Connecticut to crown different champion

Joe Addonizio

In the past two decades, sports in Connecticut have been ruled by UConn, whose men’s and women’s basketball programs have served as a monopoly for the Nutmeg State sports fans.

After hall of fame coach Jim Calhoun stepped away from the sideline and the team was hit with a postseason ban in 2012-13, the monopoly began to fade and created an entry for a new team.

Although the UConn women’s basketball team got back on track this year with its eighth national championship, another Connecticut team will be crowned national champion tomorrow night as Quinnipiac and Yale will face off in the men’s ice hockey title game.

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It is both teams first appearance in the title game and the winner will be the first national champion in basketball or hockey in Connecticut that is not UConn.

The two teams have already met three times this season and the Bobcats have clawed their way in each match outscoring the Bulldogs 13-3 in total. The most recent matchup came in the ECAC tournament consolation game, not the tournament championship game which both teams initially aimed for.

In addition, the two teams play for the Heroes Hat Championship every year, which is always Quinnipiac’s most hyped game of the year. The rivalry will now take to the national stage as the teams battle out for a fourth and final time.

Quinnipiac junior forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas, the only player from Connecticut on either team says that the game being a rivalry is irrelevant.

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“Right now both teams are competing for a National Championship, and that’s kind of what comes first,” Samuels-Thomas said. “Obviously, they are our rivals, but I don’t think anyone’s thinking about that.”

Senior Jeremy Langlois, who recorded the 100th point of his career last night agreed with Samuels-Thomas.

“I think the fact that it’s a national championship game, the emotions and everything are definitely going to be risen,” Langlois said. “I think the fact that it is between two teams that are so close to each other just makes it even more exciting.”

Keith Allain seemed focus as well in this morning’s press conference and the team as a whole, referring to the Bobcats squad only once as ‘Q-Pac.’

“Obviously they have an excellent hockey team,” Allain said. “There’s a reason why they have been the top ranked team for most of the year, certainly the second half of the year. But as it was alluded to earlier I think the details in our game and our individuals are better now than we were last time we faced them so I think we’re up to the task.”

The first two times the teams faced, Yale was without starting goalie Jeff Malcolm who was injured. Instead, time was split between Connor Wilson and Nick Maricic who combined to stop 64 of 73 shots for a save percentage of .877. Then in the consolation game, Allain said that the team had “no life in them after playing what he considered their worst game of the season the night before against Union.”

“I think emotionally our team is in a different place now,” Allain said.

“What happened in the regular season in the playoffs doesn’t really matter at this point,” Antoine Laganiere said. “It’s just a one and done. It’s a whole new time. I also believe that if we can do little things like we talked about earlier and stay focused on our task and our game plan and get a lot of pucks low and get to rebounds and get some traffic in front of the goalie, we’ll be successful.”

The three losses will go in the trash tomorrow night as it all comes down to one final win and ultimate bragging rights for Whitney Ave., the state of Connecticut and the entire country.

“I don’t think anybody needs motivation,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said. “Both teams are going to be fired up sky high, and it’s all going to be about managing their emotions and controlling and dealing with adversity and trying to minimize the mistakes.”