MAAC competition still not up to par despite NCAA bid

Sarah Dornan

Boys, you’re not in Connecticut anymore.
Quinnipiac (10-4-2) felt anything but at home during Saturday’s men’s hockey game against Minnesota (10-5-2). The underdog Braves suffered an 11-2 loss at Mariucci Arena.
Coming off a last-minute victory against then-No. 11 Union last weekend — the Braves’ first win against a nationally-ranked opponent — Quinnipiac was apprehensive coming into Mariucci and overwhelmed by Minnesota’s aggressive attack.
The Gophers scored only four goals in their previous four games, but netted a goal seven seconds into the game, then took full advantage of the shocked Braves.
“We knew coming in here that Minnesota was prepared and hungry,” Braves coach Rand Pecknold said.
Added forward Chris Cerrella: “We didn’t come out ready to play and were intimidated by the Gophers.”
Cerrella attributed Quinnipiac’s apparent inexperience to the level of competition within the MAAC — a league lacking consistent, quality competition.
Before Minnesota’s blow-out win, the Braves fared well against non-conference opponents, scoring 3.0 goals per game, while allowing 2.7 per game.
In the midst of its third season of Division I play, Quinnipiac is now 3-3-1 against teams outside the MAAC.
After a snub from the NCAA last season, Pecknold revamped the nonconference schedule, putting his team up against top programs for national recognition.
Saturday’s defeat was a clear indicator of the struggle the Braves will confront as they continue to pursue better competition outside their conference.
“We needed to come out and play hard right from the start, I don’t know what happened,” goaltender Justin Eddy said. “The team was wrapped up in nerves, but that still is not an excuse.”
The Apple Valley, Minn., native said the most significant changes he found in nonconference competition was the attitude his team needs to bring to the rink.
Pecknold agreed, saying his team’s struggle Saturday stemmed from being too nervous and too excited simultaneously.
Pecknold believed his team will gain much-needed experience by challenging more top-ten teams both inside and outside the MAAC.
The Braves suffered a tough loss against Minnesota, but chalked this loss up to inexperience.
Quinnipiac — a steam roller in the MAAC — is finding the conversion to nonconference play more like a roller-coaster ride.
The Braves biggest motivator at this point is a MAAC championship title, which would afford them an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships, and another chance to gauge themselves against nationally-renowned programs.

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