I’m a rare Angelino who is a fan of college hockey. My alma mater taught me how to love the game, and especially appreciate the fact that smaller schools with dedicated programs could compete against bigger-named schools which devoted more effort to football and basketball. My Oswego State Lakers played in a conference called the ECAC, in Division II at the time, and we’d sometimes play more recognizable schools like Colgate, Buffalo (we called it SUNY Buffalo at the time) and Army. We also played more obscure schools that took some doing to learn how to pronounce their names.
One such school was a smaller private college located in a town called Hamden, Connecticut, not that far from New Haven, which has a somewhat famous school that at the time was a powerhouse in college hockey, You probably know it as the alma mater of a few presidents and some hollywood actors. The one that has that Boolah, Boolah song. When we played Quinnipiac College, we were told they were the campus near the better pizza place but in the lousier part of town. They played in the more potent Eastern division of our conference, not one of the best even at that level. But they beat us in a tournament, so I took note of the name.
In the ensuing years, they;ve become a university, upgraded their hockey program to Division I, and have slowly built an extremely competitive program. And tomorrow night, they get the chance to play for the championship of Division I. As Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant explains, they are in extremely heady territory, considering the level of accomplishment of their neighboring schools, one in particular besides Yale:
There has been a lot of talk this week about “blue bloods,” as in whether or not UConn men’s basketball fits that category. If there was any doubt, the Huskies re-established their program’s elite status with national championship No.5.
But the state of Connecticut is not finished hunting for championships. Quinnipiac men’s hockey, one of the country’s most successful programs over the last decade, has faced down one of its sport’s blue bloods, beating nine-time national champ Michigan in the NCAA semifinals Thursday. Now they face another, Minnesota, for the championship Saturday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.
“Quinnipiac culture was on full display,” coach Rand Pecknold told reporters after the Bobcats’ thoroughly impressive 5-2 victory over Michigan, the Big Ten champ. “That was just outstanding. The battle level was great. We won a lot of races. We won a lot of battles. When we got beat at times, we had a second wave, second, third wave. Good stick on puck.”
Now, the school from Hamden, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, still unfamiliar and occasionally mispronounced outside Connecticut, will scrap against another not-so-sleeping giant of college hockey, the top seeded Golden Gophers, who defeated Boston University 6-2 to advance.
From those who have attended the more elitist schools in the state, the words “Quinnipiac” and “culture” should not necessarily be linked. But the truth is, they are a quite competitive institution in many ways. Per their website, they more than hold their own academically with blue bloods:
Recognized Among the Top
A Best National University
U.S. News & World Report names Quinnipiac among the best national universities in the nation.
The Princeton Review ranks Quinnipiac among the top 388 colleges in the country.
Forbes recognizes Quinnipiac as one of America’s Top Colleges.
And as Amore wrote earlier this year, they have indeed been at the top of their game in hockey all season:
The men’s hockey team at Quinnipiac has been to the national championship game twice, has consistently been a national contender for more than a decade.
But the Bobcats’ quest for respect among the sport’s “blue bloods” goes on.
That’s been our whole thing,” said Mike Lombardi, a grad student in his fifth season at Quinnipiac. “Everybody says ‘we don’t play anybody,’ but at the end of the day I think we’re a great team and we’re poised for a long run this year.”
Quinnipiac (18-1-3) had to win a lot of games to get there, but reached the top of the national polls on Jan. 9 and is at No. 1 for the second week in a row.
And when it comes to polls, a world I know more than a thing or two about, Quinnipiac is a more than known commodity, as Wikipedia describes:
Quinnipiac’s polling institute receives national recognition for its independent surveys of residents throughout the United States. It conducts public opinion polls on politics and public policy as a public service as well as for academic research. The poll has been cited by major news outlets throughout North America and Europe, including The Washington Post, Fox News, USA Today, The New York Times, CNN, and Reuters.
The polling operation began informally in 1988 in conjunction with a marketing class. It became formal in 1994 when the university hired a CBS News analyst to assess the data being gained. It subsequently focused on the Northeastern states, gradually expanding during presidential elections to cover swing states as well. The institute receives funding from the university, with its phone callers generally being work study students or local residents. The polls have been rated highly by FiveThirtyEight for accuracy in predicting primary and general elections. In 2018 Politico called the Quinnipiac poll “the most significant player among a number of schools that have established a national polling footprint.”
So I know Quinnipiac very well. College hockey fans do, too. Ed McMahon did–he was a generous contributor to the school and its mass communications center is named for him. I never saw him quite as tripped out in school gear in his lifetime as Oswego’s top fan and current NBC personality, Al Roker, but hey, he was generous.
And if the Bobcats can find enough scrappiness and talent to muster up one more win tomorrow night against yet another blue blood–indeed, when it comes to hockey–Minnesota is both geographically and historically at the top of the heap–then you, too, should be generous with your praise.
Maybe you get nervous when it comes to believing in something associated with Q. Certainly, where good pizza is involved.
Don’t be. There’s no conspiracy here. Quinnipiac is damn good, and it’s as much as a blue blood as any other school in many ways.
Good luck, Bobcats. Avoid the pizza in Tampa, but do indulge in anything Cuban. Hopefully, they’ll be paying for you tomorrow night.