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College Hockey:
After topsy-turvy season, Quinnipiac builds around goaltender

Last year

When Quinnipiac rocketed out to a 12-1-0 start, it looked as though the Bobcats could cruise their way right into the NCAA tournament.

Apparently, that sentiment was felt too deep in the locker room as well, as the Q-Cats dozed their way into a 1-11-2 slump and finished the year only two games over .500 … and an even 11-11-0 in ECAC Hockey.

That said, Quinnipiac did manage to dispatch with pesky Dartmouth in three games, and even took Game 1 of a second-round road series at Union — in quintuple-overtime, no less. The home-standing Dutchmen bounced back with great fortitude in 3-1 and 2-1 games to end QU’s season.

The senior trifecta of Brandon Wong, Eric Lampe and Jean-Marc Beaudoin led the charge, each scoring more than a dozen goals and more than 34 points. (Wong’s 19-22–41 set the pace.) Goalie Dan Clarke earned the lion’s share of the netminding minutes, playing 34 games and maintaining respectable 2.52 goals-against average, .913 save percentage figures.

The assets

Long a tale of great woe in Bobcat Country, Quinnipiac may have finally found a worthy goalie in Clarke. The sophomore may have surrendered four-plus seven times last season, but he also held opponents to two goals or fewer in 20 outings … including a six-game string of such outstanding performances, all against ECAC opposition, to boot.

Coach Rand Pecknold declared it too early to tell how this edition of Hamden Hockey will shine, but early signs indicate that goaltending might finally be in capable hands.

Also of note, while the firepower lost to graduation is extreme, it could’ve been worse, according to an e-mail from Pecknold:

“Scott Zurevinski was offered the [rookie] maximum by the Vancouver Canucks and turned them down to return for his junior year. He will [most likely] sign next summer and not be back for his senior year. He had multiple other teams interested and prepared to offer, but he made it clear he wanted to do one more year at Quinnipiac. He will be our captain this year.”

The weak links

Losing your top three scorers? That’s a problem, especially when they’re as prolific as Wong/Lampe/Beaudoin were. All were 100-point scorers in their respective QU careers, and adding Greg Holt, the Bobcats bid adieu to four of their five 10-goal scorers from last season (now-junior Zurevinski was the other, with 16).

So, yeah. Big, big shoes to fill there; theres really no other way to say it.

Prediction:

Quinnipiac has been a high-flying, fast-paced, run-and-gun kind of team ever since joining ECAC Hockey (though it probably was prior, too). It will be surreal to see the Bobcats without the likes of Wong, Lampe or Beaudoin, but such is life. Who will step up and score the big goals? Pecknold will coach his offense to play the same way it has always played, but the question isn’t the strategy, it’s the ability … and that’s a tremendous question mark in central Connecticut today.

If the defense — which returns 100 percent intact — can support Clarke, and vice-versa, the Q should at least have a fighting chance of keeping its head above water until the snipers get comfortable. At first blush, I had foreseen a long, hard season for the Bobcats, culminating in a depressing first-round road series … but maybe I’m selling them short. Quinnipiac has never been anyone’s idea of a defense-first program, but maybe this is its opportunity to evolve a bit.


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