NCAA Semi-Final Victory: Seven Thoughts


Courtesy: Rob Rasmussen | QU Athletics

Matthew Mugno, Beat Reporter: Quinnipiac Men's Ice Hockey

The Quinnipiac Bobcats defeated the Merrimack Warriors 5-0 in Friday evening’s NCAA Bridgeport Regional Semi-Final. Some ruminations on the contest-


1. Ode to Merrimack’s Season:

It was Merrimack’s first national tournament appearance since 2011. The Warriors advanced to the Hockey East Championship game played in TD Garden, Boston.

Not only was the team performing on the ice, but they also overcame tragedy early in the season. On Oct. 3, 2022, Merrimack head coach Scott Borek grew concerned that assistant Josh Ciocco was absent from a team practice. He had passed that morning unexpectedly.

Borek held a passionate post-game press conference, “ I feel really good about the entire body of work, I feel that no one in that locker room including the coaching staff has ever dealt with that we dealt with, with Josh Ciocco and come out the other side and had a heck of a year because I think Josh would want us to and our players deserve because they’re a great, unbelievable group of young men.”

Borek also stated how important it is for Merrimack College to have a season of success and unity as they had, “I think the entire program and the whole campus is inspired by not just by us. Our basketball team is having so much success. I think there’s a real specialness right now on campus.”


2. Return to Identity/ Two First Lines

The Bobcats are all about buy-in. Part of their culture is the absence of line titles. The strongest and most successful teams in hockey history roll four lines, without a numerical label, and unite each posse based on their competitive identity.

Friday was a return to the Bobcats style of play that they lacked in Lake Placid. Head coach Rand Pecknold stated, “We keep preaching like you play defense well, and you work on the bad side of the puck, and you get that you’re willing to play offense for 25 seconds and did a great job.

He also acknowledged how his forward corps are difficult to match up against, “First off I don’t really feel like we have a first line we have two first lines, so I’d have to look at the stats I think that’s one of our strengths I thought we are tough to match up against because we have those two first lines.” One line features the 2022 and 2023 ECAC Defensive Forwards of the Year. The other- see thought number four.


3. Checking Line Break Through:

It’s safe to classify Michael Lombardi, TJ Friedmann, and Joey Cippolone as a checking line. Since the turn of the year, this line has exponentially been more impactful, and it was clear in the win-or-go-home semi-final. They were all over the ice. Quick zone exits, puck hunting on dump-ins, checking to separate man from puck shift in and out. The team’s sandpaper-created offense.

Cippolone has recorded three goals in the three games he has competed in Bridgeport’s Total Mortgage Arena.

Lombardi tallied his second goal from above the circles this season on a dart of a wrister against Merrimack.

Friedmann continues to be snake bitten generating the highest volume of high-danger chances in the ECAC Semi-Final loss, and now the NCAA Regional Semi-Final. His lone assist on the scoresheet suggests a false chronicle.


4. The York Hill Boys are in the Building

And there it is. The Malone, Stockton, and Hornacek of college hockey had a proper dawn after the loss to Colgate. Sam Lipkin tallied an empty netter and two picturesque assists. Jacob Quillan scored twice, and Collin Graf recorded his 56th point on the season. That’s more than Cole Caulfield had in his Hobey Baker-winning season in 2021. That’s ten points shy of arguably the best season in Quinnipiac hockey history, Chris Cerella who recorded 66 points as a first year in the 1997-1998 season.

Pecknold pointed to why the line succeeded against the Warriors, “Probably the best thing they did was they defended well. You know, we keep preaching like you play defense well, and you work on the bad side of the puck, and you get that you’re willing to play offense for 25 seconds and did a great job.”

And that they did. Observe how they transition the puck. Graf and Quillan stand up an attack in the slot, forcing a turnover and springing Lipkin. Lipkin got on his horse down the left wing. With a soft touch, Lipkin feathers Quillan who finds a hole over the pad and under the blocker. Quillan took advantage of the goaltender’s early drop. An example of defense into offense.


5. Bobcat Nation in Bridgeport:

If you closed your eyes, you might have thought the Total Mortgage Arena was M&T Bank Arena. Rather, the Bobcats were 30 minutes down CT-15. The fanatics still came out in droves to support Quinnipiac.

Lombardi recognized the fan support, “Yeah, our fans are great we get so much energy off them you know the band’s great the crowd was awesome, and I think we just fed off that well tonight.

Men’s Ice Hockey Beat Reporter Zach Hochberg tells the story-

6. Merrimack Transition Game:

A simple X’s and O’s thought. Merrimack has a phenomenal transition game. The contest featured a close and physical first period. It fizzled as the contest scaled. It was quite an impressive offensive system; it makes for a game of exciting and fun hockey.


7. Another Perets SO:

Famed autobiographer Yaniv Perets wrote another chapter in his story, Fridays shutout his tenth of the season. That’s 21 in his career.

In four playoff games this season, he’s allowed four goals, averaging 1.50 goals against, and a .928 SV%. In four games, 83 total shots. 45 of those from the ECAC Champion Colgate Raiders. The first post-season game (ECAC Quarterfinal vs Yale) was an all-time NCAA record of a lowly five shots on goal from Yale.

Perets was challenged early and rose to the occasion. From there, the workload was lighter with a quick 2-0 lead early in the second period.

This is the second year in a row that Pecknold’s pack has advanced to the NCAA Regional Final. The Quinnipiac Bobcats will face the Ohio State Buckeyes in the NCAA Bridgeport Regional Final on Sunday at 4:00 PM. Plane Tickets to Tampa’s Frozen Four are on the line.