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.


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