Quinnipiac Looks to Build on Fast Start
by Timothy O'Donnell/CHN Reporter
Eighteen. That’s the number of freshmen and sophomores that Rand Pecknold and the Quinnipiac Bobcats played with last season. The team struggled at times en route to a 16-15-8 season.
But that only meant that most of its lineup would be back, and that raised the possibility that this could be a special season for Quinnipiac, which is still looking for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since moving to the ECAC in 2005.
So far, Quinnipiac is 6-2 and is outscoring its opponents, 35-16.
“Our work ethic has been very consistent,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “I wouldn’t say we’re perfect, but for the most part I think we’ve played a pretty good 60 minutes every night.”
It helps that the players and coaches are on the same page.
“We’ve been pretty consistent, which is a good thing,” captain Scott Zurevinski said. “We’ve struggled with that in the past.”
In recent years, Quinnipiac has had strong starts, only to slip as the year went on. But with a new approach, Quinnipiac is hoping to avoid that.
“They’re making plays, they’re finishing their scoring chances,” Pecknold said. “That was an issue last year. We didn’t have a lot of confidence when it came to finishing our plays. This year we’re a little bit older, little bit more mature and the confidence is there.”
Two years the Bobcats started 12-1 and rose to the No. 4 ranking. But then they crashed. Winning only eight more games and finishing the season 20-18-2. And this season’s start has brought back the hype and excitement about the team that was seen two seasons ago.
“It’s a different team, a different focus,” Pecknold said. “That year we had some seniors who got hot. (Goalie Dan Clarke) was real hot during that streak.
“This is a better overall team and probably better suited to handle the length of a season.”
The experience the team, especially the younger players, gained last year is paying off in a huge way on offense. The Bobcats rank fourth in the nation in goals per game, behind powerhouse Minnesota, Michigan and Boston College.
Unlike the 2009-10 season, this Bobcats team is being led by underclassmen and are getting production from everyone on the ice. The offensive firepower starts with Jeremy Langlois. Langlois, a junior, has started the season on fire, scoring eight goals in eight games, including a natural hat trick on Oct. 15 against Canisius.
But Langlois isn’t doing it alone. He currently plays on a line with Zurevinski and talented freshman Matthew Peca. Since the three were put together, they have recorded 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in five games.
“It’s three very good players. They all have different skills and different strengths,” Pecknold said. “They hunt pucks well. They play well together. Even more than the offense they’re providing right now, all three of them are very good defensively. They’re cleaning up the ‘D’ zone pretty quickly and then we can go and play offense.”
Peca has made a splash in his first season with the Bobcats. The seventh-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning got off to a slow start but has impressed since he started playing with Zurevinski and Langlois. He has points in seven straight games, including three straight games with a goal.
“He was a highly touted, impact type player coming in,” Pecknold said. “We knew he was going to be good but the nice thing is we’ve surrounded him with good players.
“There’s pressure on him, but there’s not a ton of pressure. He realizes that he has two really good linemates that are going to take some pressure off him and help him succeed.”
While the Zurevinksi-Peca-Langlois line has been firing on all cylinders since they were put together, they aren’t the only ones playing well. Sophomore twins, Kellen and Connor Jones, have impressed this season, improving upon their freshmen campaigns. Connor leads the team with seven assists (10 points total), while Kellen is right behind Connor with eight points.
While the Bobcats have those big offensive weapons, they are getting more production from the rest of their lineup. Spencer Heichman as already tied his career high with four goals, which he did his freshman season and last season. Heischman is leading a group of less-heralded players who are playing a big role for the Bobcats.
“It’s great that the Langlois line is scoring and Connor’s line is scoring, but we’ve gotten excellent production from our bottom six forwards,” Pecknold said. “If you’re going to get goals from your third and fourth lines, you’re going to win a lot of hockey games.”
With the Bobcats having more offensive depth this year, they have been able to erase one of their infamous stigmas. In past years the Bobcats were known to play down to their opponents. Instead of beating the teams they should beat, the Bobcats would just squeak out a victory, tie, or lose.
But this year things are different. They haven’t just beaten the teams they should beat, the Bobcats have beaten them handily. The Bobcats have scored less than four goals just once this season and have wins of 7-0, 6-1 and 4-0.
“Our guys are really committed right now,” Pecknold said “We’ve played hard. Out of the eight games, we’ve played hard and committed in seven of the eight.”
“We’ve been much consistent in our work ethic and out compete level and it obviously shows in our record,” Pecknold said.