Take Two

Juliana Nikac

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Photo: Kirby Paulson

Photo: Kirby Paulson

Reset, retool, refocus.

After some time off for the holiday break, the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team has its work cut out for it.

The Bobcats started out the season in fairly strong fashion going up against some formidable Hockey East talent. Through the first five games of the campaign, Quinnipiac compiled a 3-1-1 record including a sweep against Northeastern University on the road in Boston, Massachusetts.

However, in the 13 games following, the Bobcats went 3-9-1 and have many folks ready to hit the panic button.

Let’s just slow that process down a bit before everyone starts screaming and yelling from the top of York Hill.

The fact of the matter is, the inconsistencies of the first semester can be attributed to a few different things.

This is a team that’s still trying to find its stride. Losing seniors like Tim and Connor Clifton and Derek Smith, just to name a few, can offer both a moment of uncertainty and more importantly, opportunity. In terms of captaincy this year, Junior defenseman Chase Priskie now skates with a ‘C’ on his sweater and Kevin McKernan is serving as an assistant captain. Furthermore, with freshmen like Odeen Tufto and Matt Forchuk jumping headlong into the mix, there’s still an adjustment period that’s being gone through and there are serious benefits to be had as these two continue to grow in their college hockey tenures.

Additionally, there should have never been an expectation that this season was going to get off to a hot start. There are plenty of nationally well-respected teams in the country that have struggled thus far and that’s just how hockey is; as legendary musical artist John Denver once sang: “Some days are diamonds, some days are stone.”

Just another idea, games in November and December don’t necessarily win championships. Now, of course they help in the general scheme of things, but they can be observed as additional opportunities to develop both skills and team chemistry. The ECAC Hockey playoff format is designed so that each team in the conference has at the very least a chance to succeed and the reality is the Bobcats could find themselves in the National Tournament if they can win out.

I’m not saying this is a shoe-in situation and that everything will be hunky dory by the end of the season, but give this team a chance as the second half begins. If you’ll recall, the Northeastern Huskies started their 2015-2016 campaign 3-12-3 before going on a ridiculous 19-2-2 run that included a Hockey East Championship and an NCAA Tournament bid.

Again, I’m not saying this is what Quinnipiac is destined to do. The team is up against it and will be fighting to keep the dream alive into deep March. But college hockey can be a marathon, not a sprint. It’s wrong to count any team out as truly anything can happen. Not to mention, there are a few bright spots that have definitely shown through thus far.

Tufto has been an offensive juggernaut this season providing a buffer to veteran scorers Tanner MacMaster, Landon Smith and Alex Whelan. Priskie has also been a big point getter and continues to show his keen hockey instincts. Speaking of defense, an argument can be made that Quinnipiac has one of the better cores of the conference and it will be interesting to see how that storyline develops down the stretch.

This season is far from over. There are still plenty of games to be played and each weekend will present a new challenge, but isn’t that sort of the point? A playoff run is not out of the question and until then, every game can serve as a growing point.

The second half could gear up to be an interesting one, so drop the puck and let’s boogie already.

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