Hamden rallies for hometown heroes after men’s hockey wins championship

Cat Murphy and Katie Langley

Quinnipiac University students began flooding Bobcat Way just before 11 p.m. Saturday in the wake of the men’s ice hockey team’s first-ever NCAA national championship win minutes earlier. 

At least 100 students stormed the Bobcat statue as “Let’s Go Bobcats” cheers rang out across Bobcat Way.

“The vibes are immaculate on campus,” said Sam Kornfeld, a first-year marketing major. “Everybody’s in a great mood.”

Although the Hamden Police Department dispatched officers to the Mount Carmel and York Hill campuses prior to puck drop, several Public Safety officers arrived at the statue shortly after the overtime win, directing students to refrain from climbing on the Bobcat. 

Quinnipiac University Students gather around the Bobcat statue Saturday night to celebrate the men’s ice hockey team’s national championship win. (Daniel Passapera)

“I got chills,” said Officer Heather Bundock, the first Public Safety officer to arrive at the scene of the initial celebration. “It’s so great for the school.”

Students crowded the sidewalks to cheer on vehicles — including facilities golf carts — that rolled down Bobcat Way, with many drivers honking eagerly in response. 

Quinnipiac students stampeded toward the pond behind the Dana, Irma, Larson and Troup residence halls at approximately 11:15 p.m. after two students donning flamingo- and unicorn-shaped flotation devices began sprinting down Bobcat Way.

Samatha Gerossie, a first-year medical microbiology and immunology major who jumped in the water, recalled telling fellow first-year student Jack Reekie to bring his infamous pool floaties to Bobcat Way.

“Well, I was looking at (the pond), and I said ‘Jack, grab your floats, we’re going in,’” Gerossie said. “And then everyone followed.”

In total, around a dozen students plunged into the ice-cold April water late Saturday night. 

“I’ll do anything for this university!” said Christian Knight, a first-year political science major, about his decision to jump in the pond. “This is my school! Go Bobcats!”

Several students swim in the pond behind Quinnipiac’s Irma, Dana, Troup and Larson residence halls to celebrate the men’s hockey team’s 3-2 overtime win over Minnesota Saturday night. (Peyton McKenzie)

For some students, the championship night started at Eli’s on Whitney in Hamden, which held a watch party for Saturday’s game.

“It’s kind of just the place to be for watching Quinnipiac sports,” said Marisa Keiser, a graduate physical therapy student who attended the watch party at Eli’s. “I’m really happy that our team is getting a lot of people out to watch and to support them.”

However, some students expressed disappointment with the lack of campus-wide celebration. 

“It’s a beautiful sight here with seven people on campus,” said J.J. Cichoski, a first-year finance major, with a laugh.

Marissa Roberge, a first-year health science studies major in the occupational therapy program, said she imagined campus would have been much rowdier had the championship game not coincided with a three-day weekend.

“I feel like if a lot more people were on campus this weekend, it would have been more crowded,” said Roberge, who attended a watch party at York Hill’s Rocky Top Student Center. 

I think that this kind of just shows that you don’t need to be a Big Ten school to be good at sports.

— Monica Widman, first-year undeclared health science studies major

However, the Bobcats arrived home from Tampa, Florida, at approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday to a screaming crowd outside M&T Bank Arena on the York Hill Campus. The Hamden Police Department, Hamden Fire Department and Public Safety dispatched a parade of vehicles to escort the team bus up the hill.

Katherine Jones, a senior health science studies major in the occupational therapy program, went to Eli’s to watch the game Saturday night and attended the welcome rally at M&T Bank Arena the following day. 

“Honestly, it was so electric, I was stoked,” Jones said. “I feel like as a school, we really needed this to get some school spirit going, especially post-COVID … I was worried, I had my doubts going into it because my cousin goes to Minnesota, so there was a little rivalry going on, but I’m honestly stoked.” 

Members of the men’s hockey team and their victorious leader, head coach Rand Pecknold, made their way down the red carpet ceremoniously rolled out in front of the arena. 

Fans of all ages — and a few furry friends — crowded around the carpet, waving pom-poms, ringing cowbells and hoisting “#BobcatNation” signs to welcome the team home to Hamden. 

Young Bobcats fans wait for the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team’s bus to arrive outside M&T Bank Arena Sunday afternoon. (Cat Murphy)

“We talk a lot about attacking adversity, it comes in all shapes and sizes at different times, whether it’s life or in the middle of a hockey game,” Pecknold said to the crowd Sunday. “And I think we did a really good job of tackling our adversity last night.” 

Zayed Elahee, a Hamden local and the son of Quinnipiac international business professor Mohammad Elahee, was among many local residents who supported Quinnipiac at the welcome home rally. Zayed Elahee said that sophomore forward Jacob Quillan’s game-winning goal in overtime was an unforgettable moment.

“That was incredible, that last goal,” Zayed Elahee said. “We were all sitting there and it went into overtime, and we were like, ‘we don’t know how long this is going to take.’ They said they’d been practicing that (goal) 100 times, but it looked like it was just out of the moment.” 

To the wild cheers of the crowd and his players, Pecknold held up a homemade sign announcing no classes on Monday. 

“Somebody handed me this (sign) and I’m all in on this,” Pecknold said. “No classes tomorrow!” 

As of publication, Quinnipiac University has not canceled classes for Monday, April 10.

Despite the holiday weekend, a diminished but mighty pack of fans expressed their immense pride in the Bobcats, who made history in Tampa Saturday night. 

“I think when people think D1, they think Big Ten,” said Monica Widman, a first-year undeclared health science studies major. “I think that this kind of just shows that you don’t need to be a Big Ten school to be good at sports.”

CORRECTION 5/2: An earlier version of this story misspelled Jack Reekie’s name.