Quinnipiac’s rise from a Division II independent to a national contender was well-chronicled during the program’s first Frozen Four appearance two years ago.
The Bobcats continued that ascension last season, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, while Bryce Van Brabant went from playing in Hamden, Conn., to becoming the first Quinnipiac player to appear in the NHL.
Last weekend represented another milestone for the Bobcats, as coach Rand Pecknold recorded his 400th career win Saturday night against Massachusetts.
He is one of six active NCAA Division I coaches with 400 career wins, and he’s the 34th coach in NCAA history to reach that milestone, going 400-252-73 in 21 seasons at Quinnipiac.
With nine wins so far this season, Pecknold also passed former coaches Shawn Walsh, Bob Johnson, Gino Gasparini and Doug Woog on the all-time wins list this season.
“I feel very fortunate to get the resources and support at Quinnipiac that we need,” Pecknold said. “We’ve had great assistants over the years; they’ve done a great job getting us good players. [Current assistants] Billy Riga and Reid Cashman have been great. We’ve had a lot of good players come through here. Coaching is important, but it’s certainly more important to have good players.”
When asked if he ever saw the program coming this far in his first season, Pecknold laughed, but pointed to the opening of TD Bank Sports Center in 2007 as a major development for the program.
“We got in the ECAC and built this phenomenal rink,” he said. “We certainly knew we were going to be a top-20 team if not a top-10 team.”
While Saturday’s win was Pecknold’s 400th collegiate victory, it was the first for freshman goalie Sean Lawrence, one of 17 underclassmen on the Bobcats’ roster.
While some, like forwards Sam Anas and Landon Smith, make an impact right away, it takes most of them time to adjust after leaving juniors.
“I think we’ve improved, although we’re still kind of a work in progress,” Pecknold said. “I’m not quite sure we’re as good as our record has been.”
Pecknold said Quinnipiac needs more from its freshman class as a whole, but he has seen signs of those players getting to where they need to be.
“With that many freshman and sophomores, every game is like three games,” he said. “We’re up and down through three periods. We just have to get more consistent with our battle and our compete level.”
There’s no hotter team right now in ECAC Hockey than Harvard. The Crimson (7-1-2) have won four in a row, including road wins over then-No. 1 Boston University and then-No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell last week.
Much of that success has been in part to the top line of Jimmy Vesey, Alexander Kerfoot and Kyle Criscuolo, each of whom is averaging better than a point per game.
“We thought watching them early on they could be dangerous,” Crimson coach Ted Donato said of his top line. “I really did think Jimmy Vesey had a chance to be one of the best players in the country. Kerfoot was injured from day one last year and we never got to see him have a chance to get to full stride.”
But Donato said he thinks the Crimson’s depth could result in even more production later in the season.
“We feel like we have the potential to be dangerous up and down the lineup,” Donato said. “Hopefully [the top line] continues to play great, but I do expect us to be a team that has a little more depth offensively.”
Donato said junior Brian Hart, who has four goals this season after scoring six as a sophomore, has the potential to be a top-line player. Defenseman Patrick McNally, who was a key part the top-ranked power play for the Crimson three years ago, looks to have regained his offensive form with 13 points in 10 games thus far.
And the Crimson haven’t gotten much from injured forwards Colin Blackwell and Sean Malone. Blackwell played in one game in November after missing all of last season, while Malone, who led Harvard in assists last year, has yet to appear in a game.
While the offense has been clicking, the Crimson have been just as strong defensively. Harvard is allowing 1.66 goals per game, while Steve Michalek is fourth in the country with a .947 save percentage.
“He’s given a level of confidence to our bench and in the locker room,” Donato said of Michalek. “He’s really matured over the last few years and worked really hard in the offseason.”
Around the league
• Cornell won its annual game at Madison Square Garden, beating Penn State 3-1 in The Frozen Apple before a crowd of 15,027 on Saturday. The Big Red is 2-3-1 at the Garden over the last eight years. This is the second time the event has been called the Frozen Apple. The first was in 2012, when Cornell beat Michigan 5-1.
• Yale sophomore Patrick Spano made his first start since last Nov. 8 count, stopping all 21 shots against Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday for his first career shutout in the Bulldogs’ 2-0 win over the Tigers. Spano is 4-0 in seven career games. Spano’s classmate, forward John Hayden, was named to the initial roster of the U.S. National Junior Team. The final roster will be announced by Dec. 24.
• After losing six straight games following a season-opening win on Oct. 31, Brown posted its first shutout of the season with a 1-0 win over Connecticut on Saturday. Mark Naclerio scored his first goal of the season, while freshman Tim Ernst had 25 saves for the Bears. But Brown couldn’t carry any momentum to Sunday, as it was blanked 5-0 by Holy Cross.
• On Monday, ECAC Hockey announced that all-session tickets for the 2015 men’s championship were on sale. Tickets can be purchased at the 1980 Rink-Herb Brooks Arena Box Office, by calling 518-523-3330 or through www.whitefacelakeplacid.com. The two semifinal games will take place Friday, March 20 at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and the championship game will be played Saturday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m.
• The league announced its weekly and monthly awards, with Vesey taking home player of the month honors, Michalek getting goalie of the month, and St. Lawrence goalie Kyle Hayton winning rookie of the month. Dartmouth’s Brad Schierhorn (player) and James Kruger (goalie) joined Quinnipiac’s Lawrence (rookie) as the league’s honorees last week.