The Luck O’ the Bobcats: Takeaways from the Friendship Four Tournament Victory


Credit: Twitter/@QU_MIH

The Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s ice hockey team was the wind that shook the barley this past weekend in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In a 5-2 route over Dartmouth to open the Friendship Four Tournament, the men hailing from Hamden advanced to the final on Saturday where a rollercoaster victory in the shootout earned them the Belpot Trophy. 

On Monday, the Bobcats were the No. 2 team in the nation in the USCHO National Ranking Poll and accrued 14 first-place votes after their endeavor to Northern Ireland. Was the Friendship Four victory as fulfilling as a nice loaf of Irish soda bread, or was it just a load of Blarney? Here are the takeaways from the weekend across the pond.


1. Aiden Barrett: Quinnipiac has a National Championship Contending Blue Line:

Question marks and uncertainties are answered as the season progresses. Vise versa, questions arise as the season continues. The question the Bobcats defense has posed through the first 14 games, “Is this group as good as the numbers say they are?”

The Bobcats are currently number one in the nation in terms of goal differential with a +25. This is largely due to the fact that the team is third in the nation in goals allowed and a goaltender holding up a .920 save percentage. The team also averages giving up just under 24 shots a game and comes out on top in the shot differential a majority of the time.

Outside of injuries head coach Rand Pecknold has for the most part gone with the same seven defensemen, just shifting around the pairings. 

The defense has everything that you look for in contending teams. A number one defenseman with offensive upside, multiple defensemen who can quarterback a power play, a commitment to shot blocking, experience, and a strong transitional game in being able to up the tempo and decrease scoring chances against. The only thing they may lack is they are a little bit lighter on the back end but a lot of that is offset by their strong transitional game.

One of the biggest additions to this defense and the team, in general, was graduate student Jake Johnson. After seeing how well the five graduate students fit in last season it only made sense to make more adds on the defense after three regulars moved on. Something that sets Johnson apart from the rest is his play on the other side of the ice. Johnson is a defenseman who seems to be able to tilt the puck play toward the opponent’s end when on the ice. A strong metric to use in terms of creating offensive chances and zone time going forward.

Jayden Lee and Jacob Nordqvist have also been reliable pieces inside of the top four as well while Zach Metsa hovers around as a point-per-game player.

Another player who has caught the eye of Pecknold is first-year defenseman, Charles Alexis Legault. The former West Kelowna product has found himself in the lineup in all 14 games this season on a rather veteran-led blue line. A player to keep an eye out for going forward because there is clear trust from the coaching staff in the young defenseman.

Quinnipiac has many similarities to teams that have won in the past. The offensive upside, strong transitional game, and limited chances against. The Bobcats defense is a threat.


2. Matthew Mugno:  Parrying Pavicich:

En route to victory in “Linenopolis”, the Quinnipiac Bobcats secured the Belpot Friendship Four Tournament Trophy and earned the right to bring that hardware 3,905 miles back home. 

The Bobcats have faced a number of established keepers, despite some of their Ivy League conference opponents’ futile success this season. Playing a stronger UMass program in the Belpot Final required the Bobcats to face another top-flight goaltender. Defeating the Minutemen, who were backstopped by sophomore keeper Luke Pavicich, is a worthy affirmation post-triumph.

Pavicich only surrendered ten goals in his first six outings this season, six matches this season requiring 30 or more saves, and the 6’3″ netkeeper had backstopped a 75-save weekend sweep over the No.1 ranked Denver Pioneers a month ago (the weekend of Oct. 15-16).

The Bobcats tallied two goals and unleashed 32 shots on goal in their most dramatic 60 minutes since the North Dakota weekend (Oct. 14-15).

The Bobcats offense has been up for debate on Bobcat Breakdown and within our beat staff. This further evidences that the offense comes through when it matters; and has against Ian Shane (Cornell Big Red/.933 SV% 1.54 GA), Carter Gylander (Colgate Raiders, .922 SV%, 2.40 GA), and now Pavicich (UMass Minutemen, .929 SV%, 2.34 GA).


3. David Maher: Special Teams Inconsistency

Over the last few seasons, the Bobcats achilles heel has been their special team’s play and while it has been better this year, the inconsistency showed up again in Belfast.

Against Dartmouth, the Bobcats were 0-6 on the power play including a 5-on-3 advantage with 13 shots on goal, and were 1-3 on the penalty kill, giving up two goals on five shots. Those two power play goals scored by the Big Green allowed them to stay in the game until T.J. Friedmann’s goal late in the 3rd period and Michael Lombardi’s empty net goal to ice it. The Bobcats can get away with these kinds of performances against lower-caliber opponents, but they can’t have those kinds of days against better teams.

As fate would have it, the Bobcats would draw the team with the best power play unit in the country in UMass for the Belpot Final. Quinnipiac was much better on special teams on both sides of the ice, going 2-3 on the power play and 1-1 on the penalty kill. It was only the second time this season that the Bobcats took only one penalty and the third time this season where Quinnipiac scored at least two goals on the man advantage.

Quinnipiac has a 22.4% conversion rate on the power play and their penalty-killing rate is now at 82% following the weekend, which is pretty above average to start the season. But, at some point, the inconsistency has to stop, and getting the most out of special teams every night should be the goal moving forward.


4. Gage Kilborne: Collin Graf Might be the Missing Piece this Offense has Needed

Entering the Belpot, Graf has shown off his great power, especially on the power play with four power play goals, including two during his hat trick performance against Yale a few weeks ago. Graf also had two assists in his previous game against Princeton prior to making the trip to Ireland.

Once Graf stepped on the ice, he added a few more stats to his total, starting off with the opening round game against the Dartmouth Big Green, he helped fellow teammate, Sam Lipkin earn the first goal of his collegiate career. This was Graf’s first of what turned out to be a three-point performance during the tournament as he helped assist in both goals scored against UMass in the title game. On a side note, both of those goals that he assisted in the title game were on the power play. 

There has been a lot of discussion over the inconsistency of the power play unit, but one thing is for certain, although they were not able to score a goal every time they come on the one-man advantage, they at least can intimidate the team to the point where they will struggle on the defensive end. 

They have had many series on the power play where they could have scored more goals on the season, however, because they kept the puck in the offensive zone and had Graf waiting at the point, it has helped electrify this power play unit from what they were missing a season ago.

Currently, Graf is on a three-game point streak and is currently tied for the most power play goals on the season with four, not including the amount power play assists he has amassed. The main struggles of this offense might be in a better position with the key addition of Graf, the sophomore transfer from Union. 

The Bobcats hope to bring the luck of the Irish into their ECAC Conference matchups next weekend,  No. 2 Bobcats take on the St. Lawrence Saints (5-7-0) on Friday, Dec. 2  at 7:00 PM in a “Bobcat Blizzard” white-out fan experience and a battle against the Clarkson Golden Knights (7-6-0) on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7:00 PM. They currently sit at the top of the ECAC Conference at 10-1-3 and are undefeated in conference play at 6-0-0.