Bobcats Enjoy Perfect Opening

Humble Quinnipiac provides Harvard with season-starting surprise

Jessica E. Zbikowski

No title race was ever decided the first weekend of a season, and there’s no more to be learned from a 2-0-0 record than from an 0-2-0 mark—not when hockey seasons stretch more than 30 games.
But for now, at least for a week, the Quinnipiac men’s program is a perfect 2-0-0 in ECAC play.
And it certainly means something to the Bobcats.
Quinnipiac has had a hockey team since 1975—nearly 80 years fewer than Harvard—and the Bobcats have only been Division I since the 1998-1999 season.
This year, the reigning Atlantic Hockey champions shifted into the ECAC, filling the void left by Vermont’s departure.
And last Friday night they knocked off the Crimson, which began fielding hockey teams 31 years before Quinnipiac University was even founded.
“It gave us credibility, really,” said junior defenseman Reid Cashman, whose 45 points last year earned him Hobey Baker finalist honors.
The Bobcats opened their season with two losses to Michigan on Oct. 7 and 8, but they won six straight before last weekend’s Harvard game, the ECAC opener.
It was scheduled for the Hartford Civic Center, former home of the NHL’s Whalers.
The 5,049-person crowd was the largest of any athletic event in Quinnipiac’s history, and dropping the ceremonial first puck was legend Gordie Howe, honorary chairman of the school’s Hudson United Bank Center campaign for new hockey and basketball arenas.
“I think a lot of people in the Quinnipiac community would have been happy with us having a close game,” coach Rand Pecknold said.
But it wasn’t even close, at least not at the end.
The Bobcats drubbed the Crimson 5-2, and just minutes after the final buzzer, Pecknold deemed it the “best win in Quinnipiac history.”
Rookie goalie Bud Fisher collected 35 saves, nine different Bobcats collected points in the effort, and special teams held the Crimson to a 1-of-12 night on the power play.
“Hopefully tonight caught the eyes of other people in the ECAC,” said freshman David Marshall, who scored twice. And if Friday’s performance didn’t, Saturday’s 7-5 defeat of Dartmouth certainly did.
“To follow it, to beat Dartmouth—it’s something I don’t think a lot of people thought was possible,” Pecknold laughed.
Despite finishing the 2004-2005 season first in Atlantic Hockey, Quinnipiac was picked to finish dead last in both ECAC preseason polls, conducted by coaches and media.
But for now, at least for this week, the Bobcats get to enjoy a tie for the lead, however brief or irrelevant it may be in the long run.
The weekend wasn’t just good for the hockey program, Pecknold said. It was good for the school.
“But now,” he added, “we need to prove we’re capable of having more than just a feel-good weekend.”
In two days, Quinnipiac makes its first ECAC road trip with games against Rensselaer and Union.
The Engineers knocked off Boston University three weeks ago, but if the Bobcats play as they did last weekend, they might just find themselves 4-0-0 in the ECAC.
“For us, it’s just unbelievable to play in some of these old buildings and these historic universities,” Cashman said. “And the level of competition—I mean, the ECAC had three teams in the NCAA tournament last year.”
Before the season started, most said the Bobcats wouldn’t be able to keep up with the ECAC’s competition, and maybe they won’t. It’s too early to know, really.
But this week, at least, Quinnipiac has something to savor.
—Staff writer Rebecca A. Seesel can be reached at seesel@fas.harvard.edu.

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