Sources say the Native American word “Quinnipiac” stands for “a turning point.” That’s exactly what the Quinnipiac Bobcats are going through this year and into next year with their transition to the ECACHL, replacing the Vermont Catamounts, who will move to Hockey East.
Moving from Atlantic Hockey to one of the “Big Four” conferences will be a big adjustment.
“It’s a huge adjustment talent wise with the jump from 11 to 18 scholarships,” said Quinnipiac junior forward John Kelly.
The Bobcats will also not have a home arena until the 2006-07 campaign, after completion of their new athletic center, the Hudson United Bank Center.
“It will be different not having a true home arena next year, but we’ll play some games at Madison Square Garden and the Hartford Civic Center,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold.
Many experts are skeptical about how the Bobcats will perform next season, especially with the ECAC’s resurgent play this season. But the Bobcats believe they will compete and will give every team a run for their money.
“It’s in the back of a lot of guys’ minds,” said Quinnipiac sophomore defensemen Reid Cashman.
The team and coaches believe though they have what it takes to contend.
“We have a lot of good hockey players in the locker room and we’ll be able to vie for the [NCAA] tournament,” said Cashman.
From the beginning of December, until the start of their recent six-game winning streak, the Bobcats had only recorded one victory in an eight-game span.
“With a lot of new guys, it tends to be an adjustment for them,” said Kelly.
The Bobcats were in a lot of the games, but just were not able to capitalize on the mistakes created by opponents.
“Winning is contagious,” said Cashman. “We didn’t get the bounces earlier in the season and now we are.”
Since then, Quinnipiac has found its offensive niche, scoring 28 goals over the six-game winning steak, with 11 different scorers.
“Two big things have helped this turnaround,” said Bobcats senior goaltender Jamie Holden. “Guys are playing with more confidence and heart. When you’re confident and working hard you are going to be tough to beat.”
Quinnipiac’s versatility and depth on the ice has helped to make it one of the most dangerous teams in Atlantic Hockey.
“I think we may be the best team in the league right now,” said Holden. “We’ve dominated a lot of the teams in all aspects recently. We’re the most skilled and have the most heart.”
As the season has progressed, the Bobcats have come together and played as a dominant force.
“We’re finally jelling as a team with all of the talent we have in the locker room, and were having fun doing it,” said Kelly.
The Bobcats want to make a statement in their final season in Atlantic Hockey and want to head back to the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve given ourselves the opportunities to win the league title,” said Holden.
As of last weekend, the top four teams were separated by only four points, setting up a dramatic finish to the season.
“The best team will be determined at the end of the season and Atlantic Hockey tournament, to see who will go the NCAA tournament,” said Pecknold.
It has been a roller coaster of a ride for the Bobcats though this season winning their own Quinnipiac Cup, then heading west, losing to Colorado College and Air Force while managing only two goals. The Bobcats next defeated then-No. 12 Dartmouth before losing two more games heading into league play.
“Further into the year, guys start to realize the season will be coming to an end soon and we could finish in sixth or seventh in the league standings,” said Holden.
As the season comes to a close, Quinnipiac is making its move for the league title in its final year, showing to the other top tier teams that it belongs in the ECAC.
“Quinnipiac is a very good team and with its six-game winning streak, it proves that,” said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin.
The Bobcats will need to continue exactly what they are doing to continue their domination in their final year in Atlantic Hockey.
“We just need to keep working hard and trying to improve as a team heading into the final stretch of the season,” said Pecknold.
With the final month of the season in hand, anything can happen with any team making a move up in the standings.
“The standings change weekly, so the season will come down to the very end,” said Gotkin. “With Atlantic Hockey and all of the way back to the MAAC, the league gets better and better and tighter and tighter each year, where anyone can take the title.”
When Quinnipiac moves to the ECAC next year, there is a level of uncertainty of what to expect from them.
“It’ll be OK and it will just be a year of adjustment,” said Pecknold. “We’ll be able to compete with every player we have in the ECAC.