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ECAC Hockey: Don't Underestimate Quinnipiac

Matt Dewkett

Quinnipiac looked like a well-oiled machine. The Bobcats methodically beat Maine to every loose puck, moved the puck quickly, and dominated possession in a 4-0 shutout victory over the University of Maine on Tuesday night.

The end result and the way in which it happened should come as no surprise to college hockey fans. Quinnipiac has four straight 20-win seasons and three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths. For the majority of those four seasons, the Bobcats have been a puck possession team that routinely outshoots their opponents.

While head coach Rand Pecknold tried to downplay his team's apparent skating advantage over the Black Bears, it was obvious to anyone watching that the Bobcats were faster than their foe from Hockey East.

"Our guys were going. Our intensity was great. We won races. We won battles. It felt to me we had more jump," said Pecknold.

"They looked a lot faster than we did tonight," concurred Maine coach Red Gendron.

Perhaps most impressive was that there seemed to be no drop off in skating ability regardless of what line was on the ice Tuesday night. All four lines consistently outraced and out-battled Maine players for the puck.

"We need our whole team to contribute. I don't even know what our fourth line was tonight, but our fourth line tonight was really good. We had four lines that were going," explained Pecknold. "Guys are stepping up."

Quinnipiac defensemen did a terrific job of pushing the pace and starting the transition. Juniors Devon Toews, Connor Clifton and Derek Smith all exhibit poise and quick decision making skills with the puck as they make outlet passes. Freshman Chase Priskie has only added more puck possession ability to the back line.

"Chase is playing great. He's a great kid. He's really worked hard to round out his game in just a short time here," explained Pecknold.

Tuesday night was the 50th career win and 13th shutout for senior goaltender Michael Garteig, now in his third year as the full-time starter. He's often critiqued for his play between the pipes, but it's hard to quarrel with his numbers.

"He finds a way to win. He does his job. 13 shutouts is a huge number. We've had some really good goalies come through here and he's our all-time leader," Pecknold commented.

With the Bobcats seemingly on pace to make a fourth straight NCAA Tournament, this weekend's home series against St. Cloud State could go a long way in determining seeding come March. Pecknold knows the Huskies will provide the stiffest test yet.

"We've played them a lot the last few years. They're an excellent team. They're well-coached. They have great special teams. We'll get healthy tomorrow then get focused for them," said Pecknold.

Quinnipiac knows it will have its hands full with St. Cloud's potent power play that comes into the weekend clicking one out of every four times.

"They have great special teams. That first power play they roll over the boards is pretty impressive. They have five kids who can make plays and have patience and poise," said Pecknold.

Many in the preseason thought the ECAC was a two team race between Yale and Harvard, but it would be unwise to sleep on the Bobcats.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.