Bluelines: A Harsh, But Honest, View of the Contenders


Editor’s note: Happy birthday to Stan, who turned 90 on Thursday!


In every issue, Bluelines and The Fischler Report will bring you a special, in-depth report by David Kolb, whose scouting career dates back to the early 2000s working for the Tampa Bay Lightning. As you will see by the following, this is an in-depth, no-nonsense evaluation of specific tactical success. An exclusive look at the end of the Michigan-Quinnipiac NCAA quarterfinal.

With two of my children attending the University of Michigan, it was natural for me to follow and watch most Michigan Wolverine hockey games this season.

Last Sunday, in the NCAA College Hockey Quarterfinals, Michigan looked incredible for the first two periods, dominating the Quinnipiac Bobcats — and then the bottom fell out.

They began the third period with a 4-0 lead, until the Bobcats got on the board 4:12 into the third period. Then nearly five minutes later, Quinnipiac scored again, tightening the score to 4-2.

Momentum turned and Michigan tried to play it safe — and the Bobcats kept pressing. Just over two minutes later, Quinnipiac scored again!!! And the Wolverines were clearly rattled and on the ropes.

Michigan continued to retreat into their own zone and Quinnipiac had them on the ropes. The play seemed to only take place in the Michigan end of the ice, and plenty of time was left on the clock.

This was not the way coach Mel Pearson wanted his team to close out the Allentown NCAA Regionals.

Then with an offensive zone faceoff about to be dropped, Bobcats coach, Rand Pecknold, pulled goalie, Dylan St. Cyr, with nearly four minutes remaining.

Immediately, I was stunned, considering the time on the clock and the sheer tidal-wave-like momentum Quinnipiac had at the time (without the extra-man). But Pecknold tried to parlay momentum with an extra skater — and it backfired! Seconds later, after a faceoff deep in the Michigan end, forward, Thomas Bordeleau picked up a loose puck and passed it to Michael Pastujov, who scored the empty-netter to extend the Wolverine lead to 5-3, and all but end the game.

The game wound up ending 7-4, but after the smoke cleared, many questioned the strategy behind Pecknold’s game-changing decision.

He defended the move: “It was a pretty normal decision for how I operate. Probably the last 13, 14 years, we’ve done that pretty regularly, getting the goalie out early. It works a lot more than it doesn’t for us.”

His explanation is passable, but what he didn’t have throughout the past 13, 14 years was momentum of vast scale – complete domination, that Quinnipiac owned late in the third period.

“We were reeling. They had us on the ropes. It was an interesting time to pull the goalie,” said a gleeful Pearson post-game.

“They had all the momentum, and there’s like four minutes left in the game,” Pearson said. “I’m not going to question any coach. (Pecknold has) been around a long time. Ton of respect for him — they were pushing, they didn’t need to pull the goalie, they were all over us.”

For me, four minutes — with incredible momentum is too early to pull your goalie. One bounce, one mistake, one lost draw loses the game. I would have waited till the two-minute mark.

Particularly after seeing the younger Wolverines struggle, trying to close out Quinnipiac throughout that third period. They were scrambling all over the defensive end, having a tough time keeping up with the Bobcats. In fact it seemed inevitable that Quinnipiac would score to tie the game.

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