were some chances that I think we could’ve done a better job of eliminating just how dangerous their scoring opportunities were. I think our special teams can be better and I think we can create more offensive opportunities too.”

The Quinnipiac Bobcats host the Clarkson Golden Knights at High Point Solutions Arena on Saturday March 12 at 2 p.m. The victor get a one-way ticket to the Frozen Four. Here are my areas to watch in the matchup.

 

D-Zones

The last matchup between the Bobcats and Golden Knights was close in every aspect. Quinnipiac held the narrow lead in shots on goal, 17-16. With two teams as well rounded as these on the offensive end (T.T. Cianfarano and Cayley Mercer are numbers one and two in points in the ECAC, respectively) both defensive units really have to step up. The Bobcats had 18 blocked shots the last time they played the Golden Knights. Committed defense and blocking shots will again play a significant role.

Clarkson held Quinnipiac to zero shots for the first 11 minutes of the ECAC Championship Game. The pressure will be on the defensive end to perform as this physical, grind-it-out game will most likely be low-scoring.

 

Special Teams

Quinnipiac has the second best penalty kill unit in the country at 92.2 percent. Last meeting, the Bobcats only took one penalty against the Golden Knights and killed it off successfully. However, Quinnipiac had three chances with the extra-skater advantage and was unable to capitalize on the opportunities.

Quinnipiac’s power play unit is fourth in the country at 25.74 percent. Turner says she believes her team can generate more flow on the power play and would like to see them get more shots on net during the power play in this next matchup.

Clarkson also sports impressive special team units (88 percent on the penalty kill and 19.3 percent on the power play). Staying disciplined and limiting penalties is going to be the goal for both of these teams, but performing on the kill and power play is also going to be essential in determining the winner.

 

Emotions Running Wild

It’s that time of year. It’s do or die. The stress and emotions of tournament time are affecting both of these teams. In the last meeting, T.T. Cianfarano and Erin Ambrose got into it after Clarkson took a penalty for interference. The competitiveness of the games between the Bobcats and Golden Knights leads me to believe this is a rivalry in the making.

With the pressure of knowing that a loss is the end of the road for one team, players may begin to tense up. Freshman talent Melissa Samoskevich has been outstanding all season, but did not find her way onto the shot sheet in the final two rounds of the conference tournament. Did the pressure of the “win or go home” tournament style prove to be too overwhelming?

A Frozen Four spot is being held for the team who stays calm, cool and collected in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. For the Bobcats, this would be their first time in the big dance, but Clarkson has experience being on top. The seniors’ leadership will be called upon to propel the team to the next game and preserve their college careers.

“Last year we went to the NCAA tournament for the first time, and then it was over. But, this year everyone has been saying ‘we’re not done yet,’” senior Nicole Connery said. “Every time we win something it’s a big feeling, but we’re not done yet. It’s goal-by-goal, day-by- day.”


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