Ah, the playoffs. Last year we got Clarkson at home in the quarterfinals, and this year we get Quinnipiac. If there’s any team that can get the Appleton crowd riled up the same way Clarkson does, it’s the Bobcats. This one is going to be fun.
The Bobcats missed out on a first round bye, and had to play a first round series at home against Brown, so they’ll be coming in off a nice tune-up and should be in good form.
After outscoring the Bears 10-2 in the series, Quinnipiac will have to deal with a slightly better SLU defense. Though banged up, SLU still dresses a defense that’s tied for fourteenth nationally in goals allowed per game. Led by four seniors, the Saints defense allows just 2.41 goals per game, but also plays a significant role in the offense for SLU, which has been stuck in neutral the last month or so, dropping their goals per game to 2.88.
Quinnipiac has always had an affinity for offense, and though it has been a bit harder to come by than usual in Hamden this season, the Bobcats still score an average of 3.17 goals per game. This is due in large part to their power play’s success. At first glance, their 18.5% conversion rate doesn’t jump off the page at you, but when you consider that they’ve had an absurd 216 power play opportunities, which is ten more than second-place Bowling Green, the only two teams with more than 200 chances, the stat means more. The Bobcats have scored 40 power play goals this season, which is more than a third of their total goals.
A team that depends on its power play the way Quinnipiac does is asking for trouble. What happens when you run into a team with a strong penalty kill (86.2%) and one of the best goalies in the country? You score zero goals in two games against SLU this year, and get shut out in three of the last four games against the Saints.
St. Lawrence’s best assets are the precise pieces needed to consistently beat Quinnipiac. In years past, Quinnipiac had players like Travis St. Denis, Matt Peca, or Sam Anas, who could occasionally put the whole team on their shoulders offensively. They don’t have a player like that this year, and their offense is down because of it.
Make no mistake, Quinnipiac will bring it, and they are a good team. They have depth, and get a ton of power plays. They’re never an easy team to beat, but SLU-QU games are often highly emotional, and if the Saints can keep their emotions from boiling over, they can keep the game at 5-on-5, where they are the better team.
Injuries will play a factor. Many of the key players for SLU have been injured recently, and are still working to get back to full speed. It has affected the offense without question, and the recent results show it. But the bye week was a chance for some of the banged-up guys to rest and get a little closer to their best form. And the fact that they earned the bye week is proof that this team has fight in it. They went on the road and staged a third-period comeback to guarantee the bye.
It would have been easy to throw in the towel, allowing two quick goals to hand Dartmouth the lead in the third, but key forwards in Ederer and Marnell showed up when they needed to, and got SLU the win. Smolcynski picked up two points and Bayreuther found the back of the net again.
They even battled back against Harvard. Yes, they lost, but they never really gave up, and that’s never really been an issue for this group. They got hit with injury after injury to key guys, and players just kept stepping up, playing more and playing positions they weren’t used to. Now, they have a chance to peak at the right time.
Quinnipiac is hard to beat. They’re a good team with a lot of playoff experience. They won this tournament last year, and made it to the national championship. But SLU has had their number the past two years, and with the senior class looking at one more chance to hang a banner from the rafters of Appleton, this series is a chance for the Saints to show what they’re made of.
Puck drops at 7 pm on Friday.
Also, if you’re heading to the women’s regional game against BC on Saturday, be sure to check out the alumni event prior to the game.