Capturing Connecticut: Storylines and notes from CT Ice


Aidan Sheedy

Quinnipiac men’s hockey brought home its second consecutive Connecticut Ice Tournament title with a 4-3 win over UConn on Jan. 28.

Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

One year ago, Quinnipiac men’s hockey rode a third-period surge to topple UConn in the Connecticut Ice Tournament championship. This past weekend, the Bobcats found themselves in a similar situation.

Down 3-2 to the then-No. 12 Huskies heading into the third period of Saturday’s championship game, then-No. 3/4 Quinnipiac was on the ropes. The Bobcats gave up two goals during the final two minutes of the middle frame, a collapse reminiscent of a week prior, when Colgate roared back to score three unanswered and hand the then-No. 1 team in the nation its third loss of the season.

But hardships leave their mark. Quinnipiac mounted a comeback of its own in the final 20 minutes to take the lead and the tournament, leaving behind the ghost of the Central New York swing in the process.

“We all chat about ‘hey, there’s adversity,’” head coach Rand Pecknold said following the win. “You’ve got to deal with this in the NCAA Tournament or Frozen Four or wherever you are in the playoffs, so we’ve got to find a way … which we did.”

Of course, losing is never the goal when a team steps on the ice. But there is something to be said for how a loss can help a team, if they take it the right way. It seems as if the Bobcats have done so, using the winless weekend at Cornell and Colgate as fuel to raise a trophy and develop a more battle-tested aura in the process.

“There’s always going to be adversity, you’re never going to be able to go through a season with rainbows and win every game,” senior center Skyler Brind’Amour said. “(We’re) learning lessons. It’s something going forward, that no matter what, we’re not out of a game.”

Following Quinnipiac’s victorious weekend, there are a number of storylines I wanted to highlight going forward.


What’s next for CT Ice?

The third iteration of Connecticut’s collegiate state championship showcased the same high level of play as the first two, but a hectic buildup created a number of questions for the tournament’s future.

The tournament was not formally named “CT Ice” until Jan. 27, the day of the semifinal games, and was without a broadcast partner until the same time. New York-based network SNY, who put on the first two events, aired the games, but was not connected with this year’s tournament until the announcement on Jan. 27.

Previously held at Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, this year’s tournament shifted sites to Quinnipiac’s own M&T Bank Arena. This trend is expected to continue in the future, with each participating school rotating years to host the event.

“I’ve always wanted the rotation,” Pecknold said. “I thought it was really important this year that we get momentum for the tournament, and we sold out both nights … I think this gives us momentum into next year.”

On the other hand, UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh said he would like to see the tournament hosted at the same neutral site every year – creating a parallel with the Beanpot in Massachusetts, hosted at TD Garden. It’s an event Cavanaugh is very familiar with, coming to UConn with 18 years on the staff at Boston College under his belt.

“I think this should be played at the XL Center,” Cavanaugh said. “I think it should be played at a big venue. I think we’re shortchanging ourselves by limiting it to 3,600 fans. I really believe that this tournament would get 8-9,000 fans at the XL Center.”

It should be noted that the XL Center was previously the exclusive home site of UConn men’s hockey prior to the opening of the Toscano Family Ice Forum in January, and will continue to host Huskies’ home games at least through the 2023-24 season.

The XL Center is a multi-purpose venue in Hartford that is home to the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack and some UConn men’s hockey games. (Andrew Nyr/Wikimedia Commons)

Home-ice advantage

While Quinnipiac suffered its second and third losses of the season a week and a half ago, the Bobcats are still unbeaten at M&T Bank Arena this season (11-0-1) and have only two losses on their home ice in 32 games the past two seasons.

A big reason for this has been fan support. Quinnipiac has brought in over 3,000 fans for six of its last eight home games, including a 3,625 person crowd (as listed on the Quinnipiac Athletics website) in the CT Ice semi final against Sacred Heart on Friday, 239 more than the arena’s listed capacity by Centerbrook Architects.

“The crowd was great,” Brind’Amour said. “They helped us play a full 60 and it was a lot of fun out there.”

The Bobcats have at least four more home games this season, starting with the Battle of Whitney Ave. against Yale on Feb. 17, and concluding with an ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series the second weekend in March.


A balanced scoring attack

At first glance, looking at the scoring leaders on this Quinnipiac team, one name stands out from the rest: sophomore winger Collin Graf, who sits fifth in the NCAA with 36 points in 26 games. But Graf is just a portion of the Bobcats’ high-powered offense, which itself is fourth in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 3.89 goals per game.

Graf factored on none of the Bobcats’ four goals on Saturday against UConn, rather, it was graduate student winger Ethan de Jong who carried the scoring load, recording two goals and an assist in a four-goal game.

De Jong is just one of six Quinnipiac skaters above the 20-point mark this season, and one of six with seven-plus goals. While the Bobcats’ top unit of Graf, sophomore center Jacob Quillan and freshman winger Sam Lipkin have received a bulk of the praise this season, Quinnipiac’s talent pool up front is deep.

The aforementioned Brind’Amour is having a breakout campaign, already surpassing his career high in points in 15 fewer games and tripling his goal output as a tip artist in front of the net on the power play.

“To be honest it’s probably a little bit of puck luck right now,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s just getting to the right spots. A lot of these goals have been great plays by guys and I’m just there to tap it in.”

Graduate student TJ Friedmann is another forward on pace for a career year. The centerman has nine goals and 17 points on the season, even with a five-game point drought, which he snapped against Sacred Heart this weekend.

One of the reasons the Bobcats’ offense has been so successful this season is because of that depth. They come at teams in waves, mounting pressure shift-by-shift until the opposing defense cracks.