Men’s ice hockey thrives in ECAC

Matthew Ruffini

The Quinnipiac University men’s ice hockey team has been a part of the ECAC Conference for just three seasons. However, you wouldn’t think that based on the team’s success so far in the conference.

The Bobcats have been able to handle the higher level of competition and have made a name for themselves in their new conference. With the brand new arena and last year’s advancement in the playoffs, Quinnipiac has shown that the Atlantic Hockey Conference is behind them and bigger goals lie ahead.

The 2004-2005 season was the last season that Quinnipiac was a part of the Atlantic Hockey Conference and it was evident that Quinnipiac was ready for a change. That season Quinnipiac lead the conference in many statistical categories; goals, goals per game, assists, points, penalty killing percentage as well as being first in the standings. That year Quinnipiac compiled a record of 16-6-2 with 34 points to take the top spot in the conference. They also had the top ranked player in the conference in Reid Cashman, who led the conference in points and assists.

The 2005-2006 season began with Quinnipiac becoming a member of the ECAC conference featuring the Ivy league teams as well as Clarkson, Colgate, Rensselaer, Union and St. Lawrence. A higher level of competition in conference and non-conference games was in store for Quinnipiac to prove if they earned the membership in the new conference. Quinnipiac had a very respectable first year in the ECAC. In 22 conference games the Bobcats went 8-13-1 with 17 points, enough for 10th in the standings.

Overall Quinnipiac was 20-18-1 and had the ECAC rookie of the year in Bryan Leitch. In the first round of tournament play between the teams the Bobcats traveled to Rensselaer and shocked the rest of the country as they upset the Engineers with a two game sweep. The Bobcats then advanced to the quarterfinals where they were knocked out by first place Colgate. Despite the loss, the rest of the conference and parts of the country began to take notice of the program that was beginning to flourish.

During the 2006-2007 season the Bobcats took charge as one of the dominant teams in the conference. The Bobcats would get off to a fast start, but tail off towards the end. The Bobcats headed into the ECAC tournament as the fifth seed.

Then the Bobcats shocked their fans again as they breezed through the playoffs sweeping Union and Cornell before defeating St. Lawrence to face Clarkson in the ECAC Championship. The Bobcats fell to the Golden Knights, but they earned national respect from around the country.

According to sophomore Brandon Wong, one of the young stars on the team, the success has come from the strong mental approach from head coach Rand Pecknold.

“We have to play hard every day,” Wong said. “It’s just like coach says, we have to be hungry”.

Another young star on the team, sophomore Jean-Marc Beaudoin, feels that if every player has the same mentality good things will come.

“Our intensity has to be up for us to be successful, all of our lines and D-men have to be working and ready to play,” Beaudoin said.

The early success of the team in the new conference could be due to many things. According to Kevin Sokolski, a video coordinator who has worked very closely with the team, the success is a result of several factors.

“Not alot of people knew about us, people didn’t know what to expect, also Pecknold did a great job of recruiting,” Sokolski said.

This year has been tougher for the Bobcats. They are no longer catching other teams by surprise and they no longer have Cashman as their leader. They have also been hit hard with injuries and have had difficulty putting winning streaks together.

As of December 1 the Bobcats were tied for fifth in the conference with important games on the horizon.

Whether or not this team can now take the next step in becoming one of the elite teams in the nation, only time will tell.