The Power of Three
Quinnipiac Goaltending Trio Battle For Top Billing
by Matthew Ruffini/CHN Reporter
Coming into the 2009-10 season, goaltending was one of the many questions facing Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. That's been a theme in recent years, since goaltending hasn’t been one of the team's strengths.
When Bud Fisher burst onto the scene in 2005-06, it looked as if Pecknold had found a goalie he could depend on. In Fisher’s first two years at Quinnipiac, he started 73 games and won 46 of them while taking the Bobcats deep into the playoffs. Fisher’s junior and senior years were not, as successful as injuries and inconsistency took their toll, which hurt the Bobcats down the stretch.
Recently, the Bobcats have had star players like Bryan Leitch, who led the nation in scoring last year; forward Brandon Wong, who in the 2006-07 season scored the most goals of any freshman; and offensive defenseman, Reid Cashman. Goalie is the position that the Bobcats have struggled in the star power category. However, that is something that sophomore Dan Clarke, as well as freshmen Mathieu Cadieux and Eric Hartzell, are looking to change.
Last year the Bobcats had three goalies on the roster, Fisher, Clarke and freshman Nick Pisellini. Just when it looked as if Pisellini had won the job after a string of consecutive solid performances, he had to leave the team for personal reasons and never returned. That opened the door for Clarke, and in his first game of the season passed a very tough test in beating 11th-ranked Air Force. Clarke finished the 2008-09 season with a record of 5-6-1 and GAA of 2.83.
With Fisher and Pisellini no longer with the team, Pecknold brought in two freshmen goalies to compete with Clarke for the starting job. Mathieu Cadieux was ranked highly in his class coming into the season, and for good reason. Cadieux spent his 2008-09 season with Cobourg Cougars of the OJHL and played extremely well, to the point where he was receiving attention from the pro scouts. Cadieux had offers from other schools but he chose Quinnipiac because he knew he would have a chance to compete for playing time.
The other freshman goalie is Eric Hartzell, who spent last season in the USHL with the Sioux Falls Stampede, and in 46 games, went 20-22 with a 3.28 GAA. While playing in Sioux Falls Hartzell had the privilege of playing under the Stampede’s all-time winning coach Kevin Hartzell, Eric’s father.
Coming into this season, Pecknold wasn’t sure who was going to be his starter. By starting the season with two games at 17th-ranked Ohio State, the opportunity to impress the coach and win the job came early for the three contestants. Hartzell started the first game, and the Bobcats won 4-2 as Hartzell saved 30 0f 32 shots. To complete the upset sweep of the Buckeyes, Pecknold turned to Clarke and was again not disappointed. Clarke had his most impressive start as a Bobcat as he was under pressure all night and cracked only once, making 44 saves in a 3-1 win.
According to Clarke, sweeping Ohio State did wonders for the confidence of the Bobcats.
“People questioned our goaltending heading into the season and I think Hartzell, Cadieux and I answered the bell.," he said. "But we’re only three games into the season, if we establish consistency it will be a good year.”
Next up to impress the coach was Cadieux, who started Quinnipiac’s home opener against Bentley, and made 25 saves in a 3-2 win.
Clarke, Cadieux and Hartzell know the pressure is on them to step up, win some games and possibly the starting job.
“We have a friendly but competitive relationship on and off the ice, we keep it loose and we’re friends," Cadiuex said. "But there is also that competitive side because we want that number one spot. Being friends pushes us that much harder but at the same time we are also helping each other out along the way.”
Pressure can be a good thing for players but too much could also be a bad thing which is what Clarke and the other goalies are trying to keep in mind.
“Pressure will always be there, but if you put too much on yourself then you’re not going to perform," Clarke said. "We have three capable guys to do the job and it’s a battle every day. If you don’t come prepared to practice there are two more guys ready to take your spot.”
With the three goalies winning in their first games of the year Pecknold now has the tough job that most coaches wish they had of deciding what goalie to play.
“Eventually we will need to settle on one or two goalies as a three-goalie rotation probably isn’t the best long term solution," Pecknold said. "It will all work itself out over the next month. Whichever one ends up being the third goalie could work themselves back into the top two for the second semester.”
Right now all three are impressing, however, Pecknold knows how quickly things can change in college hockey.
“The entire coaching staff all very much like Cadieux and Hartzell, they both have great upside, but it is still very early in the process and they have to continue to work had to improve their game for this level," Pecknold said. "One good start doesn’t make a career.”