MHOK Preview: The Bobcats are more than David, The Wolverines are Certainly Goliath


Photo: Kaylyn Terry

Matt Mugno

On Friday night the Quinnipiac Men’s Ice Hockey Team outpaced St. Cloud State in a 5-4 victory to move onto the regional final of the NCAA tournament.

They now face the toughest competition for the program in years, taking the ice against a loaded Michigan Wolverines team tonight at 6:30PM.

Michigan defeated AIC 5-3 in the early game on Friday night, while the Bobcats surrendered four goals for the first time all season and headed into the third period knotted at three goals apiece. The Bobcats found the back of the net twice more and were victorious over the No. 11 ranked program.

The Bobcats played against backup goaltender Jaxon Castor, who has taken over the crease in David Hrenak‘s absence. Hrenak surrendered 66 goals all season and had a modest .914 save percentage this season before he fell sick with pneumonia in early March.

The Bobcats only registered 16 shots, and they acknowledged this in Saturday’s press conference.

“I think yesterday we didn’t play nearly our best game” said Quinnipiac forward Gus Van Nes.

The Bobcats have played by the same formula all season, but who are the Wolverines?

Google the top NHL draft choices of the 2020 and 2021 draft and you can find seven first round selections that will be featured on Sundays regional final.

In the 2020 NHL Draft, Brendan Brisson was selected 29th overall in the entire. In the 2021 draft, five players were selected in the first round alone in Owen Power first overall by the Buffalo Sabres, Matty Beniers as the Seattle Krakens first ever draft pick at second overall, Luke Hughes selected by the New Jersey Devils at fourth overall, Kent Johnson by the Blue Jackets at fifth overall, and Mackie Samoskevich (brother to Quinnipiac Bobcats Women’s ice hockey player Maddy Samoskevich) drafted by the Florida Panthers twenty fourth overall.

All these players are key contributors, Beniers the only name aforementioned that did not register at least one point against AIC on Friday. He led the team with 43 points in 35 games played.

The Bobcats leading point scorer is Hobey Baker award nominee Zach Metsa, who registered 36 points in 41 games played. That’s good for fifth on the Michigan Wolverines roster. In Neutral site play they are 3-0, and

On each end of the ice, a standout netminder will defend the crease.

Yaniv Perets, arguably the Bobcats’ most valuable player this season, has recorded a .951 save percentage in his last five starts of playoff and tournament play. Despite surrendering four goals for the first time all season, Perets still made 30 saves in the Bobcats victory on Friday.

Erik Portillo taps in at 6’6 and 225 pounds and has had a remarkable sophomore season. Akin to his competitor across the ice, Portillo was a nominee for the Mike Richter Award. In the Big 10 conference he was dominant. He was named the conference Most Outstanding Player, Goaltender of the Year Finalist and recorded a .928 save percentage in his last 5 starts and victories. Portillo also owns a .756 wins percentage this season, that’s good for third in the nation.

The Bobcats have never defeated the Wolverines. In their only four contests all-time, the Bobcats are 0-4. History means slim to nothing heading into Sunday’s showdown as they have not matched up since 2005.

Tonight’s matchup has everything. A defensive Bobcats team coming off a five-goal outing, strong defensive play from both teams, and two of the best goaltenders in the nation.

The Wolverines will return to the PPL center with a chip on their shoulder. If all other brackets fall into place, Michigan will have a chance at defeating a Minnesota school to win the national championship. A lot must go right for that to happen, but there’s a chance.

The Bobcats have not qualified as a Frozen Four team since 2013. On Sunday night the program will be competing in the most important game in nearly a decade. Can the Bobcats make history and bounce a goliath Michigan Wolverines program to qualify for the Frozen Four?