By: Chris Lopresti
WQAQ Men’s Ice Hockey Beat Writer
March 9, 2007
HAMDEN, Conn. – The first round of the ECACHL playoffs assured the Quinnipiac Men’s Hockey team of at least one thing: their power play is back! Coming off the final weekend of regular season play in which they went 0-19 with the man advantage, the Bobcats used five power play goals in 12 opportunities to sweep the Union Dutchmen right out of the TD Banknorth Sports Center.
The QU offense has been a well-oiled machine throughout the course of the season, leading the conference with 3.61 goals per game. However, the power outage against St. Lawrence and Clarkson on that final weekend left the team frustrated and searching for answers. They found an answer last Friday night when Ben Nelson one-timed a pass from Reid Cashman past Union goalie Justin Mrazek. The goal came with 24 seconds left in the opening period and sparked a 3-1 victory for the Bobcats in game one of the best-of-three series.
The following night, it was more of the same. Quinnipiac erased a 1-0 deficit with a pair of second period power play tallies from Cashman and fellow defenseman Matt Sorteberg. After blowing a two goal third period lead, the game went to overtime where, fittingly enough, Jamie Bates ended things with another power play goal just 1:20 into the extra frame. In the end, it was a two game sweep for QU but more importantly, it got the power play back on track.
Heading into this weekend’s quarterfinal match-up with Cornell, the Bobcats certainly have their work cut out for them. A few things to keep in mind:
— Cornell had the entire week off.
— They play at Lynah Rink in one of the most electric college hockey atmospheres in the country.
— Since the opening of the rink in 1957, Cornell has won two NCAA Championships and an ECACHL record 11 tournament championships. The Bobcats have zero (of either).
— Cornell’s all-time record at Lynah is 452-164-47, a winning percentage of .682.
These are all factors that could have an impact on the series. However, the most important stat that must concern the Bobcats is the 2.5 goals against average that Cornell has accumulated this year in conference games, ranking them just behind top-seeded Clarkson for the best in the league.
Quinnipiac is a scoring team, not a defensive team. They got a taste of Cornell hockey when the two squads last met on February 16th, a 2-0 shutout for the Big Red. Troy Davenport turned in a sparkling performance in net and Cornell allowed the Bobcats just three power play opportunities and four shots with the man advantage.
For Quinnipiac to reach Albany and the ECACHL Championship Weekend, they’ll have to capitalize on any power play chances they get. Cornell may not take many penalties, but the Big Red penalty kill is suspect, ranking 10th out of 12 in the conference. Combine that with a last place power play and the Bobcats have a huge special team’s advantage. Freshman Brandon Wong must be drooling at those numbers. Nine of his league-leading 25 goals have come on special teams this season and he’s sure to see plenty of ice time on both the power play and the penalty kill.
It’s a tough match-up for the Bobcats and certainly a big challenge in just their second season in the league. Last year they swept a road playoff series at RPI but going on the road at Cornell is a completely different ballgame. They’ll have to play smart by staying out of the penalty box, clean up the defensive zone mistakes and outwork the Big Red in their own building. It’s a daunting task to say the least but if they want to make a statement, the time is now.