Back on top: Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey reclaims No. 1 ranking


Photo: Quinnipiac Athletics

Aiden Barrett

For the first time since the 2015-2016 season, Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey sits atop the polls.

The Bobcats placed number one in the nation Monday morning, propelled by a seven-game win streak and a 16-1-3 start.

Deservingly, Quinnipiac is back at the top of the standings. It has a top offense and a top defense and has hovered around the top spot all season. It has played some other top teams in the likes of North Dakota, Boston College, and Northeastern just to list a few that were ranked as high as six and eight at the time of their games and handled them well.

With a top offense and top power-play unit, the Bobcats’ biggest factor to have them in the position they are in right now was probably their biggest question mark headed into the season: goaltending.

Quinnipiac has received elite goaltending night in and night out. Both Yaniv Perets and Dylan St. Cyr hold a save percentage of over .900 and have accounted for 16 wins. The efforts from this tandem have also made Quinnipiac the least scored against team in the nation with 21 goals against in 19 games.

Both goaltenders have been spectacular and would be starters on most teams but the work of the sophomore Perets has been something that can’t be overlooked. The reigning ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Month has posted a .950 save percentage this season, is 10-0-2, and has seven shut-outs to go along with it. He’s also averaging less than a goal given up per game which is a huge confidence booster to not only himself but the team around him in how they play their games.

Perets’ strong play has put him into the “Hobey-Baker Award Watch” along with teammate Zach Metsa.

With being the number one team in the nation for the first time in six years, comparisons are going to be made. So let’s see how similar these two teams really are.

In 2015-2016 the Bobcats were led by a high-powered offense with Sam Anas, Travis St. Denis, and Tim Clifton all being over a point per game in a 43-game stretch.

Anas and St. Denis also had 20 goal seasons with Clifton not being too far behind with 19. If he got the extra games that Anas and St. Denis had he could probably find himself in this category as well.

This season the top leading forward group in terms of points hold the names of Wyatt Bongiovanni, Ethan De Jong, and Oliver Chau. The three aren’t on pace for the same type of seasons in terms of production but should definitely find a nice number in the points per game category once the season ends.

With Ty Smilanic and his ten goals playing in the middle-six, there is enough to make a comparison between this team and the 2015-2016 Bobcats team up front.

Looking at Quinnipiac’s defensive build, personnel, and strategy, it’s stellar from the net up. Metsa is having another brilliant season offensively, junior Jayden Lee is playing some of his best hockey since throwing on the blue and gold, and the addition of Griffin Mendel couldn’t have fit in any better. This group is a top defense and you can’t take much away from it or get much by it.

But the 2015-2016 Quinnipiac team is the best defense its ever had when you take everything into account. Just off personnel alone, this defense was legit.

It’s probably filled with the two best defensemen in Quinnipiac history with Devon Toews and Chase Priskie and the most decorated goaltender in Quinnipiac history in Michael Garteig. Not to mention Conor Clifton who was also part of that Quinnipiac blue-line.

All four players made the NHL and Toews is looked at by many to be a serious James Norris Memorial Trophy Candidate, an award given to the best defenseman in the NHL.

They have the numbers to prove how good they were too. Toews and Clifton ranked 1 and 2 in terms of +/- with 27 and 20 respectively with Priskie not too far behind notching a +15. Your best defense is offense. The three finished five, six, and seven on the team in points all three 20+ assist seasons.

If you could somehow beat the Bobcat defense, Garteig and his eight shut-outs that season was usually there to back you up.

Now looking at the this team’s defense although it may not be as flashy or high-powered as the 2016 team it’s still a strong defensive group and similarities can be made.

A defense that can play defense but is more so offensive oriented.

Metsa is yet again at the top of college defenseman scoring with 18 points and is also supported by a +19 in his own end of play.

Lee who has just 3 goals and 3 assists this season is someone where numbers do not tell the whole story. The defenseman was very good at carrying the puck out of the defensive zone and moving it up the ice keeping a fast pace-tempo. The junior could have more points and probably deserves more for the way he’s played this year.

Mendel has brought in experience. The graduate-student has a national championship under his belt from the 2017 Denver Pioneers and has played in many big nationally televised games. The 6’6” build and his strong defensive play along with his long stick has really helped round-out the Quinnipiac blue-line.

The biggest similarity though probably comes in the net. Garteig arguably the best goalie in Quinnipiac history, Perets having the best statistical season in Quinnipiac history. Both goaltenders ranked at the top of the college statistic boards among goalies. Garteig led the NCAA in wins Perets leads the nation in terms of winning percentage. Both teams had a number one in net.

The 2015-2016 team was special. A team that finished ranked number one and got all the way to the championship game where they eventually lost to number three North Dakota.

This Bobcats team is built for contention as well. An elite defense with star goaltending along with numerous depth pieces. From the personnel and what they’ve shown on the ice there’s no reason to think they can’t go far in the tournament this year.