Something to Prove
Quinnipiac Sets Sight on National Title Run
by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. It seemed inevitable, really.
The way Quinnipiac torched the rest of the ECAC during the regular season, last weekend's ECAC tournament in Atlantic City, N.J., had to fall their way. Even with the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament wrapped up, the Bobcats wanted the program's first Whitelaw Cup.
QU coach Rand Pecknold expected the best from his team. After all, he'd rarely seen anything else this season — one that included a 21-game unbeaten streak, a regular-season championship and some strong performances against teams from college hockey's power conferences. Those two games in Atlantic City belonged to the Bobcats. They deserved that trophy.
They just didn't show up.
"We didn't have quite what we needed from an intensity standpoint, but certainly you can't use that as excuse in Atlantic City," Pecknold said. "We've had a great group of guys that wanted to play well all year, but we didn't have a good game. It just didn't work for us."
QU fell, 4-0, to Brown in the league semifinal last Friday. The win in Saturday's ECAC consolation game offered very little for the Bobcats. The tough loss to Brown defined the weekend. It was, of course, the club's play between early November and February that clinched its spot on the NCAA tournament. QU earned the No. 1 overall seed in the 16-team field and a date with Atlantic Hockey champion Canisius.
Despite the regular-season success, Pecknold and his club learned from last weekend's disappointment. The Bobcats are superior to their opponent. That won't stop Canisius from playing their best hockey.
"We have a long history with Canisius in the (now-defunct Metro-Athletic Athletic Conference) and Atlantic Hockey," Pecknold said. "I've been really impressed with them. I watched a number of games and highlights from the 8-0 run they're on, and they look outstanding."
Moving on from the loss isn't something Pecknold is concerned with. His team's commitment to its short memory sustained it during the best times of the season. Forgetting about good wins and focusing on the next game was as much a part of the 21-game unbeaten streak as any player.
Pecknold believes a portion of their struggles in Atlantic City stemmed from the inconsequential end to the season. QU wrapped up the ECAC regular-season title on Feb. 15. Ironically, that was also the night its 21-game unbeaten run ended. Obviously, the Bobcats tried to win those games, but it's difficult to conjure urgency.
They have accepted last weekend's failure, aware of the meaning of Saturday's meeting with Canisius. The motivation they showed in the earliest part of the season has returned. They know what's at stake with a successful performance on the weekend.
"This team doesn't need any gimmicks to get motivated," Pecknold said. "We haven't used them all year. We don't need them.
"They compete. They worked hard. It's an awesome group of guys with great character, very resilient. We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing all year."
For the players, last weekend's loss and the general skepticism surrounding Quinnipiac's run to the No. 1 overall seed has offered some additional incentive to make a run on college hockey's greatest stage.
"We're just excited to be here, and we want to prove we're a legitimate team," QU senior Zack Currie said.
The Bobcats provided some ammunition for their doubters with last weekend's failures. They've moved on, Pecknold says. They're ready to show everyone they belong with the nation's best teams. Their chance to prove that starts Saturday night. It doesn't end there, but that's when it starts.
"We have what it takes to go the whole way," Currie said. "I think, more than anything, it's just exciting to have doubters. If they want to doubt then we're fine with that."