Quinnipiac, Yale put South Central Connecticut in the national spotlight

If two schools on the same road and less than 10 miles apart had a chance to meet in the national championship game, most would guess that they would be Boston University and Boston College.

In keeping with this year’s theme, those two schools are home asking which channel is ESPN2 rather than which locker room to report to.

2013 NCAA Frozen Four

Follow all of our coverage at Frozen Four Central

NCAA tournament page, with bracket

Printable bracket (PDF)

Frozen Four schedule

Move over, “Battle of Comm Ave.” The “War on Whitney” has arrived on the national stage.

Quinnipiac and Yale, schools more accustomed to the position BU and BC occupy at this point, are heading to Pittsburgh next week for a chance at their first national championship. While the two schools will have to win in the semifinals to see each other again, just being in the Frozen Four is turning South Central Connecticut into this year’s college hockey hub.

The two schools, both located on Whitney Avenue, are less than eight miles apart. Yale is in New Haven; Quinnipiac is in the neighboring town of Hamden.

While BU and BC have a long history, Quinnipiac and Yale are laying the foundation for what could be one of the great new rivalries in college hockey.

This season, thanks to the Bobcats being atop the national rankings for most of the year, the rivalry has taken on a heightened level of excitement. In the team’s first game, Ingalls Rink in New Haven was bursting at the seams, with four rows of folks standing in the aisles.

After the Bulldogs leaped out to an early 2-0 lead, the Bobcats dominated the final two and a half periods, scoring six unanswered goals en route to a 6-2 win.

Just weeks later, High Point Solutions Arena in Hamden hosted the final regular season game. The nationally televised game attracted the largest, most raucous crowd of the season. It also saw the Bobcats continue their dominance, scoring three first-period goals to set the scene for a 4-1 win.

“I always say that I don’t refer to it as a game; I refer to it as an event,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said about the home game against the rival.

The two met one more time in the ECAC Hockey consolation game, but the rivalry seemed to dissipate in front of a meager crowd at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. Still, the Bobcats scored three goals as Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick finalist Eric Hartzell posted his 10th career shutout.

Rivalries do not happen immediately, even if the teams are just a few miles away. But as Quinnipiac and Yale students bump shoulders in New Haven and as High Point Solutions Arena and Ingalls Rink continue to sell out, the rivalry will grow.

There is still a way to go before the War on Whitney resembles the Battle of Comm Ave. But having both teams in the Frozen Four is certainly a step.

In a state where college basketball dominates, a national championship game featuring two Constitution State squads could start to turn the attention to the ice instead of the hardwood.

Connecticut has a rich high school hockey history at prep schools like Avon Old Farms, but the state never screams hockey like Minnesota, North Dakota, Massachusetts or Maine. Sure, “Brass Bonanza” still echoes at nearly ever rink, but the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the Connecticut Whale, both AHL teams, have hardly replaced the unique Whalers fan base.

The University of Connecticut is making its next step to bring college hockey to the forefront when it moves to Hockey East in the 2014-15 season. Couple that with two schools in this year’s Frozen Four, and Connecticut is priming itself to make a name in the new age of college hockey.

Now just imagine what would happen if the two teams meet for the national championship.