Quinnipiac could be off to best start
Notes: UMass Lowell improved to 6-1; Kristo is leading DI scorer
Twenty-one games into the season, Quinnipiac is in the midst of what could be the best season in school history.
However things didn’t start off so well. After seven games, they were 3-3-1 and coming off a home loss to American International.
“The first month of the season we really had our struggles,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “The team wasn’t playing the way I knew we could and I knew it was just a matter of us gelling together. The weekend we swept Colgate and Cornell [Nov. 9-10], really got us over the hump, and from there we started to play the way we are supposed to play. We picked up some confidence and it just took off from there.”
The season has taken off in the form of a 14-game unbeaten streak, which has featured 13 wins and only one tie, in addition to a current eight-game win streak. The unbeaten streak is the longest in NCAA Division I hockey this season. The Bobcats are 16-3-2 overall and a perfect 10-0 in ECAC Hockey action, the best start for any team since they joined the league in 2005-06.
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“We haven’t really discussed the ranking or records or win streak, we have just been focused on continuing to work hard during practice,” Pecknold said. “Our work ethic in practice has really been phenomenal, and that has definitely carried over into the games and been one of the keys to the season so far.”
Quinnipiac is ranked 5th in the latest USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls, just short of a program record fourth place in 2009. In addition, the Bobcats received first-place votes, two in the USCHO.com poll and three in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, for the first time in program history.
“While the success so far has been great, there are a lot of games left to play,” Pecknold said. “ECAC Hockey has six teams ranked in the top 20, so we have a tough road ahead of us. We just need to stay grounded and take it one game at a time.”
For a program that has won at least 20 games, 10 times in its 14 year history as a Division I member, the potential of postseason play is still relatively new. The only NCAA appearance in school history was a first-round loss in the 2002 NCAA tournament after they won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title. That being said, Pecknold has lofty goals for his team that were set back in September.
“Our goals haven’t changed since the beginning of the season,” Pecknold said. “We still want to finish in the top four in the league and compete for the regular season championship. We also want to win the conference tournament championship and make the NCAA tournament. Our goal is also to win games in the NCAA tournament and make the Frozen Four. We won’t be happy just to get to NCAAs.”
The key to the success so far has been senior goalie Eric Hartzell. For the year, Hartzell is 16-2-2 for an NCAA-best .850 win percentage while his 1.48 goals-against average ranks third nationally while his .934 save percentage is 12th overall among Division I goalies. Hartzell's GAA is the best in the country among goalies with over 1,000 minutes between the pipes.
“We definitely have a lot of depth and that has been a key for us,” Pecknold said. “Our top three lines have been very consistent and even our fourth line has shown they can play. However, the biggest difference has been our goaltending. Hartzell has just been great all year.”
Not only has the team been success on the ice, but off the ice as well. Twenty-four players on the team had a grade point average of 3.0 or better last semester.
“We are extremely proud of how well everyone is doing academically,” Pecknold said. “When we recruit, we go after good students because Quinnipiac is an excellent school and academics is a priority.”
• North Dakota seniors Danny Kristo and Corban Knight have combined for 260 points in their careers, making them the nation’s most prolific pair of teammates. Kristo is riding a five-game goal-scoring streak and has 11 points (5g, 6a) during that time. He is the active leading scorer in NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey with 134 career points, one better than Colorado College senior forward Rylan Schwartz. Knight is currently riding a 15-game point streak, UND’s longest since All-American Brandon Bochenski had a 17-game streak during the 2002-03 season. Knight, who is averaging a league-leading 1.53 points per game (all games), has 27 points (8g, 19a) during his 15-game streak.
• Senior F Andrew Miller is the 115th captain of Yale men’s hockey. He has 6-8-14 this season and needs one more assist to become only the second Bulldog to get 100 career assists. He has played 118 games in his career with 30 goals and 99 assists for 129 points. Miller is also among a select group of college players who have more points than career games played. He has been ranked among the top 10 in Division I for assists the last three years.
• UMass-Lowell improved to 6-1 against non-conference opponents with a sweep at Clarkson last weekend, 2-1 on Friday and 6-2 on Saturday for the best non-conference clip in Hockey East. Northeastern senior goaltender Chris Rawlings stopped 26 shots in the setback and is now just six saves short of owning the second-most career saves at Northeastern. Rawlings has 3,161 career saves, five short of Brad Thiessen's career mark of 3,166.
With two wins at Northern Michigan Jan. 11-12, Enrico Blasi would become the first hockey coach to earn 300 wins at Miami, as he is already the school’s all-time winningest coach … American International was off last week, and will open the New Year hosting a weekend set against No. 18 Niagara, ending an eight-game, 55-day stint away from the Olympia Ice Center … Western Michigan is averaging 3.4 goals per game on Fridays and just 1.6 on Saturdays … With a 3-2-1 non-confer¬ence record and just one regular season non-conference match remaining (at No. 5 Quinnipiac Jan. 22), Connecticut has secured the best non-conference record in its Division I history…UConn faces Robert Morris this weekend, looking for the first victory against RMU (0-4-0) … Holy Cross’ 10-6-2 record is their best after 18 games since the 2005-2006 season when they were 12-5-1 … Niagara (Atlantic Hockey) and Quinnipiac (ECAC) are the only two remaining undefeated teams in conference play … Yale junior forward Jesse Root is the cousin of NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino … Minnesota State went 6-0-2 in nonconference action in 2010-11 in marking the only other time the program went undefeated in nonconference action during the program’s NCAA Division I-era … Two teams heading in opposite directions collide this weekend when the struggling Colorado CollegeTigers attempt to snap a seven-game (0-6-1) winless skid in a two game series at the University of North Dakota, a squad that has not lost since falling to CC by a 5-3 count at the World Arena on Nov. 30. That represents Colorado College’s only victory in its last 12 games … Western Michigan sophomore goaltender Frank Slubowski earned his third shutout this season on Friday and fifth of his career. Slubowski needs three more to tie former Bronco Riley Gill for the program record for shutouts in a career … Last Friday’s shut¬out loss was the third in Bemidji State’s first 20 games in 2012-13, marking the first time since the 2000-01 campaign the Beavers have been held scoreless three times in a single season. BSU has never been shutout four times in the same season.