Thursday, March 22, 2012

Peca and the Jones boys will be back at Quinnipiac

Quinnipiac got some good news this week when the dynamic line of freshman Matthew Peca and sophomore twins Kellen and Connor Jones met with coach Rand Pecknold and confirmed they would all be returning to school.

Peca (Tampa Bay) and Kellen Jones (Edmonton) are both draft picks, though the concern with Peca was more centered around interest from Canadian major junior teams. Connor Jones, undrafted, is drawing interest on the NHL free agent market. The three will have decisions to make again next spring, but for now the Bobcats will enjoy another season with a lethal scoring line.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Yale will bring in 8

Yale will take another sizable graduation hit, including the loss of the program's second all-time leading scorer in Brian O'Neill. It will replenish with eight new recruits -- three defensemen and five forwards -- to replace seven graduating seniors and an eighth spot vacated by freshman Adam Thompson, who left school back in September.

One recruit who won't be in the class is Milford resident and Avon Old Farms defenseman Colin Sullivan. A draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens last June, Sullivan had planned to play a season of Junior hockey next winter before enrolling at Yale. He changed his mind on Juniors in February. Since Yale's incoming class had already been filled, Sullivan informed Yale he would be re-opening his recruitment. Boston College is believed to be at the top of his list.

Here is the list of who is expected to arrive, though still unofficial:

Matt Beattie, RW, Phillips Exeter: A 6-foot-3 forward from New Jersey emerged as a star this winter as one of the top scorers in New England Prep hockey. Drawing NHL interest. Picked Yale over Harvard and Princeton.

Charles Orzetti, LW, Surrey (BCHL): At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Orzetti, a New Jersey native who went out to B.C. this season, finished with 19 ponts in 39 games.

Carson Cooper, C, Fort McMurray (AJHL): Enjoyed solid production with 59 points in 49 regular season games as well as 14 more in eight playoff games.

Cody Learned, RW, Junior Bruins (EJHL): The 5-foot-9, 175-pound New Hampshire native finished season with 14 goals and 50 points and seven points in four playoff games.

Stu Wilson, LW, Cedar Rapids (USHL): A 5-9, 164-pound wing from Rochester, N.Y., Wilson had 21 points in 39 regular season games.

Mitch Witek, D, Waterloo (USHL): The Illinois resident, a Junior teammate of current Yale freshman Anthony Day, finished with 16 assists and a +9 rating for the season.

Ryan Obuchowski, D, Indiana (USHL): Detroit native played for former Yale assistant Kyle Wallack in Indiana this year, and finished with five goals and 13 points

Rob O'Gara, D, Milton Academy: Like Beattie, an All-New England prep school pick this winter. Drafted by the Boston Bruins last June. At 6-foot-3 and pushing 200 pounds, should be an immediate contributor in New Haven.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Scott Zurevinski heading to AHL

Scott Zurevinski, captain at Quinnipiac the past two seasons, is expected to fly to St. John's (Newfoundland) Friday to sign an ATO with the American League Hockey team there. St. John's is affiliated with the Winnipeg Jets. A source close to the situation said it's not a done deal yet, but indicated Zurevinski is expected to sign later today.

At Quinnipiac, Zurevinski played in 155 games and scored 92 points. His offensive production trailed off the past two seasons after scoring 30 points as a sophomore, garnering an NHL contract offer from Vancouver which he turned down to return to school. But at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he has the physical presence and skill set to succeed as a pro.

And, if all goes according to plan, Zurevinski could make his pro debut on Saturday against a Manchester team that just signed Yale's captain Brian O'Neill, expected to make his debut on Friday against St. John's.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Brian O'Neill signs with Los Angeles Kings

Yale senior Brian O'Neill has signed a one-year NHL contract with the Los Angeles Kings. He will report to the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H. for practice today, and fly to St. John's (Newfoundland) for his pro debut this weekend.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a source close to the situation said O'Neill received the maximum signing bonus for rookies allowed under the NHL's collective bargaining agreement. The contract is a two-way deal and O'Neill will also get the maximum allowable AHL salary, which is guaranteed.

Several teams showed interest, but O'Neill felt the Kings were the best fit. The team offered him a similar deal last summer. O'Neill turned it down and returned to Yale for his senior season, where he led the team in scoring for a third successive season.

The Kings are expected to announce the signing later today.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Brian O'Neill should have NHL offers soon

Expect Yale senior Brian O'Neill to sign an NHL contract soon, perhaps within the next few days. Last summer, O'Neill turned down an NHL offer from the Los Angeles Kings for the maximum amount of money allowed to a rookie under the league's collective bargaining agreement. While O'Neill quickly turned that deal down to return to school, the Kings are among several suitors interested. He already has a contract offer on the table from a HockeyAllsvenskan club in Sweden, the same league that signed Yale's Broc Little last season. But Yale coach Keith Allain said Monday he's confident O'Neill will have an NHL deal shortly.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Live blogging from Harvard and Colgate

Chip is in Boston, Kevin Sokolski is in Hamilton, N.Y.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Yale-Harvard Game 2 live chat

Friday, March 9, 2012

Yale/Harvard: Live blogging from Boston

I'll be live blogging/chatting from Harvard all weekend for the ECAC quarterfinal series between Yale and the Crimson. I hate talking to myself, so please follow along and join the conversation.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Quinnipiac hungry for Atlantic City

On the one hand Quinnipiac has been remarkably consistent since joining the ECAC from Atlantic Hockey back in 2005-06, winning a first-round series in all seven seasons. Considering it took Union the better part of two decades to finally win a playoff series, the Bobcats immediate success is impressive.

But while the first round has never been a problem, Quinnipiac has only gotten past the quarterfinal round once. The 2006-07 team, led by All-American defenseman Reid Cashman, came within a few minutes of winning the whole ball of wax, losing a late third-period lead to Clarkson in the championship game at Albany, N.Y.

Some very good Bobcat teams have been eliminated over the past four years. With Cashman back as a first-year assistant, the Bobcats best chance to return to the semifinals, now held on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J. In order to get there, Quinnipiac will need to be sure it holds up on defense. Colgate stumbled to the finish line with four straight losses, but remains as dangerous an offensive club in the conference with Hobey Baker candidate Austin Smith (34 goals and 52 points in 34 games).

"We have to be careful with Smith, the guys having a good year," Quinnipiac forward Kellen Jones said prior to Wednesday's practice. "But the rest of their team has some good players, and the D-corps is good too. If we play good defensively, I think that will lead to some offense. If we're not getting scored on, then we have to be putting the puck in the net."

Quinnipiac's main line of sophomores Kellen and Connor Jones and freshman Matthew Peca has been as good as any in the league of late. The identical twins have found a perfect fit in Peca, a brilliant offensive talent that makes the line a threat to score each time it takes the ice.

"We all like to go and play and create offense," Connor Jones said. "That's one of the things that makes us so effective is we're always buzzing and working hard. It helps that I have two draft picks on my line. They're pretty special players. I've been playing with my brother for a while and Pecs knows how to read off us. It's worked out well."

What the Bobcats need as much as solid goaltending and special teams is contributions from the other lines. An injury to Jeremy Langlois, still not 100 percent but cleared to play Friday, has hampered Quinnipiac's depth. Eric Hartzell is expected to start in goal.

Quinnipiac, used to practicing in the early afternoon, will depart from Hamden at 8 a.m. Thursday so it can practice at Colgate's Starr Rink in Hamilton, N.Y. at 1 p.m.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

No bye, no problem for Yale

A couple of notes from Yale's practice this afternoon...
  • A strong finish has been the result of several factors, Yale coach Keith Allain said, but special teams and goaltending has been at the top of the list. The Bulldogs have seven power-play goals over the past four games, three each against Dartmouth and Harvard, while junior Nick Maricic has found the groove in net.

  • Maricic will start Game 1 of the best-of-3 series with Princeton on Friday.

  • Allain seems to have found the right combination of lines, which has resulted in more quality chances and more goals. "That's had a lot to do with the turnaround the last couple of weeks," senior Brian O'Neill said. "I think we were getting stale with the lines. To get some new life in the lines really gives everyone an extra spark for the second half of the season. I think that was a great move by Coach and he's seeing the benefits of that."

  • Allain said finishing shots has been a big difference, though the chemistry between the top three lines has been effective. "I like Andrew (Miller) with Kenny (Agostino)," Allain said. "I think they see things the same way, and I think Anthony Day has gotten better on the right side with those two. Having Lags (Antoine Laganiere) with Brian gives him some size, a guy whose dogging the puck. (Jesse) Root is just a smart player all over the ice, so I like that combination. And the Limbo (Kevin Limbert) line has been more or less consistent all year long, so those three lines we feel pretty good about right now."

  • Root has seen his production rise centering a line with O'Neill and Antoine Laganiere, but Allain has been impressed with his play all season. "He's a heck of a hockey player," Allain said. "If you were trying to think who's the most underrated guy on our team is, he'd be someone to come to my mind pretty quickly."

  • Yale still can't be classified as healthy, but Allain said the situation is better than last Saturday when injuries to Colin Dueck and Bennett Carroccio forced the Bulldogs to use freshman forward Alex Ward -- who hadn't seen the ice all season -- as a defenseman. No one has been ruled out for Friday as of yet, though Allain said he's still not 100 percent sure.

  • The last three seasons, not only have the Bulldogs enjoyed a first-round bye but also had the luxury of knowing an NCAA berth was in the bag regardless of what happened in the ECAC playoffs. This season, things are different. Yale can't make the NCAAs unless it wins a championship. O'Neill said the team mentality remains the same. "There's always pressure to win this tournament because that's the expectation," O'Neill said. "I don't know if there's added pressure. We're playing for our lives here, so that gives a little extra excitement for us. I think everyone will use that as motivation to keep playing."
  • O'Neill has been named the Ivy League player of the year.

Quinnipiac ready for Brown

Here's a few quick notes out of Quinnipiac today...
  • Jeremy Langlois, the team's leading goal scorer with 16, will miss his fourth straight game with an injury on Friday. Coach Rand Pecknold said Langlois would be re-evaluated Saturday, but seemed resigned to the fact that the Bobcats would be without him for the series and that Langlois may be ready the following weekend should the team advance.

  • No other significant injuries to report.

  • Quinnipiac doesn't reveal starting goaltenders. But a decision has been made for Friday, Pecknold said. He also added splitting Eric Hartzell and Dan Clarke worked well a year ago, and said it's a possibility that could happen again this season. Based on, well, everything, I would expect to see Hartzell Friday.

  • The Jones brothers and Matthew Peca have become one of the most dangerous lines in the ECAC. Against Yale last Saturday, with Langlois out, Pecknold split the line up to start in an attempt to balance scoring. But he soon realized, "they're too good not to be together". Peca had perhaps his best game of the season against Brown last Friday. Expect to see the trio all weekend.

  • Quinnipiac has a streak of six straight opening-round series wins, dating back to its inaugural year in the ECAC. But Pecknold is well aware of the nature of the league, especially low seeds making deep playoff runs. "We can't expect to just show up and beat them," Pecknold said. "Everyone is fired up for the playoffs, and Brown would be fired up wherever they went. The fact that we just beat them (Friday) will probably only add to (Brown's motivation)."

Heading over to Yale later this afternoon...check back for an update.