Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey’s comeback falls short in exhibition game

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Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey’s comeback falls short in exhibition game

Photo Courtesy: Nick Lewis

Photo Courtesy: Nick Lewis

Photo Courtesy: Nick Lewis

Photo Courtesy: Nick Lewis

Jonathan Banks, Men's ice hockey beat reporter

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Postgame Analysis:

Three Takeaways:

By Tom Krosnowski

When the box score at a hockey game shows a final shot counter of 57-23, it’s usually safe to assume that the game was a one-sided affair. Instead, Sunday evening’s exhibition match between Quinnipiac University and Brock University ended in a 4-4 tie, despite Quinnipiac more than doubling Brock’s shot totals.

It’s still too early to take much away from an exhibition game, but a few things stood out during the contest:

Room to Improve on Defense

The Quinnipiac “identity” that head coach Rand Pecknold has instilled on this team in his 26 years with the program relies heavily on defensive hockey, preventing scoring chances, and being hard to play against.

The Bobcats really didn’t show any of that Sunday. After the game, Pecknold called his team “young and immature.”

“I thought it was kind of a crazy game tonight, being our first of the year,” Pecknold said. “We were a little bit all over the map tonight, we looked young and immature at times. That’s one of those crazy games you play where you look up at the clock and shots are 37-9 and we’re losing 3-1. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens once in a while.”

Had Quinnipiac’s defense played better, the Bobcats probably would have won this game. There has been a lot of turnover on the Quinnipiac defense, as Chase Priskie, Brandon Fortunato, Brogan Rafferty and Luke Shiplo have all moved on. There’s a lot of inexperience on Quinnipiac’s back end now, and Brock took advantage of that repeatedly.

Freshman CJ McGee got beat on a one-on-one (and committed a penalty) on a Brock goal, a turnover from TJ Friedmann and a missed check by Peter DiLiberatore led to another Brock tally, a poorly-timed Zach Metsa pinch almost led to a Brock goal, and freshman Jayden Lee got turned around on a deke that led to a Brock odd-man rush.

Most of these players are under six feet tall, and the much larger Badgers team had its way with them in the corners at times. Although senior Karlis Cukste played a good game, it wasn’t enough to save a sloppy defensive effort.

“All the goals, we kind of killed ourselves,” captain Nick Jermain said. “Some turnovers and blown backchecks, those are things that are easy to eliminate. They’ll see it on video, and we’ll address it, and get better at that moving forward.”

Special Teams a Work in Progress

There wasn’t much 5-on-5 play in this game, but Quinnipiac’s special teams were a bit of a mixed bag. The penalty kill was great, killing off all five power plays and allowing just six total shots, but the Bobcats’ power play struggled at times.

Although the team scored twice with the man advantage (and once again in a 6-on-5 situation), the team failed to convert on six other power plays, and didn’t generate enough high-danger chances.

“Everything [on special teams] needs to be improved,” Pecknold said. “It was chaos. I think we had guys on the power play trying to do way too much, going rogue and out of control. But we’ll settle them down, and they’re young.”

“It’s always kind of rusty at this point in the year,” Jermain said. “I thought our kill was good, we have that so drilled down. But, I think with all of the players turning over on our power play, obviously it’s going to be a little rusty at first, and not as crisp as usual.”

Last year, the Bobcats had the third-best penalty kill rate (87.8 percent) and tied for the fourth-best power play percentage (25.7 percent) in the nation, which was a big reason why they made it into the NCAA Tournament. The special teams will have to improve for the Bobcats moving forward if they want to make it back.

A Resilient Team

It wasn’t all bad for the Bobcats in the 4-4 tie. The team was down 4-2 after two periods, but came back to tie the game with just 12 seconds left. After Keith Petruzzelli let up four goals on 12 shots in two periods, freshman goalie Evan Fear settled things down, stopping all 11 shots he faced.

Pecknold said that although the Bobcats could have gotten frustrated getting so many shots and not converting often enough, his team’s attitude was key to the comeback.

“We’ve just got to stay positive, stay focused and keep coming,” Pecknold said. “We talked about having to deal with a little adversity early in the season. In the end, it wasn’t a perfect performance, but we did come from behind two goals and we got some big kills, so there was some adversity that we conquered tonight.”