Harvard defeats Quinnipiac 2-1 in Hamden

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Harvard defeats Quinnipiac 2-1 in Hamden

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn/Quinnipiac Bobcats Sports Network

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn/Quinnipiac Bobcats Sports Network

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn/Quinnipiac Bobcats Sports Network

Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn/Quinnipiac Bobcats Sports Network

MJ Baird, Sports Director

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2019 has not been as friendly to the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team as the latter half of 2018. Through its first four games this calendar year, Quinnipiac sports a 1-2-1 record.

It’s most recent result was a 2-1 loss to the Harvard Crimson on Saturday night in Hamden.

“We outplayed them, and they got the win tonight. That’s hockey,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “I got to give Harvard credit. They battled, they were diving and competing and they ate of a lot pucks in addition to 47 shots we had.”

The loss wasn’t for a lack of chances from the Quinnipiac offense, as Harvard goaltender Michael Lackey racked up 46 saves, a season high for the senior. Lackey put on the type of performance that can steal a win, and two points, for a team.

Fans may be wondering if this stretch to start the year is the true identity of this Bobcats team, or is it simply a blip on the radar? After all, the Bobcats remain atop the ECAC Hockey standings with 15 league points, and are a top ten team in the national polls.

The answer to that question may not be found in Quinnipiac’s in-game performances, but instead in their practices.

“We didn’t have good habits this week and we didn’t the week before,” Pecknold said. “We’ve had a couple of lulls here, which isn’t good. We came out of break, guys had great energy in that Nassau Coliseum game. We played great, the practices were awesome, and then from there on the last two weeks (have been downhill).”

Pecknold preaches how his teams are successful when they buy in and play “Quinnipiac hockey.” But he says these first few weeks of January have been overlooked in that facet of the mental game.

“I think that is a reason why we won a lot early in the season, our practice work ethic and our buy-in and our compete was excellent. It’s faded a little bit here. We got to reload on Monday and get the boys reenergized to buy-in again,” he said.

Lulls happen to everyone, even the best of the best. But it is how well you respond to a lull, and how quickly that process takes, that defines you. From a coaching standpoint, it is impossible to pinpoint exactly when one is coming. But what makes a good coach is someone who is able to work their teams out of ruts when they come.

For example, in the 2016-17 season the lull came the last week of November and into the first week of December. The Bobcats lost four out of five games in that span, including being swept by a lackluster Princeton Tigers team in a home-and-home series.

Quinnipiac rebounded with a win over then No. 6 Boston College in the Three Rivers Classic the following week.  And a quick rebound is what many Bobcats fans are hoping for this time around as well.

“It’s a long season and it’s a grind,” Pecknold said. “Sometimes guys lose their way a little bit and just show up at the rink and put their skates on, and that’s fine. We will still be a good hockey team if we do that, but we aren’t going to be a top 10 team.”

After a 1-1 weekend consisting of Saturday’s loss to Harvard and Friday’s 5-1 win over Dartmouth, it is unlikely Quinnipiac will fall outside the top 10 in next weeks USCHO rankings.

The Bobcats certainly need a spark, however it may come, over the course of the next two weeks. The team has two non-conference games, one against Boston University and one against Holy Cross, before it has to think about ECAC Hockey play again in the first week of February.

“If you are going to win games at this level its hard, you have to make sacrifices. We still played well and easily could have won tonight. We can’t panic, our season is not in the drain. We have a pretty good record right now,” Pecknold said.

So far January of 2019 hasn’t been so kind to Quinnipiac. Its only one month, and one month doesn’t define a season.

But there is a fine line. One bad practice can lead to one bad game, one bad game to one bad lull.

Quinnipiac needs to ensure that this lull doesn’t stretch too long into the second half of the season.