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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Debate between neutral vs. on-campus games renewed in 2024 NCAA Regionals

Peyton McKenzie
Sunday’s NCAA Regional Final between Quinnipiac and Boston College drew 5,835 fans to Amica Mutual Pavilion in Providence, Rhode Island.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In 2023, a No. 1 seed and a fortunate geographical draw in the NCAA Tournament allowed Quinnipiac to turn Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, into “Hamden South.” It was as close of a home-ice advantage the Bobcats could hope for, considering the NCAA has held its regionals at neutral sites for over 30 years. 

The posted attendance for Quinnipiac’s regional final matchup against Ohio State in 2023 was 4,557, nearly 1,000 more than M&T Bank Arena’s maximum capacity of 3,625, but far less than Total Mortgage Arena’s hockey capacity of 8,412. 

For years, the college hockey world has argued about whether NCAA Tournament games before the Frozen Four should be held at on-campus sites instead of neutral arenas. The central argument for both being that on-campus sites would make for more exciting fan environments while neutral sites will keep competition fair. 

“If you follow (X) or any other social media outlet, there’s a lot of talk about that,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Hastings said. “I remember the days when they were on campus, and then now having the regionals where they’re at, I’m open to discussion.” 

Amica Mutual Pavillion, the host of the Providence Regional where Quinnipiac played as a No. 3 seed, holds over 11,000 people in its hockey configuration. The sheer mass of seats makes it a much more difficult space to fill, but all participating fan bases did the absolute best they could. 

The regional saw attendance numbers of 6,988 for the semifinal games and 5,835 for the final. Solid numbers, but far from a sellout, and still less than the average attendance of the facility’s primary tenant — the AHL’s Providence Bruins (7,608). 

The semifinal, however, only drew just under 100 more people than the average Boston College game at Conte Forum (6,895), where the games would have been held if the top seeds were allowed to host the regionals. 

With the caravans of Bobcats and Eagles, along with fans of Wisconsin and Michigan Tech descending upon The Renaissance City, the combined attendance in Providence was the highest of the four tournament regions (12,823). 

“(The fan turnout) was excellent, I thought it was great tonight,” Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold said after the victory over Wisconsin on Friday. “It was a great crowd for game one, so I was really happy with the attendance tonight.” 

It was also nearly free from the slight controversy seen in the other three regions regarding the on-campus vs. neutral site debate. 

From teams playing in a 2,500-seat arena in Maryland Heights, Missouri, to teams like Boston University and Denver playing thousands of miles away instead of closer to home, the 2024 NCAA Tournament was not exempt from this annual discussion. 

“I see the arguments to both,” Pecknold said. “But honestly, I like the regional setup. I think it’s good to have neutral sites. I do see some arguments as to the other side of it.” 

Others, like Hastings, only care about seeing college hockey grow. 

“This is about as exciting as sport, as you can see live as any other sport that I’ve been able to go and watch,” Hastings said. “I can tell you this, whether we were at home in front of 15,000 people, very exciting. When we’re on the road, and the place is sold out, it’s exciting. 

“The guys just want to play, they want to play in that type of environment. So for me, I’m open to discussion on what is best for the student-athlete and what we can do to continue to progress our sport.” 

But for the fans, the people actually choosing to attend these matchups, it depends on a wider range of personal preferences. 

There are fans like Michael McGurrin, a 2022 Quinnipiac graduate, who traveled to see the Bobcats in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2022 and in New Hampshire in 2023. 

“Anywhere in the states (the Bobcats play), I’ll go,” McGurrin said. 

Then there’s some like Maddy Poston, a 2020 Michigan Tech graduate and current Boston resident, who saw the Huskies’ Providence Regional draw as an opportunity to attend the game. 

“I was just thrilled that they were going to come out to Providence because it’s so close,” Poston said. “I wanted to come and see them play again.” 

So while the decision for on-campus vs. neutral regionals may affect the fans the most, it ultimately comes down to the decisions made by coaches across the country. And for Quinnipiac fans, Pecknold’s choice is set. 

“There’s negatives to both and there’s positives to both, but my vote every year is to stay with the regionals.” 

Regardless, it didn’t matter this year, and despite how the Bobcats fared on the ice, the 2024 Providence Regional made for one of the more memorable experiences — the national championship in 2023 notwithstanding — the Quinnipiac community has seen in years.

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    Mark CashinApr 3, 2024 at 4:44 pm

    Find cities that people want to go to w smaller buildings. Portland, Maine, Boston, as in Aggannis Arena, Rochester, NY, Great seasons by The Q, but the Russians have won more games in Lake Placid.

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    Frank SantyApr 3, 2024 at 2:01 pm

    Agree with Coach P… need to play the 16 seeds on neutral sites. Try to keep teams local but on neutral sites. Remember these games were on Easter Weekend. People have plans.. People travel to be with their families… Kids go home for the Holiday. Best to try to avoid Easter Weekend. TV probably didn’t want to match Hockey and BB. That’s also why the Frozen Four will be the weekend after the NCAA.