Quinnipiac Men’s Ice Hockey Looks to Turn Goal-Scoring Trends Around

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Steven Pappas

It goes without saying the Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s ice hockey team goes, as goaltender Keith Petruzzelli goes.

Over the last six games, this trend has never been more evident, as the Bobcats’ netminder has posted a mind-boggling 0.98 goals against average, .957 save percentage and three shutouts.

With numbers like that, it would be easy to assume the Bobcats are currently riding a six-game winning streak and look like one of the more elite teams in the country. But we forgot to take a look at the other side of the ice.

In those same six games, Quinnipiac has scored a measly 1.83 goals per game, including just four total goals in the three-game series with Clarkson last weekend.

Ty Smilanic has been one of the best goal scorers in the country this season, as the first year has racked up 11 goals in his first 18 collegiate games. Ethan de Jong and Desi Burgart have really emerged out of nowhere as two excellent goal scorers as well, both accounting for eight goals each.

Who comes in at fourth on the team in goal scoring, you ask? Well, that would be Wyatt Bongiovanni with four goals on the season, the team’s leading goal scorer a season ago.

The problem is Bongiovanni hasn’t played since Dec. 26, or 11 straight games, due to injury.

In the team’s latest six-game goal-scoring drought, the top guns of Smilanic, de Jong, and Burgart have been all over the scoresheet. The team has scored 11 goals over that time span with seven of them coming from the aforementioned trio.

Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold said earlier in the season that sophomore winger Ethan Leyh is the team’s “best pure goal scorer in terms of practice.” Leyh scored his lone goal this season on opening night and is shooting 2.9 percent.

The British Columbia native has seen his goal-scoring production plummet this season. According to InStat, Leyh’s goals per 60 minutes have dropped from 1.11 last season to a mere 0.22 goals, which includes a promotion to the top line with the best facilitator of the puck in the country in Odeen Tufto.

While the efficiency is down, Leyh has been generating more chances than a season ago which brings up the argument of straight luck not being on Leyh’s side right now.

Junior defenseman Peter DiLiberatore has been one of the teams leading play drivers along with captain Tufto this season. He has been a player the team has relied heavily on during man-advantage scenarios and can take over a game for an extended period of time.

Recently, however, it hasn’t been translating into points. DiLiberatore has registered just four points in his last 11 games (one goal, three assists) despite taking 66 shots, which leads the team and is good for fourth in the nation.

For this Bobcats team to turn their recent offensive struggles around, I would be very surprised if that does not correlate with DiLiberatore getting back on the scoresheet consistently.

It has been a tough offensive season for sophomore center Skyler Brind’Amour.

While in a full 34-game season Brind’Amour’s numbers would be very similar to the ones he put up last season (four goals, nine assists, 13 points), the sophomore from Raleigh has consistently been in the top-six all season but has had a tough time steadily staying on the scoresheet.

Comparing Brind’Amour’s offensive numbers per 60 minutes this year to his first season is rather staggering. His assists have dropped 30 percent, from 1.04 to 0.74. The same can be said for his points, as they are down from 1.49 last season to 1.1 in 2020-21.

Brind’Amour has been excellent in other ways this season, both in the defensive end — where he has doubled his playing time from 3:24 per 60 minutes to over seven minutes this year — as well as in the face off dot, where he’s second on the team in win percentage.

Brind’Amour has yet to take the jump offensively, with some areas trending in the wrong direction, but if those numbers start to improve then this team could seriously become a contender in the NCAA tournament.

There are officially eight ECAC Hockey games left on the Bobcats’ schedule, four against Colgate and four against St. Lawrence. For Quinnipiac to garner the number one seed in this year’s tournament it would not be crazy to think the Bobcats need to win at least six of the final eight games.

That cannot happen while scoring below two goals per game.