Team of the Week: Quinnipiac
by Joe Meloni/CHN Staff Writer
The grind of a college hockey season makes it difficult for teams to piece together lengthy runs of success. Even winning streaks come with the occasional lapse.
Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold saw this from his team last weekend, as the Bobcats weathered some struggles in a sweep of Union and Rensselaer. The pair of victories extended Quinnipiac's unbeaten streak to eight games (7-0-1), making them the CHN Team of the Week.
Six different Bobcats scored in 4-0 and 3-1 wins over the weekend in a pair of games that defined the team's season thus far. Pecknold has developed more depth than he's had in the past, and the presence of consistent contributions throughout the lineup propelled QU to success in the first half. Jeremy Langlois, Clay Harvey and other expected sources have scored the goals most expected, but Travis St. Denis, Jordan Samuels-Thomas and other newcomers offer balance. The team's reliance on its forecheck necessitates depth to keep players fresh throughout the game.
"In the past, we've been a one-line team or a two-line team, but we're getting production from everyone now," Pecknold said. "Obviously, our best players have been there, but we've had some injury issues that forced other players to step up. They did. It's allowed us to roll four lines throughout most games, and it's made us a better team.
"There are certain things we need to do well to win. Our penalty kill, defense and goaltending have all been very good, and our forecheck has been there as well. It's allowed us to bottle teams up and create offense, but it helps our defense as well."
On the back end, a solid defensive corps has improved steadily. The play of senior goaltender Eric Hartzell stands out most, however. In 14 games played, Hartzell has a 10-2-2 record, with a 1.41 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. The workload isn't always massive — he made 20 and 21 saves in last weekend's wins — but consistently strong play helps the club survive lapses in play.
"Whenever we've had some slip-ups, Eric has bailed us out," Pecknold said. "There are times when he's had to be great, and he has been. Other times, he hasn't had to be great, because we were playing well. He's been dominant, though, and it's important for us to get that level of goaltending."
Hartzell's consistency and occasional dominance has helped Quinnipiac move into the conversation as a contender nationally, but the Pecknold and his team haven't lost sight of their early-season goals. Improving throughout the year and being a championship-caliber team when the ECAC tournament begins.
Despite a 10-3-2 record to this point and a 6-0-0 mark in conference play, there are problem areas Pecknold knows his club must improve. And the team has had good starts before, only to falter in mid-season.
Playing truly perfect games is impossible for even the best teams. However, carrying the same compete-level from game to game has eluded QU's grasp to this point. Hartzell's sustained the team at these times. As the season progresses, however, avoiding these issues is critical to win championships against top competition.
"We're excited about our start, but the goal is to get better," Pecknold said. "We've had a few weekends when we were very good on the Friday and came out slow on Saturday.
"We were excited about our team coming into the season. With our success, our goals haven't changed. We want to win the league in the regular season and in the tournament. If we do one of those things, we'll find ourselves in the NCAA tournament. Obviously, winning the tournament gets us the automatic bid, but, if we win the regular season, we'll probably be in good enough position to get into the tournament as well."