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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

ECAC Tournament struggles have no bearing on NCAA success

Peyton McKenzie
Senior forward Travis Treloar battles along the boards during the ECAC Semifinals in Lake Placid, New York, on March 22.

The more trophies, the better. It’s hard to argue with that assessment. However, it’s even harder to argue against the fact that the trophy that matters most in college hockey is the one that will be awarded on April 13 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Sure, Quinnipiac men’s hockey missing out on the ECAC’s Whitelaw Cup for the eighth-straight year, and 19th time in 20 seasons, isn’t optimal, but recent history has shown that it might not matter, at least not on the NCAA stage.

Winning a conference championship almost always secures you a spot in the NCAA Tournament. It helps teams playing in lower-tier conferences, like Atlantic Hockey, that might not compete at a high enough level to secure an at-large bid to the dance. Or it can be an avenue for bubble teams to guarantee a spot, leaving no room for doubt.

Schools like Quinnipiac tend to aim for it as a point of pride for the program. A trophy case full of Cleary Cup victories, representing a regular season ECAC Hockey championship, shows that the Bobcats are always very good. Winning a Whitelaw Cup can prove to the team, university and country that they are great.

For the Bobcats, their regular season performances in recent years already put them in a position that guarantees a spot in the national tournament regardless of how they play in Lake Placid, New York. Winning ECAC Hockey only acts as something extra to strive for, not something to keep a season alive.

The 3-0 loss to St. Lawrence on March 22 didn’t end Quinnipiac’s season. It actually might have made it more comfortable, at least geographically. Getting placed in a bracket with No. 1 Boston College is rough, but the Bobcats played the Eagles tough before, and they can do it again.

Quinnipiac lost out on another Whitelaw Cup and a chance at being a higher seed at either the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, or Maryland Heights, Missouri, regionals, but received the consolation prize of being a lower seed at the Providence, Rhode Island, Regional. A 90-minute drive beats a six-hour flight any day of the week.

In fact, the numbers imply that teams might be better off not winning their conference championship as long as they are good enough to make it as an at-large. In the past 10 NCAA men’s hockey tournaments, seven teams that won the national championship made it to the dance as at-large bids, including Quinnipiac last year.

On the other hand, the 2023 ECAC Hockey champion Colgate, who beat Quinnipiac in the ECAC semifinals that year, lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Michigan 11-1. Winning your conference does not automatically mean you’re a national title contender.

Quinnipiac has only won the Whitelaw Cup once in program history (2016). The Bobcats ultimately fell in the national title game to North Dakota 5-1 three weeks later. What trophy do you think the team would have rather had that year?

On a greater scale, over two-thirds of teams to reach the Frozen Four entered the tournament as at-larges, never seeing less than two at-larges in any given Frozen Four over the past 10 tournaments. What’s important is making it to that stage, the real work comes when you get there.

It’s not just hockey where this is the case. Seven of the last 10 men’s March Madness winners were at large. The only time the Final Four saw less than two of its participants be at-large bids was 2018, when Villanova, Michigan, Kansas and Loyola Chicago all made it as conference champions. That instance seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

The Bobcats should definitely want to win a conference title, this isn’t minimizing what the Whitelaw Cup means to members of ECAC Hockey. However, history has inferred that there seems to be no correlation between conference tournament success and national tournament success. It actually shows that the opposite might be even more true.

So if Quinnipiac fans out there are worried about the team’s ability to perform based on how it played in the ECAC semifinals, don’t be. The Bobcats were in the same boat last year, and you know how that worked out.

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About the Contributors
Michael LaRocca
Michael LaRocca, Opinion Editor
Peyton McKenzie
Peyton McKenzie, Creative Director

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