Pecknold's Return Has Quinnipiac Thinking Big
by Joshua Seguin/CHN Writer
Quinnipiac has been in college hockey's Division I since 1998. In its 14 years of division I play the Bobcats have had one coach, Rand Pecknold.
But that steady hand was close to changing over the summer.
Being heavily courted by Massachusetts and subsequently being offered the head coaching position, Pecknold could have left his beloved Quinnipiac. Instead he chose to stay and continue building a program that he has overseen for its entire Division I history.
"I am very happy with where I am,” Pecknold said. "I have been there 19 years, whether or not I looked at the UMass job, I am very excited to kick off our season. We are looking forward to growing as a team."
Pecknold had the opportunity to bolster a UMass program that he views as top notch, but there is something that kept him at the helm of the Bobcats. Being able to continue the program that he has overseen from its infancy was tops on his list.
"I can’t really talk much about the UMass situation," said Pecknold. "UMass is a great institution and John McCutcheon is a great athletic director. They did a great job with getting John Michelletto."
Pecknold also received a one-year contract extension, taking him through 2017, which is the fifth straight offseason he received such an extension, always staying contracted five years out.
All told Pecknold has accumulated 263 Division I wins and 338 when taking into account his wins in Division II. All of these wins have come at the reins of the Bobcats, also known as the Braves until the 2002-03 season. He is currently ninth among active Division I coaches in wins.
Building a program from the ground up is something that few coaches can say they have had the pleasure of doing, but Pecknold oversaw the program’s move from Division II to Division I in 1998 and has enjoyed nothing but success since.
"I remember when we were building the program at Quinnipiac," said Pecknold. "In our first year none of the big boys would play any teams from the MAAC. We didn't play one non-conference game all year. The first coach that stepped up to play us was Shawn Walsh, at Maine."
In their 14 seasons in Division I hockey, Quinnipiac has not had a losing season and has 11 20-plus win seasons. The Bobcats first entered Division I in the MAAC, which later became Atlantic Hockey when the nine member schools broke away and formed their own governing body. Beginning in the 2005-06 season, Quinnipiac found a permanent home in the ECAC.
Despite not breaking into the elite of the ECAC, Quinnipiac’s story under Pecknold can be viewed as successful. Quinnipiac is always in the middle of the pack in the ECAC and consistently winning games. In 2007, it reached the ECAC championship game, and each season, seems to turn in some big non-league wins.
But each season has also had slumps which have cost the team from breaking into the upper echelon. This season, the expectations are high that this will finally be the season that happens.
Saturday night, Quinnipiac went up to Maine and won its first game in dramatic fashion. Before Saturday, Quinnipiac was 0-3 at Alfond Arena, being outscored by an aggregate of 17-1, and wins like these are not taken for granted by Pecknold.
"Maine has a storied tradition," said Pecknold. "To me this was a big win for our guys, not just for the win but because we came up here and won with all the tradition that goes with this place."
It was a win that was a long time coming for the program, considering Maine was the first program that was willing to play them. But getting ahead of themselves is not what the Bobcats are intending to do.
"We never know how the season is going to run," said Pecknold. "We could get to March and this could be the game that’s gets us in the tournament but it’s very early to be talking about that. We wanted to come up here and play hard and possibly win; maybe a tie and we did that."
With or without Pecknold, the Bobcats would have been ready. Either way they were hoping that the long-time coach would come back.
"We just had to sit back as that was something for Rand to deal with," said senior forward Jeremy Langlois. "We were hoping that he would be back with us and we had faith that he would be back with us."
"We knew Rand was behind us,” said Quinnipiac senior Captain Zack Currie. "Any time that a coach gets an opportunity to go to a Hockey East school you have to look at it. We knew that he was going to stick around here, he loves it here and he built this program. Once we knew that he was on board, we just went on from there."
His respect and loyalty to Quinnipiac is unmatched, but UMass would have been a huge opportunity for Rand Pecknold. His faith in his players and what he has going into the season was something that kept him at Quinnipiac. A strong nucleus up front and a solid goaltender, in senior Eric Hartzell, has to have the coach wondering if this will be the year that Quinnipiac can break into the elite of the ECAC. Only time will tell if this opening win will be the one that propels it there.