Midseason downtime forces Quinnipiac to get creative

Quinnipiac’s 7-1 win over Colgate on Jan. 14 helped continue the Raiders’ winless spiral, which eventually hit six games before it was snapped last weekend.

And for the Bobcats?

They’ve followed up the win with, well … nothing, as Friday’s matchup against Harvard will be their first game in 20 days.

“It’s a unique situation,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said.

With travel partner Princeton in the midst of exams for two weeks (The Tigers resumed play Tuesday night against Connecticut), the Bobcats couldn’t schedule any league games for that duration. Usually Pecknold arranges several nonconference matchups, but that wasn’t the case this year, and an exhibition game against the U.S. National Under-18 Team fell through as well, leaving Quinnipiac gameless for nearly three weeks in the middle of the season.

“It just didn’t work out scheduling any nonconference games, so I thought, ‘Hey, maybe we’ll just try it this way,'” Pecknold said.

It’s not exactly fair to say the Bobcats did nothing for that stretch; they held normal practices during the week and went bowling together as a team. The distance between games allowed for Quinnipiac to mix it up at practice — they held several mini-competitions in practice before starting to prepare for Harvard this week.

“We just tried to get creative and do something fresh,” Pecknold said.

Quinnipiac started classes Jan. 23, so the stretch allowed a break from the grind of the season and the classroom. It also helped the Bobcats get healthy, as Pecknold said several key players wouldn’t have been able to play the weekend following the Colgate game.

Quinnipiac will jump into the thick of a tightly bunched ECAC Hockey race. The Bobcats were third after their win against the Raiders, but fell to sixth while idle. But they’re just two points out of fourth place and a first-round playoff bye.

The mid-January break might not catch on like the butterfly style in the 1980s, but if Quinnipiac goes on a tear over the final month, who knows?

“The last couple weeks were a great team-building experience for us,” Pecknold said. “I hope it does us well for the stretch run and helps us for the playoffs. That’s the plan, anyway.

“Check back in five to six weeks to see,” he said with a laugh.

Saves, saves, saves

Listen to the audio broadcast of Clarkson’s 3-2 win over Rensselaer last Saturday and there’s nothing unusual about the play. Jacob Laliberte takes a Marty O’Grady pass, gains the zone and lofts a shot that Golden Knights goalie Paul Karpowich knocks down with his shoulder before covering it for the save early in the second period.

Routine, right? You could say so for the 2008 St. Louis Blues draft choice, who’s done it 3,396 times in 119 career games. That broke the team’s save record held by Dan Murphy, who stopped 3,375 shots from 1994 to 1998.

“When you have a major program like Clarkson hockey, it’s a fantastic accomplishment,” Golden Knights coach Casey Jones told Clarksonathletics.com after the game.

“When that happens that means you’re ready to play college hockey from the time you get to campus. … [Sometimes] you’re not quite prepared to step in and have the mental fortitude to play and it just shows that he was prepared to play. He’s sustained a high level of performance his whole career,” added Jones, who was an assistant when Murphy set the previous record.

But Karpowich, who is among the national leaders in multiple categories, almost ended his career before he even came to Clarkson. Check out the story by Cap Carey in The Watertown Daily Times.

A string of unusual events

There’s a lot to take away from Colgate’s weekend sweep of Cornell.

First, it gave the Raiders their first wins of 2012 and snapped a six-game winless skid. It also marked their first victory over the Big Red since 2007 and first sweep against their travel partner since 2003-04.

They capped the weekend by scoring four third-period goals to stun Cornell 5-3 Saturday night. Consider that the Big Red have given up four-plus goals in a game three times all season.

Of course, winger Austin Smith got in on the fun, scoring the Raiders’ first goal of the game Saturday while adding a short-handed strike in the third to tie it. His 26 goals are still tops in Division I and are bringing about some enthusiastic support from his coach.

“If Smith’s not a Hobey Baker finalist, I’ll have to think about resigning,” Colgate coach Don Vaughan told the Syracuse Post Standard after the game. “He’s that good. He’s special.”

Chances are, Vaughan and his 309 career wins will stay right at Colgate, as the senior’s goal-a-game pace should get him some recognition.

ECAC all-stars

OK, so it would be stretching it just a tiny bit to call either of the two major professional all-star games played last weekend true hockey games. But several former ECAC players participated in both competitions, which saw a combined 35 goals scored in regulation. (Team Chara beat Team Alfredsson 12-9 in the NHL, while the Western Conference won the AHL version 8-7 in a shootout.)

Minnesota forward Nick Johnson (Dartmouth 2004-08) and Ottawa forward Colin Greening (Cornell, 2006-10) each made the NHL rookie squad and competed in the skills challenge. Greening ranks sixth among rookies in points.

Boston goalie Tim Thomas won his fourth straight All-Star game. Thomas played collegiately for Vermont when it was an ECAC member.

The site of the ECAC tournament in Atlantic City, N.J., served as the backdrop for the AHL All-Star game. Former Brown (2000-04) goalie Yann Danis turned away all 11 shots he saw for the first shutout period in the All-Star game since 2005.

Danis plays for the Oklahoma City Barons, where he’s splitting time with former Cornell goalie David LeNeveu. Former Clarkson (2008-10) defender Mark Borowiecki skated for the Eastern Conference, while former RPI (2009-10) forward Brandon Pirri was selected, but didn’t appear after being called up by Chicago last week.

Weekly awards and poll check-in

As selected by the conference coaches:

Player of the week: Alex Killorn, Harvard. The senior scored three goals, including two third-period winners to help Harvard sweep Yale and Dartmouth and move into the top four in the conference.

Rookie of the week: Joe Wilson, Colgate. The freshman helped the Raiders sweep Cornell for the first time since 2003-04 with a four-point (2-2–4) weekend. He scored the winner in Friday’s 2-1 win and helped a late rally Saturday with a steal and breakaway goal.

Goalie of the week: Troy Grosenick, Union. The Dutchmen’s standout goalie was beaten just two times all weekend to help Union take four points and move into first place. It’s the second week in a row and fourth time this season Grosenick has been honored as the league’s top goalie.

The latest USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll has three ECAC teams in the top 20, including Union (11), Cornell (14) and Colgate (20). The Raiders return after dropping out the week before. Quinnipiac and Harvard were in the receiving votes category.

Union and Cornell are tied for 14th and 18th, respectively, in the PairWise Rankings, while Colgate is just outside the top 20 at 22nd.


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