By: Chris Lopresti
WQAQ Hockey Beat Writer
March 2, 2007
HAMDEN, Conn. – The second half of the season has been a roller coaster ride for the Quinnipiac Men’s Hockey team. Just compare their record from before the New Year to after the New Year: 8-4-4 to 8-9-1. When the TD Banknorth Sports Center opened on January 28th, the Bobcats were atop the ECACHL standings. Things went downhill from there and the team finished fifth, one measly point away from a first round bye in the playoffs.
It wouldn’t be farfetched to label this collapse as a “choke.” However, looking at the big picture, the season has actually been a success thus far. In just their second campaign as a member of this conference, Quinnipiac has achieved its goal: securing home ice in the first round of the playoffs. They may not have accomplished this feat with style but they’ve done it nonetheless.
This weekend marks a momentous occasion for Quinnipiac Athletics. Not only are three of its teams in the playoffs (men’s hockey and both basketball teams), they are all hosting playoff games for the first time in school history. In fact, the Men’s Basketball team got things started the right way with a one-point win over FDU last night. Women’s Basketball hosts a quarterfinal match-up Saturday afternoon against Monmouth.
But there’s no mistaking the showcase of the weekend and it begins tonight at seven o’clock. For Quinnipiac fans, it’s the greatest show on ice. When the lights go out at “The Bank”, the Bobcats will emerge from their locker room to AC/DC’s crowd favorite “Thunderstruck” and from there on out, the pressure is on.
The University bought 1,000 tickets to each of the three possible games for its students – they’re all gone. The deep blue seats will be consumed by a sea of gold tonight, each fan ready to scream their lungs out for the home team. No pressure, right?
The Bobcats may have struggled down the stretch, but they have to feel good about this first round match-up. The opponent is Union, the cellar-dwellers of the ECACHL. Three times this year Quinnipiac has faced off against the Dutchmen and three times they have emerged victorious, outscoring them 20-9. In their history, these teams have met six times and Quinnipiac has five wins. Still, no pressure, right?
It’s hard to disagree that fate may have stepped in and influenced the fifth place finish by the Bobcats. Had they earned a bye, not only would their quarterfinal opponent pose a greater challenge, but the die hard fans, the students, would be scattered around the country (and for some, the world) on Spring Break, unable to root for their team. No pressure.
Everything about this weekend feels right. The playoff atmosphere, the match-up, the fan support. It’s Quinnipiac’s chance to shine in the post-season. It’s their chance to get on a roll and build momentum towards next week’s quarterfinal showdown with Cornell because they couldn’t possibly lose to Union, right?
For Union, there’s no pressure. They finished in last place and nobody is expecting anything out of them in the playoffs. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Last year the Bobcats finished 10th in their first season as a member of the conference. They had to go on the road against an RPI team who was supposedly better than them. They swept the Engineers right out of their own building and marched on to the Quarterfinals. A team like Union presents the same sort of danger this season. Not to worry.
The Bobcats are contenders this year with a collection of immense offensive talent and sophomore goaltender that, when on his game, can be the difference between a win and a loss. All the pieces are there, now it’s time for this team to put them together. They got what they wanted: a chance to play in their beautiful new home in front of their “Crazy Bobcat” fans. Now they must deliver a win or else be labeled as underachievers.
In the words of Billy Joel, they’ll have to deal with PRESSURE!