Teams, Experiences, Thrill in the Playoffs

 Teams, Experiences, Thrill in the Playoffs

by Jeremy Schilling

March 9, 2007

            SOMEWHERE ON AN UNDISCLOSED TRAIN FROM CT TO NY — How apropos it is that in its first months of inception, the TD Banknorth Sports Center (TDBNSC) would be host to THREE teams making runs into their respective playoffs. Unfortunately women’s basketball ended their run early, but men’s basketball and hockey thrilled the crowd with their performances.

            Men’s basketball enjoyed a playoff run that began with a NEC Quarterfinal matchup at the TD Banknorth Sports Center on a Thursday night. Unfortunately, I don’t think many students realized that, as only about 25-30 showed up. Why, with a sparkling new arena, do practically 0 students show up to a game is beyond me. In contrast, many members of the public were there to enjoy a game where we were up big, only to blow a double-digit lead, and only to have Van Crafton score 12 points in 2:37 to lead us to a thrilling 78-77 victory over Farleigh Dickinson. They would lose three days later in the semifinals at Sacred Heart, but the positive thoughts of that night will surely live with Crafton for a long time.

            The next night Men’s hockey began its ECAC playoff run wit a best of 3 series versus Union College. The antithesis of Thursday night occurred, with 4 whole sections devoted to students filled to the gills, but some public sections were fairly empty!!! Folks, you have a hockey team that was ranked for 14 straight weeks, and don’t come out to their PLAYOFF series??  The student section, however, was rocking. From the first goal (arguably out biggest goal of the season, energizing a crowd that had somewhat lost faith after a subpar couple of months), to the last, it was a rocking TDBNSC. And a 3-1 victory to win Game 1 left the crowd with a good feeling.

            The next night, Saturday night, might forever be known as the night that hockey and popcorn met. I have no idea who, but someone started the idea of handing out big bags – no, not just cups, I mean big bags – and quickly every goal, hit, and save not only became important for the team and its faithful fans, but an opportunity for QU students to start throwing popcorn all over the place. And once again the public failed to show up in droves to witness this insane event!! As for the game, Union got the early goal, but the Bobcats battled back, eventually sending the game into overtime with a score of 4-4.

            College hockey overtime is a full 20 minutes, which meant there was a regular 15 minute intermission preceding it. And that’s when it hit me that Steve Colvin, Director of Promotions for QU Athletics, ran out of stuff to do and free things to give out. No more Crust Pizza giveaways, no more Zamboni contests, and no more dance contests that lead to videos of your wonderful writer here ending up on YouTube.  So the 15 minutes was spent with music, alternating between the Pep Band and the soundtrack of the PA guys. So that was the first thing that was different as we went into overtime. As I attempted to take in the atmosphere, however, I noticed something very disturbing: empty seats. I was so caught up in the game (as I normally am), that when we were leading 4-2 with 5 minutes left, I failed to notice that a lot of students had left. Since this arena opened 3 months ago, the mere thought of shuttle buses forces cringing in students’ heads. The shuttles’ reliability has been spotty, even though they have improved of late. So apparently, with that thought in mind many students left with 5 minutes to go, assuming a win. But folks, in sports, NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING!  Subsequently, I guess, the thought of a 20 minute overtime made more STUDENTS want to leave. So as Union and Quinnipiac returned to the ice, with Union’s season on the line, only half the students were still there! But this time the public got something right: practically none of them had left! And early on, Union took an interference penalty that led to a Reid Cashman pass to Jamie Bates for a goal and VICTORY. Ecstasy.. And popcorn, and a whole lot of it. Yes, the students that had picked up the free popcorn with the original intent of taking it back to their rooms to eat, suddenly hurled it into the air in a united exercise of happiness upon seeing Jamie Bates take us to The Promised Land of the ECAC Quarterfinals. OK, I’ll admit, that wasn’t my thought at the time, but in their slightly intoxicated states, it may well have been the thought of my fellow students.

            As I left TDBNSC’s hockey side, knowing there would be no chance of another Bobcat home game this academic year, I listened to the strains of “Sweet Caroline.” But at that moment I felt like the chorus should be part “Sweet Jamie Bates,” and the other part dedicated to the inventor of popcorn.

            And as I am sitting here, 6 days later, writing this on my train ride back home for Spring Break, I am thinking about how this same Quinnipiac Bobcat hockey team has made its way to Cornell to begin the conference tournament quarterfinal series tonight. That euphoric image of the popcorn going up into the air after the overtime win seems like it happened just moments ago. And win or lose this weekend, that image will stay with me for a very, very long time.  

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