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New faces re-energize Quinnipiac’s ice hockey title hopes – The Quinnipiac Chronicle

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The No. 11 Quinnipiac Bobcats Men’s Ice Hockey Season is fast approaching and the opening schedule gets more exciting as the games draw closer.

After a heavy loss in overtime in the regional round of the NCAA playoffs and the loss of three key players who helped lead Quinnipiac last season, the Bobcats have their work cut out to begin.

The teams opening weekend is the Ice Breaker Tournament, being held October 8-9 in Worcester, Massachusetts, where it takes on Boston College No. 6 on Friday and then Northeastern, who received 11 votes at the most recent USCHO poll in April.

Quinnipiac’s men’s ice hockey team is ranked number 11 in the most recent USCHO poll. (Morgan Tencza/Chronicle Archive (2019))

Quinnipiac will then travel to Vermont the following week and host No. 5 North Dakota for back-to-back games.

All rankings are based on USCHO and are subject to change leading up to the season as the latest poll didn’t factor in freshmen inbound and transfers, but this is arguably one of the most difficult Quinnipiacs opening schedules of the past decade.

We were excited to get the fans first, said Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey head coach Rand Pecknold. It’s an aggressive schedule for sure, but we want to test our guys early and play the best. I’m really excited to get North Dakota to come here for two (games).

Yes, fans are allowed to attend hockey games at full capacity wearing a mask. But there are some new faces for fans to see as the roster has changed drastically since March 27.

After speaking with goalkeeper Dylan St. Cyr and striker Oliver Chau, it’s clear they look confident and eager to get the season started.

Chau comes from a National Championship with UMass and brings a level of experience and leadership Quinnipiac needs to bring them back to the Frozen Four. He was also part of the UMass roster that lost in the 2019 national championship.

This is a winning culture, although they haven’t overcome the (championship) bump yet, Chau said. We have an incredible group and there is a lot of excitement this year.

Bringing in Chau was extremely important for Quinnipiac after losing his best playmaker in former captain Odeen Tufto. While Chau is not as prolific as Tufto in scoring points, he is still a disciplined, strong playmaker and playmaker who will help produce the Bobcats top six.

The most important transfer, just because of the position he plays, is St. Cyr. After finally landing the starting role at Notre Dame last season, he racked up impressive stats in the Big 10. In 23 games, he posted a save rate of .921 (SV%) and a 2.44 goals against average (GAA).

Notre Dame’s season was cut short due to a COVID-19 outbreak and missed the regional round of the NCAA playoffs. St. Cyr is looking forward to returning to the playoffs and making some noise in the process.

This is a place I really wanted to go to, said St. Cyr. I love the opportunity and it sounded like a great culture here so I was really excited about it.

Quinnipiac had 10 new players on the roster this year coming from graduate/senior transfers and incoming freshmen. It’s a new look for the team, and it’s something Pecknold is embracing despite having only ever had one graduate transfer in his career at Quinnipiac.

Its chaos, its pure chaos, Pecknold joked. We weren’t going to take five graduations, it just happened.

As for the returning protagonists for Quinnipiac, they were all happy with how the team is putting together and that the main goal is to secure a national championship.

Senior defender Zach Metsa was third on the team in points (26) in 2020. (Morgan Tencza/Chronicle Archives (2019))

Seniors Ethan de Jong (striker) and Zach Metsa (defender) round out the leadership core and are focused on generating another individually successful season.

After an excellent season, De Jong has become a gem in Quinnipiac’s attacking plan. Not to mention its use and placement on the powerplay is crucial.

Metsa, who lost one of his defending partners in Peter DiLiberatore this offseason, is the best and most important defender of the Quinnipiacs. The offensive aspect of his game exploded last season, scoring 26 points in 29 games and third on the team in points.

Returning for his sophomore season, forward Ty Smilanic has become one of the best players to produce and, like last year in place of senior forward Wyatt Bongiovanni who was injured, this year he has to step up again without Tufto.

Quinnipiac needs it to be healthy this season if it is to be a real contender. Bongiovanni plays a key role in attack and especially in power play. His impact on the offensive end is invaluable as he excels at creating his own space and finding holes in the defence.

The newly appointed captain’s eyes are on winning the national championship.

That’s number one, Bongiovanni said. That’s the most important thing on my mind, it’s the biggest thing I want to check off my to-do list. As for individual goals, of course there is always the ambition to go for a certain number of goals and a certain number of points, but in the end I am concerned about getting our team to the Frozen Four.

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