While it may not have the history and tradition of the “Battle of Comm. Ave.” between Boston College and Boston University or even the “Border War” between the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire, the “War for Whitney Ave.” is a growing rivalry for Quinnipiac and Yale.
Quinnipiac joined ECAC Hockey for the 2005-2006 season, and on Jan. 8, 2006, a natural rivalry was born when the Bobcats traveled less than nine miles down Whitney Avenue for a “home” game against Yale at Ingalls Rink.
It took just 40 minutes to get some bad blood flowing. In the third period, the Bobcats’ All-American defenseman Reid Cashman was hit into the boards and came up bleeding.
The rivalry took off from there. In the seven years since, the Bobcats have held the edge in the series with a 7-5-1 record against their ECAC neighbors.
“Anytime you play Yale, it’s exciting,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “The guys get fired up for it. Both teams are in the area, they know each other.”
The players enjoy the games just as much as the fans.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s probably the most anticipated game,” Quinnipiac senior captain Scott Zurevinski said. “And probably the most fun to play in all year, especially when it’s the last game of the season, pretty much.”
The players aren’t the only ones who highly anticipate this game. The Yale game has always sold out and is the hardest ticket to get on campus.
“We always have a lot of students, a lot of local people coming to the game,” Quinnipiac assistant captain Spencer Heichman said. “It’s always a great atmosphere. Fans are riled up, we’re riled up, Yale’s riled up.”
And it’s even more than just a hockey game, Pecknold said. According to Pecknold, it’s more of an event than a hockey game.
The popularity and great hockey atmosphere has been there since the very first game. According to Pecknold, Quinnipiac students made the trip down to Yale and were “chanting and cheering” an hour before the first game.
The excitement and anticipation of the game has only increased through the years. And when both teams are playing well, it rises to another level.
On Dec. 4, 2009, the Bobcats entered the game at Yale ranked No.4 in the country, while the Bulldogs entered at No. 10. The Bulldogs outmuscled the Bobcats to a 7-4 victory that night.
“It was just good to have two top ECAC teams play against each other,“ Heichman said.
While it was good for the league to have a high-profile game, the loss put a damper on the good feelings for the Bobcats.
“It wasn’t great for us because we didn’t win,” Zurevinski said. “We were on a hot streak then, (12)-1 when we played them. It was kind of the start of our downfall. I don’t like to think about that one as much.”
Even when the teams aren’t ranked, there is nothing like a Quinnipiac-Yale game, Pecknold said.
“The Yale home game is the best atmosphere we’ll have of any game we’ll have all year,” Pecknold said.
Since the start of the rivalry, one team has swept the two games in the regular season three times. Yale has the most recent sweep, outscoring the Bobcats 11-2 last season.
This season, the Bobcats have a chance to return the favor after winning at Yale in early January. And Quinnipiac is looking for the sweep.
“That’s definitely going to be a goal and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get the job done,” Zurevinski said.
A sweep would give the Bobcats bragging rights, at least until next season.
“It would always be nice to sweep them,” Heichman said. “It’s always good to get a win against Yale, them being the close rival. We see them quite a bit, so it’s good to get the upper hand on them.”
If the Bobcats complete the sweep and win at home, it would mean the return of the Heroes Hat to Quinnipiac. Last season was the first season that the Bobcats did not win the Heroes Hat.
“We’ve always made it a point that we like to keep that trophy,” Heichman said. “Last year we had a little slipup but we’re definitely going to take that trophy back this year.”
But even though Quinnipiac-Yale games are often heated and very exciting, it sometimes isn’t viewed as a rivalry. Yale naturally views Harvard as their rival.
While Yale may not always view Quinnipiac as an immediate rival, the Bobcats definitely see Yale as their direct competition.
“Certainly Yale has long-standing rivalries with some of the other Ivies that go back a hundred and some odd years,” Pecknold said. “We don’t have that. If you go to the game at Yale or the game here, it’s a rivalry.”
The players believe it’s a rivalry too.
“Oh yeah. It’s definitely a rivalry whether or not they say it or not,” Zurevinski said. “It’s a huge game for both teams.”
Whether people think it’s a rivalry or not, whenever Quinnipiac and Yale meet it’s always an intense, high-energy game. And neither side wants to lose.
“I don’t want to lose to those guys,” Zurevinski said. “I don’t like those guys.”