Readers, take notice: Don’t for one be minute fooled into thinking that the Quinnipiac Braves are going to be anything less than the usual powerhouse.
That’s right, you read it here first. Contrary to popular belief, Rand Pecknold’s Quinnipiac team will finish in the top three of the MAAC.
Okay, call me crazy and maybe even send me to a mental institution (with or without this prediction). Yes, the Braves will be the league’s youngest team, fielding a total of 15 rookies in and out of the lineup on any night.
But it’s hard to believe that Pecknold, who has guided his team to a three-year MAAC-best record of 75-23-9, won’t turn this class of 15 into competitive, championship-caliber players very quickly.
That said, though, it’s no surprise that Pecknold will give the standard statements to the media.
“I think it’s a major rebuilding year for us,” Pecknold said. “We graduated such a productive class that won so many games. We just lost five of the school’s all-time top 20 scorers.
“We’re just going to be as competitive as possible. Whether that takes us a year or two or three, we realize that it takes some time to get back to our former level.”
Sign this man up as a media spokesperson for any company. He knows how to talk.
Regardless, it seems MAAC coaches agree. Quinnipiac was voted fifth in the preseason poll, the lowest ever for the league’s most established program.
But if you talk to Pecknold long enough, you quickly realize that he still believes that his team can be contenders.
“We always want to finish first, but we want to be realistic,” said Pecknold. “I think the big thing is that we keep improving as a program with a goal of going to the NCAA Tournament. To get there this year we have to hope that we can improve from the start of the season to the end and get some games under the freshmen’s belts.”
Ah… so now it’s said. The Braves aren’t going to roll over and play dead. Did you really expect them to?
The Braves did lose much of their offensive production from a season ago. They also lost one of the best goaltenders in school history in J.C. Wells. But what they retained was one of the two best rookie netminders last season in Justin Eddy.
Standing six-foot-three, the lanky Eddy was the workhorse of the goaltending tandem last year, carrying a 14-9-3 record with a .911 save percentage and a 2.80 goals against average.
Eddy proved his worth early last season, posting an impressive 58-save performance against St. Lawrence, earning the Braves a 1-1 tie. Eddy would record a 45-save victory over Union later in the season, giving the Braves their first win against a “Big Four” school.
To lighten Eddy’s load for this year, Pecknold recruited a goaltender he feels was among the best available in Jamie Holden. He only can hope that Holden can adjust to the college game as quickly and as well as his counterpart Eddy did last season.
Offensively, Quinnipiac does return some scoring threats. Junior Brian Herbert and senior Ryan Olsen are the top two returning scorers, while defensively, Matt Erhart, possibly one of the best in the league, will return for his junior season.
Pecknold, though, is looking forward to what could be a new role in the league — the chaser.
“It might take off pressure not to be a top pick,” Pecknold said. “I don’t know how other teams in the league are viewing us, but we don’t have that dominant returning nucleus that we’ve had.
“We’ve set our standards high. And we have a number of kids coming back that want to stay at the top.”
Just remember, you heard it here first.