Last weekend, junior forward Matt Buckles’ overtime goal sent Cornell to the ECAC quarterfinals and avenged two years of playoff eliminations at the hands of Union. The Red’s reward? A date with No. 1 Quinnipiac in Hamden, Connecticut. The winning team will earn a trip to Lake Placid for the ECAC Championship weekend. In the same style as last week, let’s break down the series between Cornell and the Bobcats.
Forwards: Quinnipiac is number one in the country for a reason. They have some of the country’s best offensive talent. Sam Anas, Travis St. Denis and Tim Clifton are all averaging more than a point per game, which surpasses all Cornell scoring statistics. Not only are the Bobcats’ top few skaters impressive; their lower lines put up points as well. Their third- and fourth-line forwards have as many points as Cornell’s second-line skaters.
Defense: Quinnipiac’s defensemen are also excellent at putting up points. Bobcats blueliner Devon Toews has more points (goals plus assists) than any Cornell player, including the forwards. Freshman Chase Priskie has put up 22 points and has only two penalty minutes — extremely impressive for a defenseman. Cornell’s bigger, stronger blueline will do their best to contain Quinnipiac’s attack, but left to choose between either defensive corps, most would pick those of the Bobcats.
Goaltending: Cornell’s Mitch Gillam is one of the best goaltenders in the conference, coming off a weekend in which he allowed only one goal in two games. Quinnipiac’s Michael Garteig is a solid goaltender but is not quite at Gillam’s level.
Special Teams: Quinnipiac’s power play is more dangerous than Cornell’s, scoring on 27 percent of their opportunities compared to Cornell at 16 percent. In the most recent meeting between the teams in Hamden, Cornell gave up both goals on the power play. While Cornell has a strong penalty kill at 82 percent, Quinnipiac’s is even better. They kill off 90 percent of opposing power plays.
Coaching: Quinnipiac’s coach Rand Pecknold — just like Cornell’s Mike Schafer ‘86 — is regarded as one of the best coaches in ECAC Hockey. Pecknold and Schafer have both been in charge for over 20 years and have their own distinguished systems of play. There is history between the two; last year, Schafer used an expletive-laden phrase to refer to Pecknold and was suspended one game by the conference.
Home Ice: Quinnipiac is the number one seed and will host all the games this weekend. The Bobcats will benefit from a home crowd, but Cornell fans will travel strong as always. Furthermore, Quinnipiac will also have the advantage of last change, which teams enjoy when at home.
Edge: Quinnipiac (by definition)
Intangibles: What small factors might prove relevant? Quinnipiac has won the season series, with a win and a tie. Cornell’s strategy tends to do well against the Bobcats, and Schafer will be motivating his players to beat a team he clearly dislikes. Quinnipiac is the national number one team, which puts pressure on the Bobcats to succeed. The pundits will be picking the Bobcats, adding more stress. Cornell can play with no pressure and look to cause an upset with nothing to lose.
Quinnipiac wins four categories, with Cornell winning two and drawing one. I will predict that Quinnipiac will win in three games, but I would not be surprised to see Cornell pull the upset. Expect an amazing series with overtime games, late lead changes and thrilling goals.