Chase Priskie, Bob­cats ea­ger to start the sea­son

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Chip Malafronte

HAMDEN – Chase Priskie, as he’s done the past cou­ple of sum­mers, spent a week in Wash­ing­ton work­ing with his fu­ture em­ploy­ers.

The Cap­i­tals se­lected Quin­nip­iac’s dy­namic de­fense­man in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL En­try Draft and at the con­clu­sion of a five-day June eval­u­a­tion laid out a blue­print to help round out his game.

That strat­egy is two-fold. Im­prove­ment to Priskie’s game has­tens his path to the NHL. It could also so­lid­ify Quin­nip­iac’s po­ten­tial to be one of the na­tion’s top de­fen­sive teams.

The Bob­cats open the sea­son tonight at Bos­ton Col­lege (7 p.m., ESPN3) with a sur­plus of de­fen­sive ta­lent. It in­cludes two of the top goal­tenders in ECAC Hockey, the in­flux of two Hockey East trans­fers at de­fense­man and Priskie, a ju­nior in­tent on prov­ing him­self as an All-Amer­i­can cal­iber blue-liner.

In ad­di­tion to his time at the Cap­i­tals NHL De­vel­op­men­tal Camp, Priskie ded­i­cated most of his sum­mer to im­prov­ing his skat­ing abil­ity.

"I think that will help with my de­fend­ing," Priskie said. "If I want to be­come an elite de­fense­man in this league, and in the coun­try, I need to be­come a shut­down de­fense­man as well as an of­fen­sive cat­a­lyst for this team. As long as I can do both, it will help the team."

Priskie has been counted on for of­fense since his fresh­man sea­son, when he scored 26 points to help the Bob­cats reach the na­tional cham­pi­onship game.

Among his new du­ties this year is step­ping into the penalty-kill role va­cated by grad­u­ated se­nior Con­nor Clifton. He’ll also as­sume a new lead­er­ship role. Team­mates voted Priskie as team cap­tain, the first ju­nior cap­tain at Quin­nip­iac since Scott Zurevin­ski sev-

en years ago.

"He’s been as­sertive and leads by ex­am­ple," Quin­nip­iac coach Rand Pec­knold said. "He de­serves to wear the ‘C’ on his shirt."

De­fense will be the key to Quin­nip­iac’s ul­ti­mate suc­cess.

The Bob­cats are com­ing off a sea­son in which they failed to qual­ify for the NCAA tour­na­ment for the first time in five years. They al­lowed a re­spectable 2.52 goals per game. But with­out the usual crop of proven, ac­com­plished scor­ers, that num­ber may need to be more in line with the 1.98 al­lowed by the 2016 na­tional run­ners-up team.

Goal­tend­ing makes that fig­ure at­tain­able. Af­ter win­ning the start­ing job mid­way through last sea­son, An­drew Shor­tridge had the best goals-against av­er­age and sec­ond-best save per­cent­age in ECAC play. Fresh­man Keith Petruzzelli en­ters as Quin­nip­iac’s most her­alded re­cruit at any po­si­tion, a third-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings and USA Hockey’s goal­tender of the year.

Pec­knold has stead­fastly re­fused to com­ment on play­ing time for goal­tenders al­most from the time he was hired in 1994. But there’s lit­tle doubt the Bob­cats will in­still a two-man ro­ta­tion at the po­si­tion.

At de­fense­man, Priskie will be joined by Bran­don For­tu­nato and John Furgele, el­i­gi­ble af­ter sit­ting out last sea­son per NCAA trans­fer rules. For­tu­nato last played at Bos­ton Univer­sity; Furgele at New Hamp­shire. They’re vet­er­ans who’ll im­me­di­ately fill the void left by Clifton and Derek Smith.

Bro­gan Raf­ferty, one of the top fresh­men de­fense­men in the league last year, Karlis Cuk­ste, a San Jose draft pick, and Kevin McKer­nan round out the top six on what could be the league’s best de­fen­sive corps.

Where Quin­nip­iac most needs im­prove­ment is fin­ish­ing scor­ing chances, it’s bug-a-boo last win­ter. Cre­at­ing of­fense wasn’t the prob­lem. But mid­way through last sea­son the team’s top scor­ers were de­fense­men.

Of the top 10 scor­ers from last year, only two have grad­u­ated. Pec­knold wants to see more pro­duc­tion from his skilled for­wards, like Lan­don Smith, the lead­ing scorer with 29 points, Craig Martin and Bo Pieper, both com­ing off break­through cam­paigns, Tan­ner MacMaster and Thomas Ald­worth.

"We need our se­niors to play well and pro­duce," Pec­knold said. "We’ve got to find the next group af­ter that that’s go­ing to con­trib­ute. We like some of our fresh­men and sopho­mores, but they’ve got to step up."

Priskie, one of eight cur­rent Bob­cats who skated in the Frozen Four, is ea­ger to get Quin­nip­iac back in the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion. A strong show­ing against Bos­ton Col­lege tonight and in the home-opener against Bos­ton Univer­sity on Sun­day would be quite the state­ment.

"We have a lot of fire­power re­turn­ing, but we also have 10 fresh­men, who’ve all been great," Priskie said. "It’s a new com­plex­ity and it’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see how it plays out. Our goal is to win a na­tional cham­pi­onship. If we can get guys on the same page, we’ll put our­selves on the right stan­dard to be suc­cess­ful this sea­son."

Quin­nip­iac Athletics

De­fense­man Chase Priskie is the first ju­nior se­lected as Quin­nip­iac's cap­tain since Scott Zurevin­ski in 2010-11.

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