‘It’s unconditional’: Culture, brotherhood define Quinnipiac’s run to the national championship


Aidan Sheedy

Quinnipiac is one of only two Division I men’s hockey programs to appear in three national championship games since 2013.

Colin Kennedy, Staff Writer

TAMPA, Fla. – Three. That is the number of NHL draft picks that the Quinnipiac men’s hockey team has on its roster this season. Despite the lack of professional talent, the Bobcats believe they have something even more important: a culture that surpasses any level of skill, and a brotherhood that is ready to capture a national title. 

The Bobcats have bought into the culture all season long en route to Saturday night’s national championship game against Minnesota. 

“That’s a big part of the success of this program, is our identity and our culture,” graduate student forward TJ Friedmann said. “Doing all the little things right, buying into the plan.” 

However, this Quinnipiac culture didn’t just spark overnight; it’s been growing since head coach Rand Pecknold took over the program in 1994. At the time of his hiring, the Bobcats were only a Division II team.  

“We win because we have high character, high hockey IQ kids,” Pecknold said. “Those two ingredients we have to have, and that’s why we have success against the teams with 18 draft picks.” 

Ever since its inception, college hockey has been dominated by the likes of Minnesota, Michigan and Boston University. They formed powerhouses where winning was not only expected but required. At Quinnipiac, it took nearly 20 years to instill a culture that could take on college hockey titans — one where national championships are not a pipe-dream, but a reality. 

“You look back at the alums before us, it’s just kind of been stepping stones each year and we just build off that,” Friedmann said. “ Keep pushing towards that end goal of a national championship.” 

Despite Quinnipiac’s two Frozen Four appearances in 2013 and 2016, Pecknold believes that the Bobcats’ culture started to shift with the class of 2006. 

“That class changed everything for us,” Pecknold said. “(Before them) nobody even knew how to spell Quinnipiac.” 

The class of 2006 was the first class to play in the ECAC conference at the NCAA Division I level, producing players like Michael Bordieri, John Kelly and Joe Dumais who is now Quinnipiac’s associate head coach. 

Following the 2006 season, Quinnipiac developed into one of the premier programs across all of college hockey. Since then the program has seen numerous players make names for themselves in the NHL such as 2022 Stanley Cup champion Devon Toews and Boston Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton. 

Even though Pecknold was an integral part in creating the culture, he can’t simply define what it means to play Quinnipiac hockey. 

“Probably the easiest and simplest way is culture is buy-in,” Pecknold said. “It’s unconditional, this is what we do to win hockey games, you need to be selfless, and you got to buy-in.” 

Pecknold admitted that it’s not the easiest task getting some of the best college prospects in the country to buy-in when they first arrive in Hamden. 

“They’ve probably been a very selfish player, which is why they’re good,” Pecknold said. “You need them to make sacrifices so we can win.” 

Not only does Pecknold have to juggle elite hockey talent, but he also has to embrace the different backgrounds in the locker room. 

The Bobcats have 11 players on their roster who hail from outside of the U.S, including sophomores, goaltender Yaniv Perets and forwards Christophe Fillion and Cristophe Tellier along with freshman defenseman Charles-Alexis Legault, who are all from Quebec. 

“I thought a couple times about telling them they couldn’t speak French in the locker room, but it’s fine, the guys love them,” Pecknold said. “They’re great, all four of them are very popular in the locker room.”

Even with so many players coming from different backgrounds, Quinnipiac has proven time and time again this season that there might not be another team in the country with the bond it has. 

“To actually be here and be on the ice is special,” graduate student forward Michael Lombardi said. “To do it with your best friends makes it even better.”

Graduate student forward Michael Lombardi has 10 goals and 22 points in 40 games this season. (Aidan Sheedy)

Heading into the Frozen Four weekend, Quinnipiac had the fewest NHL draft picks among teams competing, the other three each with at least 10. But it’s not about the talent for the Bobcats — they know that when they play like a family, it doesn’t matter how many NHL draft picks are across the ice. 

“We’re just as good as any other team in the country, if not better,” Friedmann said. “If we just stick to the game plan, we’ll get the result we’re looking for on Saturday.”