October 19, 2012

ECAC Journal: Bobcats have depth to go the distance

By Dan Guttenplan

Depth is the rain coat of college hockey. You never worry about it until you need it.

Quinnipiac was lacking in the depth department last year, and it caught up to a squad that could match front-line talent with just about any team in ECAC Hockey. 

The Bobcats ripped through their non-league schedule in October with a 7-2 record before the injury bug hit. What followed for Quinnipiac was a 1-4-2 record in its first seven league games. The squad never climbed out of the hole it dug in the first month of league play, finishing 9-8-5 in ECAC Hockey and missing out on a first-round bye in the league tournament.

Rand Pecknold and the Bobcats will look to top the 20-win mark for the third time in four years. (Getty Images)

Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold (Bedford, N.H.) spent the offseason being courted by UMass for its new head coaching position, but returned to Quinnipiac under the pretense that this year's team had enough depth to compete for a league championship.

“We're as good as most any team in the league,” Pecknold says. “It takes good goaltending, opportunistic scoring, and maybe the most important thing is staying healthy. Last year, we had a lot of injuries and we tried to scrape by. If we lose one of our top guys with our depth, it can be tough to scrape by.”

Pecknold has attempted to make it easier to scrape by in the event his team suffers more injuries this season. The Bobcats return their entire top scoring line in twin brother Connor and Kellen Jones, along with Matthew Peca. That group gives Quinnipiac three returning 30-point scorers, and that's not to speak of senior goaltender Eric Hartzell, who posted a 2.18 GAA last season, or second-line stalwart Jeremy Langlois, whose 43 career goals ranked tops among active league players at the start of the season.

“I was happy they all came back,” Pecknold says. “I don't know if I was surprised; they're all great players, and they definitely garnered attention. We were worried because the NHL pulled so many kids from college hockey in recent years. But our guys love it here at Quinnipiac. They're very loyal kids, and I think they made the right decision. I don't think any of them were ready to go.”

Regardless, Quinnipiac had all of those players last season, when it fell short of the expectations of coach Pecknold.

This year, Pecknold has covered his bases with depth at just about every position. His second line may be able to keep up with his first line in offensive production now that Langlois is playing alongside redshirt junior Jordan Samuels-Thomas (Windsor, Conn.), who led Bowling Green in scoring in his freshman and sophomore seasons before transferring to Quinnipiac and sitting out last year. Pecknold claims Samuels-Thomas has been rusty at the start of the season, but not so rusty that he couldn't record the game-winning goal in Quinnipiac's 2-1 season-opening victory at Maine Oct. 6. Flanking Langlois on the other side is freshman Travis St. Denis, who scored 88 points last season for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL.

In case Hartzell suffers from fatigue or injury, Pecknold brought in a freshman standout in Michael Garteig to provide insurance in net. Garteig went 41-4 as the Penticton goaltender last winter. Quinnipiac's defensive rotation includes seniors Loren Barron, captain Zack Currie and Mike Dalhuisen, and junior Zach Tolkinen.

“I think we can get scoring from two lines, and we can get our third and fourth lines to play hard and compete,” Pecknold says. “Langlois has always scored. Samuels-Thomas is rusty, but he's chipping in right away. Hartzell has been excellent, and while he's hot, we'll ride him. If he cools off, we'll get some work for Garteig.”

The bet here is next year we won't be talking about how another Quinnipiac season was derailed by injuries.

Player of the Week

Kyle Flanagan, St. Lawrence University

Last Friday, the senior forward led St. Lawrence to its first season-opening win since 2007, as he recorded a goal and an assist in a 4-3 overtime win at Western Michigan. He followed that up with two goals in a 3-2 loss to Western Michigan the following night.

Game of the Week

Ohio State at Quinnipiac, Oct. 19 and 20

Quinnipiac (2-1) is likely the favorite against Ohio State (1-1), a squad that posted a two-game split with Minnesota Duluth last weekend. The Buckeyes' five goals on the season have come from five different scorers. On the other hand, Jeremy Langlois leads Quinnipiac with three points.

Power Rankings

1. Cornell (0-0-0): Returning ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Year Ferlin will look to improve upon his numbers (8 goals, 13 assists) of last season.

2. Union (2-1-0): Union bounced back from a 4-1 season-opening loss to Merrimack with a series sweep of Bowling Green.

3. Quinnipiac (2-1-0): Senior Eric Hartzell appears to have the early leg up on freshman Michael Garteig for the starting goaltender position.

4. Harvard (0-0-0): Coach Ted Donato (Dedham, Mass.) and the Crimson are getting a lot of preseason publicity as a potential sleeper in ECAC Hockey.

5. RPI (1-0-1): The Engineers are expecting great things for this year's freshman class. A win and a tie last weekend against Ferris State is certainly a good start.

6. Dartmouth (0-0-0): Sophomore goaltender Cab Morris enters the season with seven games of experience.

7. St. Lawrence (1-1-0): St. Lawrence will have a great test Friday night at Maine.

8. Yale (0-0-0): Some other publications have Yale higher, but I ranked the Elis too high all season last year. Let's see how they start.

9. Princeton (0-0-0): Princeton had four players eclipse the 20-point mark last season – Andrew Calof, Jack Berger, Rob Kleebaum and Michael Sdao.

10. Clarkson (0-2-0): Clarkson opened its season with two 5-4 losses to Colorado College. You think the Golden Knights miss goaltender Paul Karpowich?

11. Colgate (1-2-0): If nothing else, the season-opening 10-2 victory over Niagra will look good on the stat sheet at the end of the season.

12. Brown (0-0-0): The Bears finished last in ECAC Hockey last season with a 5-13-4 league mark.

Dan Guttenplan can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @thx4playing.