Men’s hockey is elite

Doug Manners

The Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team is keeping good company. With six consecutive winning seasons in the books at the Division I level, the Bobcats are a member of college hockey’s Fab Five.

Quinnipiac is one of just five teams to have posted six straight winning campaigns, joining a group consisting of national powerhouses Maine, Michigan, Michigan State and New Hampshire. The Bobcats narrowly eclipsed the .500 mark this past season, finishing with a 15-14-6 record and setting a new school record for most ties.

In actuality, Quinnipiac’s string of winning seasons is at eight, but the first two took place at the Division II level. The Bobcats made the jump to Division I after the 1997-98 season, competing for five seasons in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), which evolved into the Atlantic Hockey conference this past season.

Prior to this season, the Bobcats had won at least 20 games in each of the past five seasons, a distinction held only by Quinnipiac and the other four teams that have had six straight winning seasons. The Bobcats had also finished either first or second in the conference as a Division I team before finishing third this year.

In ten seasons behind the bench for the Bobcats, head coach Rand Pecknold has guided Quinnipiac to an overall record of 181-105-28. In Division I, he has led the Bobcats to a 107-31-19 record in conference play. The winningest coach in program history, Pecknold entered the 2003-04 season ranked eighth among active coaches in college hockey with a .634 winning percentage.

In Division I play, the Bobcats have posted a record of 132-63-16. Even more impressive is the team’s home record. The Bobcats have made the Northford Ice Pavilion one of the toughest places to play in all of college hockey, posting a 77-9-8 record on home ice.

During the past six seasons, the Bobcats have won two regular season conference titles, advanced to the conference tournament final three times and made an appearance in the NCAA tournament once. The latter in that list is arguably the greatest accomplishment in the program’s history.

With almost half of the team’s roster comprised of freshmen, the Bobcats went on a tear during the second half of the 2001-02 season before knocking off first-seeded Mercyhurst in the MAAC conference final to earn its first ever trip to the NCAA Division I tournament.

Despite getting blown out by Cornell, 6-1, in the first round, making the NCAA tournament was a giant accomplishment for Quinnipiac. The team’s success that season led to Pecknold being named a finalist for the 2002 Spencer Penrose Award, which is given to college hockey’s national Division I Coach of the Year.

The Bobcats’ goal remains to get back to the NCAA tournament. In 2003, Quinnipiac fell one goal short, losing to Mercyhurst, 4-3, in the MAAC final. This past season, the Bobcats were knocked out in overtime, 1-0, by underdog Canisius in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Hockey tournament.

But with a large crop of juniors returning to Quinnipiac next season, the Bobcats will be expected to extend their streak of six winning seasons and make a serious run at reaching the NCAA tournament for the second time in program history.