Bobcats out-duel Maine Saturday night in Hamden to split series

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Bobcats out-duel Maine Saturday night in Hamden to split series

Photo Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

Photo Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

Photo Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

Photo Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

Bryan Schwartz, Patrick Flatley, Steven Pappas, and Tom Krosnowski

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Highlights

By: Bryan Schwartz

Postgame Reaction

By: Steven Pappas and Patrick Flatley

Back to its Identity

By: Patrick Flatley

3 Things We Learned about the Quinnipiac Men’s Ice Hockey team this Weekend

By: Tom Krosnowski

Last year, the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team played two games against the University of Maine Black Bears on the road, and won them by a combined score of 9-2.

This weekend was a different story.

This time, the Bobcats played host to the Black Bears, but they had to scratch and claw their way to a series split, losing Friday 4-2 and winning Saturday 4-3.

Although it’s still early in the season and it was just a non-conference matchup, we learned a few things about the way the Bobcats are made up with this weekend’s performance:

The Bobcats will have to outscore their defensive issues

After losing four trusted upperclassmen defensemen to professional hockey, the Bobcats’ D-core has had to rely largely on underclassmen. Sophomore Peter DiLiberatore plays the most minutes, freshmen Jayden Lee and Logan Britt get special teams reps, and converted forwards Zach Metsa and TJ Friedmann have transferred to D, leaving senior Karlis Cukste as the only defenseman with more than two years of experience.

That inexperience has showed itself at times early this season, and against Maine, the Bobcats had a hard time finding their identity.

“We’ve got to get better back there,” Pecknold said after Friday’s loss. “I think we need our forwards to do a better job helping them too. We didn’t do a good job defensively tonight. We didn’t give up a lot of chances, but we still gave up four goals. We’ve got to be better.”

The Bobcats were better on D on Saturday, thanks in part to the impact the team’s forwards had in the two-way game. Playing without alternate captain Alex Whelan due to injury and after losing Desi Burgart to a game misconduct, the forward core played most of Saturday’s game shorthanded.

However, the Bobcats’ forwards played a complete game, which bailed out the young defense. Wyatt Bongiovanni, the team’s best goal scorer, blocked a key shot in the final 10 seconds to help seal the win for the Bobcats, William Fallstrom was dominant on faceoffs and on the penalty kill, and the whole team pitched in on a five-minute major penalty kill in the second period that could have turned the tide for Maine.

Not only did the Bobcats play better defensively, but they outscored their mistakes too, which is something they’ll have to do a lot this season. This team doesn’t fit Pecknold’s preferred tight-defensive style, but this series proved that the Bobcats will only go far if they put up goals.

Petruzzelli… still a mixed bag

Junior goaltender Keith Petruzzelli finally has the net all to himself after two years fighting the graduated Andrew Shortridge for time, but he has been inconsistent through two weeks. Petruzzelli only faced 38 shots this weekend, but let in seven goals. It’s only been four games, but his 2.80 GAA and subpar .890 SV% are not the kind of figures that will lead a team to a Cleary Cup.

However, Petruzzelli also showed moments of brilliance this weekend. He made a terrific glove save early on a breakaway on Friday, and put on an absolute show in the third period on Saturday, stopping 12 shots, including several high-quality chances.

Petruzzelli is physically gifted, at 6’5” and featuring a strong glove hand. The difference between Friday and Saturday? Rebound control. Petruzzelli gave up a lot of rebounds in Friday’s loss, and several went back into the net. In Saturday’s win, Petruzzelli corralled loose pucks quicker, which prevented the Black Bears from getting second or third chances.

Freshman Evan Fear is raw and junior Josh Mayanja barely has 10 minutes of NCAA experience. This is Petruzzelli’s crease for good, and although this past weekend was a bit of a mixed bag, there are signs pointing to a potential breakthrough. The Bobcats (and the Detroit Red Wings, who drafted him in 2017) sure need to see it.

A non-conference scare

Although the Bobcats can take some big positives away from Saturday’s win, it’s hard not to be underwhelmed by the Bobcats’ weekend as a whole. Maine is not a team at Quinnipiac’s level right now – they’ve been under .500 four of the last six years, and lost 7-0 to No. 7 Providence two weeks ago. Why then, against No. 8 Quinnipiac, did Maine look every bit their equal in the series split?

Again, it’s still just an October weekend of non-conference hockey, and the Bobcats sit at 3-1 through four games. However, this unexpectedly close weekend could hurt them in the national polls. At the very least, it’s made next Sunday’s non-conference tilt against the University of Vermont a little more interesting, as Quinnipiac will try to take down another Hockey East school.

“It comes down to buying in,” sophomore Mike Lombardi said. “As a group, we just want to start playing more to our identity.”

Whatever that identity is, the Bobcats need to find it fast.