Though sporting a new mascot, the Quinnipiac Bobcats are likely to worry about an old-time sports problem: the sophomore slump.
It was just a year ago that Quinnipiac entered the season with a rookie-filled lineup but shocked the league and the nation when the young class gelled late and carried the club to the MAAC championship.
Pecknold will add eight freshmen to an already-young team. But after seeing a similar road map successfully followed last season, head coach Rand Pecknold isn’t too worried.
— Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold
“I like our team going into the year,” said Pecknold. “Chemistry-wise it’s a great group of kids. The freshmen have integrated well with the upperclassmen and that’s always a concern of mine.
“It likely will be similar to last year where we need to get these younger kids some game experience. We’re going to have 20 freshmen and sophomores on the team this year.”
Pecknold notes goaltending and defense as the club’s two strongest areas. Junior Justin Eddy and sophomore Jamie Holden, possibly the best goaltender in the league this season, will provide the Bobcats with a strong one-two punch. Defensively, Quinnipiac is also well set, leaving offense the only question mark.
“We have three senior [defensemen] back there and that makes us really strong,” said Pecknold “The issue that we’re going to have happen is finding a couple of more forwards to score. We’ve got guys who had 30 or more points last year, but we need two more kids to add to that this season.”
Quinnipiac lost impact seniors in Neil Breen, Todd Bennett and Ryan Olsen. Those three not only provided offensive support last season, they helped bring together a team that, in the past, was heavy on talent and low on leadership.
“I think they’re big shoes to fill,” said Pecknold of last year’s seniors. “We have good captains in Matt Erhart and Dan Ennis, but we need more than them to step up. We need other great leaders who aren’t wearing a letter on their shirt.”
That could come from sophomore forwards Matt Craig and Chris White. Both players were 30-point scorers in the rookie campaigns and are likely the two biggest lights that Pecknold hopes to keep lit in their second NCAA campaign.
As has always been the case, Quinnipiac will sport an aggressive schedule that contains nonleague games against Maine (possibly twice, as the Bobcats will play in the Black Bear Classic), Lake Superior and Northeastern.
“I think we’ll do well in the nonleague games but I don’t focus in on those games any more than others,” said Pecknold. “Hopefully we’ll have a good defensive hockey team that can carry us.”