Eighth-ranked Yale hosts No. 2 and PairWise-leading Quinnipiac tonight in the first Whitney War of the season. The game is commanding massive attention in the regional media, as there is a fair amount hanging in the balance.
The Bulldogs (19 points, eight games remaining) are alone in second place behind the Bobcats (24 points, nine games left), five points – and one game – behind QU. Quinnipiac is on an 18-game unbeaten streak (15-0-3), extended with a brutal 1-1 tie at Brown last night. Yale has won six of its last seven, and is 11-3-2 since opening the season 2-2-1. The two top-10 teams are certainly battling for stronger PairWise positions in advance of the NCAA tournament, and – oh yes – they’re only five miles apart, sharing real estate on southern Connecticut’s Whitney Avenue.
Tickets are exchanging hands at (potentially) exorbitant prices, though perhaps some ticket-holders are a bit optimistic about the market. The Yale Sports Information Department (specifically esteemed hockey contact Steve Conn) reports that media parking will be tight at best, and the office has arranged a supplemental press box to accommodate the jam of journalists.
What are the potential outcomes worth? For Yale, a win – or even a tie – probably keeps the door ajar in the race for the Cleary Cup. These teams tangle again in three weeks, and both teams know that it’s a wild league where anything can happen to any team on any given night. A QU victory may extinguish any hope of a regular-season title for the Bulldogs, as it would stretch the gulf between the sides to seven points. The PairWise is a big factor, as the Bobcats aim to strengthen their hold on the nation’s top seed, while Yale is fighting to improve from a sixth-place position. QU’s 18-game hot streak is the best in the country this season, as well as the program’s all-time high.
Momentum for the following meeting and the playoffs is up for grabs, and – last but not least – it’s a rivalry game. Yale has long downplayed the ferocity of the Whitney War. The Bulldogs traditionally align themselves with Harvard and Princeton, along with the other Ivies, but this is a backyard brawl. Quinnipiac circles, highlights, illuminates, and punches a hole through the Yale games every season.
Like it or not, Yale’s got a rivalry game on its hands tonight, and it’s going to be spectacular.