Top News

Bedford's Diliberatore feeling lucky to be playing NCAA hockey this season

Bedford's Peter Diliberatore of Quinnipiac is shown in action against Bowling Green University during a non-conference NCAA Division 1 hockey game on Dec. 18. Rob Rasmussen / QUINNIPIAC
Bedford's Peter Diliberatore of Quinnipiac is shown in action against Bowling Green University during a non-conference NCAA Division 1 hockey game on Dec. 18. Rob Rasmussen / QUINNIPIAC

Peter Diliberatore feels “pretty fortunate” to be playing meaningful hockey games.

While three-quarters of the ECAC conference have decided against icing a team for the 2020-21 season because of concerns over the surging COVID-19 pandemic, the four remaining teams in the NCAA Division 1 hockey league – including Diliberatore’s Quinnipiac Bobcats – will begin their 18-game conference schedule this week. Fans, however, will not be permitted in the arenas.

“We feel pretty fortunate to be actually playing games,” said Bedford’s Diliberatore, a defenceman in his third year at the university about 15 kilometres north of New Haven, Conn.

“With everything going on in the world, it’s just shows how lucky we are to be playing and to be in competition, even without any fans. It’s nice to be playing games that are meaningful and to have some normalcy in our lives, such as hockey.”

The ECAC was the final U.S. college hockey conference to release its schedule, with only Quinnipiac, Clarkson, St. Lawrence and Colgate playing this season. The same schools will comprise the women’s hockey schedule.

“With everything going on in the world, it’s just shows how lucky we are to be playing and to be in competition, even without any fans. It’s nice to be playing games that are meaningful and to have some normalcy in our lives, such as hockey.”

The other eight members — the six Ivy League schools (Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale), RPI and Union — decided to drop out last month.

The Bobcats, the 12th-ranked team in NCAA Division 1 hockey, will play the first conference game of the year on Thursday, a seven-hour bus ride to St. Lawrence University in upstate New York for a New Year’s Eve tilt against the Saints.

“Having the four teams in our league make the games even more meaningful and competitive,” the 20-year-old Diliberatore said. “Hopefully they’ll mean more towards the end of the season and we get into the NCAA tournament. It’ll certainly make the season more interesting.”

The final game of the regular season is March 6. The four participating programs will then compete in a single-elimination championship March 18-20 with the winner earning a berth to the NCAA championship.

The blueprint of the conference schedule ensures each team doesn’t travel to the same site on a given day in order to minimize contact tracing. It also includes “open” weekends, which can be utilized in the event there are interruptions due to COVID-19.

Extensive protocols and standards must be met by each program in order to compete safely.

“We are getting tested three times a week,” Diliberatore said. “They’re doing a phenomenal job in keeping us safe. We need to wear masks in the locker room and in the weight room. They’re being cautious. We have a good system set up for us to continue to play.”

To get ready for the upcoming season, Quinnipiac played eight non-conference games in 14 days (its last game was Sunday in Springfield, Mass., against American International College) in December.

Peter Diliberatore, a sixth-round NHL draft pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018, enters his junior season at Quinnipiac as an assistant captain.  Rob Rasmussen / QUINNIPIAC
Peter Diliberatore, a sixth-round NHL draft pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018, enters his junior season at Quinnipiac as an assistant captain. Rob Rasmussen / QUINNIPIAC

Diliberatore admitted it was a lot of hockey in such a short span. But life around the Quinnipiac campus is different during a pandemic.

“It’s been pretty quiet around campus so for me it’s been hockey, hockey, hockey,” he said. “We’ve been struck with a lot of games, eight games in about two weeks. And then our off days have been recovery. It’s been hockey pretty much 24/7. But that isn’t a bad thing. It’s been a good time and we’ve been making the most of it.”

All of the International Business major’s classes have been done virtually.

“We wanted to limit our contact with other students, just in case COVID breeds itself,” Diliberatore said. “It’s been pretty easy coming from a technological background. I’m used to that stuff.

“It’s one of the sacrifices we had to make to continue our season and to keep playing. It’s something we knew coming in and we had to make these sacrifices. But it wasn’t too hard to adjust. It’s been easy to deal with. FaceTime and Zoom has been a wonder for talking to the family.”

Diliberatore, a second-team conference all-star last season when tied for sixth among all ECAC blue-liners with six goals and 21 points, enters his junior campaign as an assistant captain. He welcomes the added responsibility, which takes on a different tone during a pandemic.

“It’s a weird time and weird year and there are more things which we have to deal with than other captains in the past,” said the six-foot, 185-pound Diliberatore, a sixth-round NHL draft pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018.

“We have looked to past captains for advice. And the coaching staff does a good job of putting it in our hands to make some decisions. It’s a good learning curve and I’m having a lot of fun with it.”

Bedford's Peter Diliberatore of Quinnipiac is shown in action against Sacred Heart University during a non-conference NCAA Division 1 hockey game on Dec. 13.   Rob Rasmussen / QUINNIPIAC
Bedford's Peter Diliberatore of Quinnipiac is shown in action against Sacred Heart University during a non-conference NCAA Division 1 hockey game on Dec. 13. Rob Rasmussen / QUINNIPIAC

Diliberatore’s standout sophomore season earned him an invitation to last year’s Canadian world junior tryout camp. Although he didn’t make the team which won gold in the Czech Republic, he said the experience was beneficial to his development as a player and a team leader.

“It was an awesome experience and very humbling and I’m very gracious for it,” he said. “It really boosted my confidence. I got to play with and against some of the best junior players in the world and was able to compare myself to them.

“I took a lot from that and brought it back to Quinnipiac. I think the coaching staff saw that and have been trying to build upon my game ever since then. It was a great opportunity and something I’ll keep in my back pocket to keep me motivated.”

An unheralded prospect when he was selected by Vegas in 2018, Diliberatore has seen his draft stock rise since then.

“He’s just shown tremendous improvement. He gets better and better,” Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in March. “We expect he’s going to be a real good player in our organization.”

Diliberatore would like to add his name to the short list of Quinnipiac alum (only six others have done so) to play in the NHL.

“It’s another motivator for me. It keeps me focused,” Diliberatore said. “The Knights have done a great job of keeping in contact with me and stuff that I need to learn. It’s definitely nice to know that I’m on their radar.

“But I just want to keep on being in the present and focus where I’m at now and let the future come when it comes.”

“And get that degree, of course,” he added with a laugh.

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories