Checking in With Quinnipiac Men’s Ice Hockey at the Halfway Mark


(Photo: Quinnipiac Athletics)

Aiden Barrett

At the midway point of the 2021-22 season, Quinnipiac sits in first place in ECAC Hockey and ranks No. 2 nationally with a record of 14-1-3.

The Bobcats have scored 61 times and have only allowed 20 goals with Yaniv Perets and Dylan St. Cyr in between the pipes.

One thing we’ve learned through three months of the season is Quinnipiac can score in different ways. The Bobcats currently have six players on pace to break the double-digit goal mark. To put that into perspective, Quinnipiac had just three players accomplish that feat last season.

One of those players who hit the double-digit mark a year ago was then-junior forward Ethan De Jong. De Jong found the back of the net 14 times last season and hasn’t missed a beat this year. The senior has kept shooting the puck with 42 shots on net, good enough for third on the team, and seven goals, ranking second in that category.

What makes De Jong so important to that top Quinnipiac line is he has some grit to his game almost like a Brad Marchand on the Boston Bruins. Countless times he’s started a game with a big hit or is jamming away at a loose puck in the crease. De Jong’s complete game has made him a strong asset to this Bobcat team.

The saying “expect the unexpected” does not apply to second year forward Ty Smilanic. Smilanic was looked at to be a top player on Quinnipiac ever since he stepped foot on campus with the track record he had.

The first-year’s hype grew even more when the Florida Panthers decided to select him with their third round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry- Level Draft. Smilanic did not disappoint with the Bobcats.

Smilanic led all first-year’s in the nation in goals with 14. That isn’t the only place he finished first as he was also first on the Bobcat’s roster in goals, tied with De Jong.

Smilanic added a new element to the power-play last season with his elite shot which also gave him a strong bid for the 2022 USA World Junior Championships roster, which he eventually made.

If the stats don’t tell the whole story you can see just by watching him that he is one of the most skilled players on the ice and always seems to find that timely goal. Smilanic seems to have taken the next step head coach Rand Pecknold was looking for.

It’s worth noting that Smilanic suffered a lower body injury while playing in Team USA’s pre-tournament game against Finland and was scheduled to miss the start of the competition before it was canceled due to the ongoing pandemic. No update on his status has been given.

One of Quinnipiac’s biggest strengths is at the second most important position in hockey. Right down the middle.

Quinnipiac goes with Wyatt Bongiovanni, Skyler Brind’amour, Desi Burgart, and T.J. Friedmann at the center position. Not too many teams in the NCAA are as deep in the middle.

Bongiovanni seems to be the engine on that top line. The captain of this Bobcats team has 14 points in 18 games so far this season. He also averages over four shots a game. No one else on the team even averages three.

The captain led the Bobcats back from down 3-0 to Arizona State with the tying goal in the third period and topping it off with the game winner moments later. The importance of Bongiovanni is not hard to see.

With Bongiovanni and that top line providing the offense, Pecknold usually looks to the Brind’amour line to play the shut-down role. Brind’amour’s line finds itself facing off against teams’ top units often and being rather successful at it too. Brind’amour is out there killing penalties for the Bobcats as well.

Burgart is where the depth starts to really come in and overpower other teams. It’s rare you can put a double-digit goal scorer on your third line. That’s what Pecknold is able to do here with Burgart, who is able to take advantage of some of the mismatches he faces in the middle six. Don’t be confused though, Burgart definitely does see his fair share of playing in the top-6 as well as the third line.

The player who has seemed to benefit the most from the depth on this team is senior TJ Friedman. Friedman is having a break-out year for the Bobcats and is playing a pivotal role in the bottom-six.

With just 13 points in 88 games in his first three seasons, Friedmann has scored five times and added six helpers for 11 points in 18 games this season. He looks like he will continue his strong play heading into the second half as he is playing some of his best hockey as a Bobcat.

With Quinnipiac being very strong and deep at the center position what might be their strongest position and where their strongest pieces should be is at the goaltending position.

Perets and St. Cyr have both played like No. 1 goalies this year and it’s been fun to watch the two compete. Quinnipiac has allowed just 20 goals this season in 18 games, just over a goal per game pace. Asking a top offense to just score two goals a game doesn’t seem to be a problem.

The two have combined for eight shutouts, Perets with six and St. Cyr with two. Perets holds a .947 save percentage, ranking fifth in the nation, to St. Cyr’s .913.

With both playing great hockey, Perets has been exceptional. The goaltender has yet to lose and has taken down top opponents like No. 18 Northeastern and No. 6 North Dakota. Look for Perets to be a dark horse for the Mike Richter Award or at least get some recognition for it.

The defense has also not hurt the play for these two guys. It seems as if everyone on the defensive side is having career years, starting off with Zach Metsa and Jayden Lee.

We all know what Metsa can bring to the table as he is one of the best offensive defensemen in hockey and has the numbers to back it up. But Lee has taken a noticeable step up. Lee has had a career year offensively already but also holds a +9 rating. Lee has been solid on both ends of the ice as well.

Just the presence of the size of graduate transfer Griffin Mendel has helped this blue line. With a relatively smaller blue line, Mendel stands at 6’6”. The defenseman is great at closing gaps with his long reach and big frame. He has made it very tough for forwards to get into prime scoring chances when he’s out on the ice. The defenseman has had a major impact on this team and has fit in like a glove.

With Quinnipiac sitting at No. 2 in the nation, there isn’t much room for improvement. The focus now should be to finish out the final 20 games of the season, 18 of them being in-conference play, as a solidified NCAA Tournament contender.

Quinnipiac’s second half of the season was scheduled to begin on Jan. 2 against Princeton, but COVID protocols within the Tigers program means the Bobcats will now hit the ice on Jan. 7 and Jan. 8 against Brown and Yale, respectively.