OK, the season isn’t quite kicking into full gear yet; the first complete slate of conference games comes next weekend. But when Iona and Quinnipiac face off in the first round of the third annual Quinnipiac Cup in East Haven, Conn., on Friday, Metro Atlantic hockey will finally become a reality.
“We’re extremely excited about the start of the season,” said Rand Pecknold, head coach of the host Braves. “The staff and administration are excited about the jump to Division I and the start of the MAAC. I definitely am. The players just want to start the season. They might not understand the significance of the first game now, but they will in a few years.”
Although the Q Cup is the only official MAAC action on tap, this weekend should also give an early indication of the how the MAAC stacks up against the rest of the Division I college hockey world, as the teams predicted to finish 1-2 hit the road in nonconference action. Holy Cross, the preseason pick to take first, heads to Colorado Springs for a weekend set with Air Force, while Canisius begins its traveling road show with a jaunt to Minnesota St.-Mankato. Without further ado, a look at this weekend’s matchups: Quinnipiac Cup Iona (0-0) vs. Quinnipiac (0-0) Friday, 5 p.m. EST, Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn. Fairfield (0-0) vs. Bentley (0-2) Friday, 8 p.m. EST, Ingalls Rink, New Haven, Conn. Saturday, 4/8 Consolation/Championship
Going into the third annual Q Cup, the host school looks like the prohibitive favorite. But don’t tell that to Braves coach Rand Pecknold as he preps his team for Friday’s faceoff with Iona. “We certainly don’t look to take them lightly,” said Pecknold. “They’re going to surprise some people this year. They’ve got 19 freshman coming in, and that’s the type of situation where anything can happen.”
Should Quinnipiac advance, they will face the winner of Fairfield, who the Braves beat 7-4 in the finals of last year’s Q Cup, and future MAAC entry Bentley. But Pecknold won’t allow his team to look that far ahead.
“We don’t adjust much,” said Pecknold. “We have a solid system that we more or less stick to. If we win we’ll watch the second game and take it from there.”
The tourney’s setting shifts to the more intimate confines of Yale’s Ingalls Rink after being held for two years at the New Haven Coliseum.
Picks: First round: Quinnipiac 7, Iona 2; Fairfield 5, Bentley 3. Consolation: Iona 8, Bentley 5. Championship: Quinnipiac 4, Fairfield 2. Holy Cross (0-0) at Air Force (0-0) Friday and Saturday, 7:30 PST, Cadet Ice Arena, Colorado Springs, Colo.
It might appear on the surface that there’s more pressure on Holy Cross than any other MAAC team this weekend. After all, Paul Pearl’s squad was picked first in the league preseason poll, and in one of their few nonconference games they are playing an independent that finished 7-15 against Division I teams last season.
But Pearl doesn’t see it that way. The fourth year coach says it’s a matter of having his untested squad (save for a 2-1 overtime exhibition win over Penn State last weekend) going into someone else’s rink for their season opener. The key to winning in these situations, according to Pearl, boils down to a simple matter of minimizing mistakes.
“It comes down to basics,” said Pearl. “We’ve got to stay out of the box, not turn the puck over, spend as little time as possible in our own zone when we’re in their building.” Picks: Holy Cross 4-3 (OT), 6-1.
Canisius (2-0) at Minnesota St.-Mankato (2-0) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. CST, Mankato Civic Center, Mankato, Minn.
After opening its season with a home sweep of Bentley last weekend, Canisius heads out to Minnesota for one of the bigger tests of the early season, as the Ice Griffs challenge a tough Mankato squad. To come out the trip in the win column, they’re going to have to stop Tyler Deis, a senior with 135 points in 95 games. But Bob Janosz should be up to the challenge. The Canisius senior goalie showed he’s up to his usual form in last Friday’s 6-2 win over Bentley, stopping 26 shots.
On offense, the Griffs will have to show the same balance they displayed against Bentley, when eight different players scored. They’ll also have to step up their power play. On the man advantage, Canisius was first in the country last year (37-130, .285). Against Bentley, they could only muster two goals in 11 attempts (.181).
Friday’s game will be the first-ever meeting between the two.
Picks: MSU-Mankato 7-3, 5-5 tie.