Photo Credit Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
The series of the weekend for the Division One Men’s College Hockey took place in Grand Forks. A battle of titans produced a winner of 75 percent of available points, the Bobcats of Quinnipiac. Here are some thoughts on the weekend for the Bobcats and UND.
The lead up to the series for the Bobcats centered discussion around the star forwards of Rand Pecknold, and Zach Metsa on the back end. The Friday night tie showed the sport that Rand really as he said “doesn’t have a fourth line.” The bottom six group of forwards on Friday night potted four of five tallies with CJ McGee scoring the game equalizing goal. That was his third as a Bobcat in 63 games. The Bobcats depth will play a big role in ECAC play especially as they roll against teams who are not as heavy as the Fighting Hawks. If Rand can play all four lines throughout the year and keep use of his game breakers in line with everyone else, the postseason could show us what a fresh Quinnipiac team could do as they want to make it back to the Frozen Four.
Defense at the net front
There was a theme to the vast majority of the goals the Fighting Hawks gave up this weekend. The Bobcats won battles against them behind the goal line or outright robbed them of the puck. They would then find a streaking skater into the slot to slam home an easy chance. While it is early in the season and we have no doubt that UND will improve as the year goes on, what the Bobcats put on tape will serve as fun pre-scout material for the ideal way to score on this team. The Fighting Hawks are one of the best conditioned teams in the country, but they are not as skilled as some of the teams they will face ( the top end talent of teams like Minnesota who they face next will be on display if they can find space). As a result, especially on Olympic ice rinks, UND has to tighten up their zones around the net, lest Friday and Saturdays efforts result in similar outcomes. While UND did tie Friday, they did so because they got to their game in the offensive zone,but still allowed McGee time and space to score. The UND teams that play well don’t need high end talent, although they do have some of that. The best teams in the history of North Dakota Hockey are impossible to outwork in their own end. That needs to be better and we think it can get there this year. How soon it does determines arguably more than goaltending where the Fighting Hawks end up. Most NHL goaltenders give up easy tap ins like what the Bobcats got more than a few of this weekend. That needs to change.
They are for real
For the Bobcats, after they nearly beat a stacked and skilled Michigan team last March to end their season, this weekend was their “Allow me to reintroduce Myself” moment. After outworking LIU but only earning a tie, Rand Pecknold’s group faced adversity on Friday and salvaged a point out if it. On Saturday the Bobcats were the danger. After going down 2-1 in the first, they got 11 shots on net in the second and did not look back. Quinnipiac will still be tested in the ECAC, and will be the hunted group every weekend, the ones the rest want to see lose more than anyone else. This weekend, in a matchup we could see in the postseason, the Bobcats proved they can fight with anyone, and showed why their conference race shapes up to be another close one.
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