After three games with opponents from Atlantic Hockey, Northeastern will face their stiffest challenge of the young season when Quinnipiac comes to Matthews Arena for a two game slate. This will be the fourth season in a row the Huskies and Bobcats will have played each other, and the Huskies will be hungry to end a four game unbeaten streak. Quinnipiac enters the weekend ranked 18th in the USCHO poll, and are receiving votes in the USA Today poll. By contrast, Northeastern is ranked 16th in the USCHO poll and 14th in the USA Today one.
Quinnipiac sits with an even record of 1-1-1 in the young season, having played three other Hockey East teams to start the season. They opened with a tie against Boston College (1-1), a loss against Boston University (3-2), and finally defeated Vermont (3-2) for their first win of the year. They also won their exhibition game 3-2.
So far this season, Quinnipiac’s Corsi Percentage sits at 49.9%, so they should be a good matchup for the Huskies, who currently lead the nation in Corsi (65.4%) thanks to vastly outshooting their competition. Quinnipiac’s Corsi gets elevated when the score is close, up to 54.1%, so I expect them to play the Huskies tight and competitively all weekend.
Statistically, the Bobcats have been getting a little unlucky shooting the puck, only scoring at a 6.7% rate (national average is usually just north of 10%). One area that has been a major struggle for Quinnipiac is their powerplay, which has yet to score this season with the man advantage. Their penalty kill clocks in at a respectable 81.8%.
We exchanged questions and answers with the Quinnipiac Hockey Blog, who provided some excellent insight regarding players on the Bobcats and what we as Huskies fans should expect in this series.
NUHB: Like NU, Quinnipiac also had a highly regarded ’99 goalie come in this year in Keith Petruzzelli. In the short season, how had he looked? Is the hype justified?
QHB: Petruzzelli has only started one game (the 3-2 loss against Boston University) but he looked very strong in that game with 31 saves including a few highlight reel ones. He is extremely quick and athletic and very fluid for a goal-tender of his size and positions himself really well. The hype is definitely justified as he won the 2017 Dave Peterson Award as the best goalie by USA Hockey. Coupled that with the fact he is the highest incoming NHL drafted freshman Quinnipiac player ever (John Doherty was a 2nd round pick of the Maple Leafs back in 2003 but Doherty played 2 years at the University of New Hampshire before transferring to Quinnipiac and only playing 16 games for the Bobcats.) Much like Cayden Primeau, Petruzzelli slipped a bit to the end of the third round where the Red Wings drafted him. I’ve heard rumors that the drop in the draft was he didn’t test as well at the draft combine. That said he is not going to be just handed the reins to the position.
NUHB: Piggybacking off that question, should Northeastern expect to see a goalie split this weekend, or will incumbent Andrew Shortridge get time as well?
QHB: I think we will see a split in net this week. Andrew Shortridge has played two of the three games so far and has looked strong in both of them. Its early but Shortridge playing well (1.41 GAA, .940 Save %) is going make it extremely difficult for Rand Pecknold to hand the reins to Petruzzelli full time. Shortridge carried the Bobcats on his shoulders down the stretch giving them a chance to return to the NCAA’s before falling short in the ECAC semifinals. This is a good problem to have but I think eventually Pecknold will start to give one of the two goaltenders more starts in due time depending on how they play as we get further into the season.
NUHB: Four games in, it appears that goals have been hard for QU to come by (averaging 2.25 per game). Is this a standing concern for you, or do you chalk it up to early season blues?
QHB: They have only played three regular season games and averaging 2 goals per game. I would say it’s a combination of both. They return eight of their top 10 scorers from a year ago (losing only Tim Clifton, 25 pts. and KJ Tiefenwerth, 18 pts.) but the leading scorer from a year ago only had 29 points. It’s a veteran lineup both up front and in the back as they really only dress two freshman when they are healthy. Once the coaching staff finds the right line combinations and power play lines I think this team will be ok offensively because the talent is there. The one thing this team truly lacks is a sniper like they have had in the past whether it was Matthew Peca or Sam Anas but I like the offensive depth they have on the roster.
NUHB: Quinnipiac’s leading scorer so far has been Odeen Tufto (2-2-4), while Alex Whelan has 16 shots on goal to pace the offense. In addition to these two, who are some offensive threats Northeastern fans should be concerned about? In particular, any freshmen making the leap right into the fold?
QHB: Well Tufto is a freshman and a very good one. I wouldn’t be shocked if he or Alex Whelan led the team in scoring this year as they both are really talented and make plays. By the end of the season, it wouldn’t shock me if people in the state of Minnesota ask themselves how Odeen Tufto left the state to play hockey elsewhere. Landon Smith, Tanner Macmaster, Bo Pieper, Nick Jermain and Craig Martin are the forwards that Northeastern needs to watch out for. All are very good offensively and can score goals and make plays. Tufto is the only freshman that has played in all three games but Matt Forchuk is an older freshman that scored 97 points to the lead the Alberta Junior Hockey League in scoring last year so he is expected to make a contribution once he adjusts to the college game. Devin Moore and Matt Creamer are two other freshman that have seen a game each but with the roster deep up front it is tough for many of the freshman to make an impact except for a few.
NUHB: Quinnipiac has always been known as a solidly defensive team. How active do their defensemen get in the offensive attack? Karlis Cukste is one player in particular who impressed us last season whenever we saw him play.
QHB: The defenseman are very active on the offensive attack pinching into the attacking zone to create offense. While they can pinch into the zone they have the ability to get into position on the defensive end as many are good skaters that can transition well in and out of the zone offensive zone in a flash. Two of the top six scorers from last year’s team were defenseman in Chase Priskie (26 points) and Brogan Rafferty (24 points) but they have others that can contribute offensively like Kevin McKernan and Karlis Cukste. Quinnipiac also welcomes two transfers from Hockey East in Brandon Fortunato (BU) and John Furgele (UNH) to the blue line. Cukste is a rock for the Bobcats on defensive. He is really good in his own zone, blocks shots and plays physical along with giving a bit of offense from time to time. He was a great late addition to last year’s recruiting class when they lost Devon Toews.
Thanks again to the Quinnipiac Hockey Blog for taking the time to talk to us about his team. You can follow him here @QHockeyBlog.
Final Thoughts: this will be the first major test for Jim Madigan’s squad this season, and we expect that Northeastern will be up to the challenge. We are expecting a tightly-contested series, likely splitting the series. Ideally, we would like to see Cayden Primeau get the start on Friday, establishing him at the top of the Northeastern goaltending pecking order, but we do expect Ryan Ruck to get the nod in one of these games; as much as we want to see Primeau seize the role, it’s just too early to hand it to him outright. This series will hopefully go a long way towards seeing Primeau take the reigns himself.
Injury note– Matt Filipe missed last week’s game against RIT with a lower body injury. We hope to see him back in the lineup this weekend, though we do not have any information to report on him at this time.
Predictions (2 points for correct result, +1 for correct score, -1 for incorrect result)
Downie (4 points): Friday: NU wins, 5-2. Saturday: Tie, 4-4
Davis (3 points): Friday: Nu wins 4-2. Saturday: QU wins, 4-3. NOTE: I’m making my predictions based on my assumption that Primeau starts Friday, Ruck Saturday.