Uniting a Lethal Line: No. 2 Bobcats Strike Gold in Developing Sizzling Top Line


Credit: Nick Boyd | QBSN

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

Eight previous games of ECAC Conference play saw the likes of a player born on Feb. 2, 2002, an NHL Draft Selection, and a sophomore transfer student from the Union Dutchmen who all contribute notably on different line units for the No. 2 Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s ice hockey program.

In no particular order, sophomore center Jacob Quillan, first-year winger Sam Lipkin, and sophomore transfer Collin Graf have elevated their games to become the No. 2 team in the nation’s most impactful pivot and flankers.

Time travel for a moment to 2020…

In 2020-2021, Graf recorded a team-high 54 points for the Boston Jr. Bruins in the NCDC where he was selected for the All-Star team. In 2021-2022 he finished his season playing in a Dutchmen sweater posting 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points in 37 games as a first-year. With a sub .500 record, the Dutchmen crawl into the ECAC Quarter-final in Potsdam, N.Y., and lost two overtime games to the No. 17 Clarkson Golden Knights.

In 2020-2021, Quillan ranked second on his team in points with 27 on the BCHL Penticton Vees. He contributed to 43 wins and eight losses for the Vees, coached by Fred Harbinson, who has coached the Vees to 30-win seasons for consecutive years since 2007. As a first-year in Hamden, the former Vees talent records 9 points in 37 of the team’s 42 games. The first-year ranked 13th on the 2021-2022 Bobcats roster in points.

In 2020-2021, Lipkin is 13 hours away from M&T Bank arena playing at Fox Valley Ice Arena for the USHL Chicago Steel and he wins the 2021 Clark Cup Championship. Suiting up for the Steel that season, Harvard defenseman Ian Moore and Sean Farell, ASU forward Josh Doan (son of former Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan), Michigan weapons Mackie Samoskevich (brother of QU women’s ice hockey defender Maddy Samoskevich), and the potential #1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft Entry Level Draft Adam Fantilli.

Oh, and among his teammates, Matt Coronato, who scored the golden goal for the Harvard Crimson to win the ECAC Championship against the Quinnipiac Bobcats last season in Lake Placid.

In 2021-2022 Lipkin posts a whopping 36-goal, 71-point season. On July 8, 2022, Lipkin would then be drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the 7th round with selection 223 of the NHL Entry Level Draft in Montreal, Quebec Canada before ever donning a golden Bobcats sweater.

The three-headed monster as individuals have each had a moment that put them on the map through the last three months and signifying their development and success despite playing limited time with one another. Whether it was the “Graf-trick” against Yale, Lipkin’s monster 4 assist game versus Yale or his 4 game point streak of 10 total points that has yet to be broken, or Quillan’s two-goal game in a grid-lock 2-0 victory on Nov. 5 against No. 20 Cornell.

Last weekend, Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold united his breakout forwards on a single line against the RPI Engineers, and 24 hours later again to keep the chemistry fizzing against the Union Dutchmen in which the Bobcats came out on top 8-1.

These three dynamos have posted a combined 64 points and contribute to 30% of the team’s 210 total points through 18 games played. It only made sense to unite them.

Pecknold talked about how the line has clicked in the postgame press conference following the blowout 8-1 victory against Union on Dec. 10, in which the line combined for 13 points and four goals, “I just think that line in general they played very well, they possess well, have the IQ to make plays. Probably the biggest thing with those three is they defend well. Because they defend so well they then go and get to play a lot of offense so it’s a tough matchup for most teams.”

Pecknold, who coached in his 1,000th game last season, promotes a team-first culture and emphasizes defense in his schematic. This triad has 22 shot blocks and combines for a +34 goal differential. The statistic is viewed as outdated in some hockey spaces, but the system created by hockey legend Emile Francis in 1950 still speaks to a player’s impact. Certainly to assets that have been on the ice for ten more goals for the Hamden heavyweights than goals scored on goaltender Yaniv Perets.

Recently on ECAC Hockey Podcasts, Graf discussed his new line combination following their breakout game as a trio against his former team, “Yeah we were put together a couple of weeks ago. We bring a lot of skill to the table that we can really work some teams in the offensive zone, and we showed what we can do this past weekend where we finally broke through and got a couple of more 5 on 5 points, nothing but good things to say about those two on the ice. Love talking and hanging out with them which has helped us as a line building the chemistry on and off the ice.”

A heal of the Bobcats program for ages has been the power play success rate. Lipkin and Graf make up for seven of the team’s 20 power-play goals. One-third of the teams man-advantage tallies come off the stick of the Lafayette Hill, Pa. and Lincoln, Mass. natives who have jettisoned the team’s power-play numbers to 1st in the ECAC with four more tallies than second-place Harvard and six more than 3rd place RPI.

These are how the top eight individual Bobcats skater’s point statistics clock in. Notice who the top three skaters are in the point column? (Courtesy of https://gobobcats.com/sports/mens-ice-hockey/stats)





QU has certainly enjoyed success as a collective unit this season, and so have the Bobcats top three point producers.

Graf was named the HCA Co-Player of the Month of November for his seven-game point streak and Belpot Player of the Tournament recognition.

Quillan scored a goal against Union that found its way to SportCenters Top 10 plays

and was featured on a segment in between the second and third period of MSG’s New York Rangers broadcast.

Lipkin was named Rookie of the week on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12 (where he was also named ECAC forward of the week). The first-year has just taken off for the World Junior International tournament (Article by Aiden Barrett)  and will miss the Bobcats next game following the holidays at Holy Cross on Dec. 30.

If the Bobcats want a sure victory in what will be the game of the year on home ice against their bitter rival the Harvard Crimson, who they have yet to cross paths with since Coronato sent the Bobcats home from Lake Placid in March, they will potentially reunite Lipkin upon his return with the Union transfer and SportCenter pivot.