College Hockey:
For Quinnipiac, new levels of success don’t change outlook

Leading the PairWise Rankings, the Bobcats are chasing their first ECAC Hockey title — and their first No. 1 ranking in the polls.

— Inside the Quinnipiac locker room, the mood is calm and confident. The only signs of national success have come from cameras, increased attendance and a few mustaches stemming from an unbeaten streak that dates to November.

The Bobcats are unbeaten in their last 19 games, No. 1 in the PairWise Rankings and the ECAC Hockey standings (12-0-2), and No. 2 in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll.

After Minnesota and Minnesota State split a weekend series in late January, some thought the Bobcats would jump the Gophers for the top spot in the poll. Quinnipiac came about as close as a team can, gaining 20 first-place votes over a weekend when it did not play.

Last weekend Minnesota was dormant and the Bobcats picked up three points — a 1-1 draw with Brown and a 6-2 win over then-No. 8 Yale. But the three-point weekend was not enough for the top ranking.

“For us it is about where we are in the PairWise and where we are in the conference standings because that is all we can control,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “The polls are great for the fans and the media and maybe a little bit on recruiting, but ultimately we are first in our conference and in the PairWise and that is what we want. We want to put the hammer down and win a regular season championship.”

Any perceived slight on the Bobcats is something for which only the voters can answer, but what is apparent is that Quinnipiac is on the rise.

But who are these guys playing for a school that most people can’t even pronounce?

“I didn’t even really know what Quinnipiac was until I came to visit here,” senior goaltender Eric Hartzell said, smiling.

After over 20 years as a Division II team, Quinnipiac (pronounced KWIN-uh-pe-ack,) entered Division I as a member of the MAAC in 1998 and won the regular season title its first two years. In its second season Quinnipiac exploded, going 27-6-3 and scoring 5.42 goals per game.

In its third year playing Division I the Bobcats won the MAAC tournament to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament. Cornell welcomed the Bobcats to the tournament with a 6-1 loss.

In 2005, Quinnipiac left the group that reformed as Atlantic Hockey, joining ECAC Hockey.

“I think for most of those years we were a high-offensive team. We were always a high-end offensive team with a high-end power play,” said Pecknold, the Quinnipiac coach since 1994. “But what’s happened in the last couple of years is that we’ve transitioned into a much better defensive hockey team. I think that was a problem our first couple of years in the ECAC where we weren’t good enough defensively.”

Quinnipiac has found success in the ECAC but nothing to the tune of a regular season title or another NCAA berth. The Bobcats have put together five 20-win seasons and have never won fewer than 16 games since their latest conference move.

Quinnipiac’s Clay Harvey has kept the mustache he started growing in November, when the Bobcats started their unbeaten streak (photo: Brian Farrell).

Pecknold admitted to changing things up the last few seasons, including the implementation of new systems and a new practice style. With this season’s success, Pecknold joked he was not ready to let the hockey world know any of the changes.

“We don’t want to give away our secrets,” Pecknold said, chuckling. “I won’t go into our systems, either, but we have changed. I’ve made a lot of changes as a head coach and I think I rely on my assistants more than I used to. I think I always did and I have always had a great staff but I think I rely on them even more.

“That might just be maturity on my part because when you are a young head coach you want to do everything and then you realize you don’t have to do everything.”

One major change from past teams is the confidence level.

“I don’t believe in the nots and the can’ts,” Hartzell said about continuing the unbeaten streak. “I will say that 100 percent we can win every single game here on out for the rest of the season. The only thing that is going to stop us is ourselves.”

But Pecknold noted that it is more than just thinking they are a great team; it is performing like it.

“As soon as we think we are going to step on the ice and win a hockey game because we are better than someone we are going to lose,” Pecknold said. “We are going to win hockey games because we are prepared, we pay attention to detail and we do the little things well.”

While the talent may not be the best in the country, Hartzell said there is no substitute for some good, old fashioned teamwork.

“We’re not all the greatest hockey players in the world, but we bond great as a team and we all know our roles so well,” he said.

So for now the Bobcats will continue to do what they have done all season — focus on the next game, at Cornell on Friday.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Hartzell said. “What will kill you is if you look too far ahead or look too far back. You have to stay neutral and do the same thing every day.”

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  • Chad

    Another tough couple games this weekend for Quinnipiac.. What a joke anybody considers this team in the Top 5… Play a real Schedule. Then you may get some respect from the BC,BU, No Dak and Minnesota fans.. But until then.. You are not a worthy…

    • Eagleye

      If anyone ever attached self value to getting respect from the Sue or Goof fans then they have no self-esteem. Even those fans should bow at BC because there isn’t anything happening west of Needham Mass as far as college hockey if you look at the past decade. Why anyone cares about a ranking or PWR instead of tournament results is amazing. Then again, the Sue fans have only TUC and PWR and KRACH to make them feel better. Anyone else think Grimaldi is the most overrated player in college hockey since Chay Genoway?

      • ExiledGopher

        Seems to me in the last decade 6 have been won by teams outside of Boston or do you only want to count the ones that you want to count.

        • http://twitter.com/RawBTate Rob Tatro

          That would be so funny if BC exits the tourney following another 8-1 steamrolling

    • Bryan

      Would just like to point out that Quinnipiac swept Nebraska-Omaha (who is ahead of BOTH North Dakota AND Minnesota in their conference) in a 2 game series in december…..

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthew5168 Matt Forget

      Minnesota’s SoS is only 6 or 7 rankings ahead of Qpac, yet no one ever questions who THEY play.

      Next, please.

      • jmsptrk

        you might want to check your SoS numbers again. as of this AM, The RPI index has the Q (19) ahead of MN (21), while Krach has MN (13) way ahead of the Q (37). guess it depends which you put stock in. if at all.

        • http://www.facebook.com/matthew5168 Matt Forget

          Thanks, didn’t realize it was updated.

        • William Blake

          KRACH has always been the more accurate of the two, but why such a huge disparity?

          • jmsptrk

            dunno? i agree about krach, but why there’s such a huge difference it certainly seems bizarre.

  • Scott

    Like most algroithms, the pairwise needs an adjustment. The real question is, can Quinnipiac compete against teams In the top ten. The reality is that the ECAC isn’t a tough conference. And, by no means has this team played a team competitive enough to rightfully notch their belt.

    • http://twitter.com/DOriginalDonald Donald Paluga

      I guess sweeping Neb-Omaha, beating down a then #8 Yale, and having a 20+ game undeafeted streak means nothing, right?

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthew5168 Matt Forget

      …and they say there’s “eastern bias”. I think comments like this one and the rest of the similar ones show that the opposite is true. Read my comment above replying to “Chad” or whatever for more details.

      • jmsptrk

        uh huh, yeah, right… there’s western bias because comments from “scott” and other people on this site CLEARLY hold sway over the pollsters and voters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/branhen Brandon Doc Henley

    With being unbeaten by top 20 teams this season, sweeping Nebraska-Omaha, routing Yale in their first meeting and not having a regulation time loss in over four months, all the while having the 12th toughest record in the nation when the #1 team in the nation having an easier schedule I feel is enough to put Quinnipiac as the first seed in the USCHO poll. Minnesota is third in their conference behind St. Cloud State (another “no-name” in college hockey) and Nebraska-Omaha, who again, lost both games to Quinnipiac. In my opinion, Quinnipiac is the lone team that deserves to be #1, and see how far that gets them. They can’t make their schedule, they’re given teams to play and their job is to go and beat them, which is what they’re doing. It’s going to be exciting to see how this team handles next season when they’re sure to face tougher teams, like BU, BC and Minnesota.

    • http://twitter.com/MNState0fHockey MN State Of Hockey

      How many Top 5 teams has QU beat? Top 10? Minnesota went 10 games without losing while beating BC (1), Notre Dame (2), and UND (7) twice during that stretch. Take away a cupcake series at the beginning of the season against Michigan State (who predicted they would be this bad) and conference games against Anchorage, and the Gopher’s schedule is much tougher. You boast about quality wins against UNO and Yale, but fail to mention QU has lost to Robert Morris and American International.

      As for the WCHA conference standings, Minnesota has two games in hand and are essentially only 1 point back of St Cloud.

      All that said, please give QU the #1 ranking. Minnesota has been there, done that. Mid season polls don’t mean squat. I just hope the Gophers get the chance to play QU in the post season. I know QU will be one program I will be cheering against from here on out as I am sick of the whining about meaningless in-season polls.

      • Brian Farrell

        Cornell was No.4 on Nov. 10, Union was No. 7 on Nov. 30, Omaha was No. 12 on Dec. 29/30, Dartmouth was No. 8 on Jan. 4, and Yale was No. 7 last week.

      • http://www.facebook.com/branhen Brandon Doc Henley

        Don’t get me wrong here, Minnesota is an amazing team this year and I feel they will go deep in the Tournament this year, that I don’t doubt. But I feel like it’s time for College Hockey fans like you who don’t even know of Quinnipiac to start recognizing them as a legitimate hockey team for all they have done this season. Yeah, Minnesota may be only one point behind St. Cloud, but being a number one team in the nation, shouldn’t they already be ahead of them in the WCHA?? Yeah QU has lost to Robert Morris and American International, in late October, early November, which was the last time they had been beaten. Sure Minnesota has been there before being number one and making it to the national finals, but QU hasn’t, and now it’s time to start taking them as a serious team who can compete against national contenders. For a big college hockey school like Minnesota, the meaningless in-season polls don’t mean anything, but for an up and coming school like QU, they do mean something. When all is said and done though, all that matters is who goes the farthest in the national tournament.

      • Scott Reed

        Gophers did not beat UND twice, and saying your essentially 1 point behind St Cloud is assuming a conference sweep, something your gophers have only done once this year… to Anchorage. You might be a little too high on your team there.

    • MW

      Get your facts right, St. Cloud State are called the Huskies

  • Sleeping Giant

    For all those dissecting QU’s credentials and whether they’re worthy of the respect of the Old Guard of College Hockey seemed to miss the point of the article: they don’t give a damn what you or anyone else thinks. You don’t get a banner for earning respect; you get a banner for winning titles, which is their only goal.

    And for crying out loud, it’s not pronounced QUIN-NIP-EE-ACK

    • jmsptrk

      well, great. then using your criteria–seeing as they don’t have any banners–they get no respect. fair enough? oh, and here’s a clue; unless you have a Q on your chest, none of us give a damn about them either. so boo hoo.

      (and so QUIN-A-PIE-ACK it is then.)

      • Sleeping Giant

        You just made my point for me. They don’t need anyone’s respect or praise, and that attitude has served them well so far (21 straight times at last check). And us fans, who watch them game in and game out, know what kind of team we have and don’t feel we need to prove anything to people like you.

        • jmsptrk

          if they truly don’t care, then there would be no need for posts like yours. and yet…. here you are.

  • ECAC Hockey

    QU is having a great season for some of the reasons mentioned in the article, including very solid goalie play by the senior Hartzell. One of the more important factors, however, can be found elsewhere on the USCHO site. The player birth dates show that QU’s senior class is a year older than the average for the other top 20 teams…and there 11 members of the senior class. There is an advantage in maturity and time spent playing together, and QU is realizing those benefits this season.

  • Bryan Knutson

    Just curious, to anyone that follows Quinnipiac hockey regularly, as I do not, what were the expectations/predictions before this year started?

    • http://www.facebook.com/matthew5168 Matt Forget

      Generally they were picked in middle-high to dead-middle spot finishes in the ECAC, and a possible at-large bid.

  • John

    What is with all the animosty towards QU all of a sudden? A few talking-head college hockey columists believe the Bobcats should have been number 1 in the polls and now QU is the team to root against? No one except the guy from the New Haven Register is whining about polls, QU fans are just excited about this years team considering this is their most sucessful season to date.

    Besides, any real college hockey fan knows that polls are irrelevant. QU has been able to put together such a long unbeaten streak because they do not focus on rankings and tournament seedings, but rather on each game at a time. I imagine Pecknold and his team will be focusing on the Heroes Hat, Cleary Cup and ECAC playoffs before even thinking about the national tournament.

    As for rankings(since people insist on debating them), there is no reason to give QU the #1 spot ahead of Minnesota currently. QU may have routed Yale but they also tied a subpar Brown team and before that only beat UConn 2-1. Plus you can’t penalize MN simply for being idle that weekend.

    • Gopherbroke

      The hating of Quinnipiac is just starting but it’s not as bad as when all the Sue were whining about Yale because they lost to them the year before. Problem this year will be that North Dakota, again, will be out before they can play Quinnipiac because most of the captains will be hosting a party the night before

      • nogofer

        More Sioux bashing by gofers. And they wonder why no one likes nor respects them…

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew5168 Matt Forget

    Western hockey fan logic: “the Pairwise ranking is fine, but when an ECAC, AHA or HE team is atop it, it suddenly needs to be re-worked, because EASTERN BIAS AND STUFF”

  • Scott

    Interesting conversation about Eastern bias, the WCHA and Hockey East. The truth is that Quinnipiac is unbeaten, the truth is that the WCHA generally is the toughest conference, the truth is the writers and coaches have spoken openly indicating that Quinnipiac deserves the ranking of number one, the truth is some of the same writers that awarded the number one position to Quinnipiac also openly said Minnesota is the best and deepest team in college hockey, now I’m not just another MN fan, but parity in the WCHA and accomplishment of MN, BEATING highly ranked teams speaks for itself, especially without their number one player, playing a freshman goalie, and having one of the best road records i college hockey.

    I agree with the writer that said rankings are nothing, the grind is when playoff time comes, the teams that are always at the top will be there again. Just remember for those of you the WCHA AND Hockey east now how to win big games down the road. Besides no wants to see the WCHA send four teams to the Frozen Four one last time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thomas.koller.5074 Thomas Koller

    OK let Quinnipiac be #1 fortuneately this isn’t football and a tournament is played at the end to determine a Nat’l champ. Let’s see how they do against BC, Minn or some of the other traditional heavies.

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