Quinnipiac winter sports programs wrapping up successful seasons
By Logan Reardon
This winter? Cold. Quinnipiac’s winter sports programs? Hot.
At this point in the year, most collegiate winter sports programs are starting to finish up their seasons. For Quinnipiac, it’s the opposite. Three of the four teams (men’s basketball, women’s basketball and men’s ice hockey) are still alive and well as they look to win their conference tournaments in the coming weeks.
The Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team finished its regular season on Saturday with a convincing 4-1 win at Yale. The Bobcats’ record was 25-7-2 as they now move on to postseason play.
While a big win on the road against a rival is thrilling enough, Quinnipiac also clinched the No. 1 seed in the ECAC Hockey Tournament. The Bobcats finished tied with Cornell for first in the conference and got the top seed based on a tiebreaker (1-0-1 head-to-head vs. Cornell).
“It was awesome,” Quinnipiac junior forward Nick Jermain said on finding out the team won the Cleary Cup (winner of ECAC Hockey). “We didn’t really know what was going on and then (Quinnipiac associate head coach Bill) Riga was like ‘We got it’. Everyone just freaked out and it was an awesome feeling, still being on the ice and being able to celebrate with everyone.”
The Bobcats finished the year on fire, winning four of their last five games and outscoring opponents 20-10 across those games. Still, securing the No. 1 seed and an all-important first-round bye in the ECAC Hockey Tournament was pivotal.
“It’s huge, we have a couple guys who could use a week off,” Jermain said after the win. “I mean, we all can this time of year. It’s going to be a big advantage for us to be able to rest up, lick our wounds and then be ready to attack the rest of season.”
The rest of the season might not seem like much, but there’s still a lot of hockey to be played. The bottom eight teams in the conference will begin the tournament on March 8, with the higher seed hosting a best-of-three series on their home ice. The top four seeds get that weekend off.
The following weekend (March 15-17), No. 1 Quinnipiac will host the winner of No. 9 Princeton vs. No. 8 Brown at the People’s United Center for a best-of-three series. The winner of that series will head to Lake Placid, New York for the ECAC Hockey Semifinal on March 22.
After wrapping up the ECAC Hockey Tournament that weekend, Quinnipiac will learn its fate for the NCAA Tournament as it hopes to get back to another Frozen Four.
The Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey team wasn’t on the same level as the men’s team this season, as the Bobcats were eliminated in the ECAC Hockey Quarterfinals on March 2 after Clarkson swept them in two games.
Quinnipiac finished the season 12-18-6, but a solid 9-9-4 record in ECAC Hockey earned it the No. 6 seed. But facing No. 3 Clarkson on the road proved to be a challenge. After playing Clarkson to a 1-1 tie in the season finale, the Bobcats couldn’t get it going in the playoffs. A 3-0 loss in the first game and a 4-3 loss in the second game ended Quinnipiac’s season.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, next season might be another tough one. Quinnipiac is losing its top three leading point-scorers, in seniors Melissa Samoskevich, Kenzie Lancaster and Randi Marcon. On the bright side, the next 12 leading point-scorers after those three were underclassmen, so the expectation is that they will all step up and fill the void.
On the other side of the People’s United Center, the Quinnipiac women’s and men’s basketball teams have been two of the strongest teams in their respective conferences.
The women, as usual, have dominated the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). For the fifth straight season, the Bobcats won the MAAC regular season championship. But that’s not all. For the second straight season, the Bobcats finished a perfect 18-0 in the MAAC. They have won 49 straight MAAC contests heading into this weekend’s MAAC Tournament in Albany.
“Going into the MAAC, any team has to be as confident as possible,” Quinnipiac senior guard Brittany Martin said. “Every team, even the last team in the conference, they’re coming in wanting to win. You have that energy coming in, you never know what could happen. There could be an upset, but that’s not what we want. We’re coming in hungrier than ever.”
Quinnipiac travels to Albany looking for its third straight MAAC championship (and NCAA Tournament appearance). The Bobcats have won an NCAA Tournament game in each of the past two seasons.
As good as the Bobcats have been on the national stage, their dominance in the MAAC cannot be overlooked. Nine of Quinnipiac’s 18 conference wins this season came by 20 points or more and 16 of 18 came by at least 10 points. Pure dominance.
The Bobcats had a few “close” games down the stretch, including an eight-point win at Fairfield on Feb. 17 and a six-point win at Rider on Feb. 21, but they’ve again been largely unchallenged this year. Look for that to continue in Albany.
While the women’s team is a perennial powerhouse, the men’s basketball team has been anything but that. Things might be starting to change, though.
After four straight years finishing below .500, Quinnipiac finished the 2018-19 regular season 16-13. While this might seem like a modest step, it’s actually pretty huge for a program that won 12, 10 and nine games in the past three seasons.
More importantly, the Bobcats finished 11-7 in the MAAC, good for a No. 3 seed in the upcoming MAAC Tournament. Quinnipiac will face the winner of No. 6 Monmouth vs. No. 11 Niagara. The Bobcats swept Monmouth in two games this season and split two games with Niagara.
The season was Quinnipiac’s best in years, but it could’ve been better. Heading into Sunday, Quinnipiac just needed a win over Manhattan, who was 7-10 in the MAAC entering the game. A win over Manhattan and Quinnipiac would’ve been crowned co-MAAC regular season champions and entered Albany as the No. 2 seed. The Bobcats disappointed, though, losing 62-58.
“Disappointing day for us,” Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy said. “We’ve been playing good basketball on the road, with two straight roads wins and I feel really good about where we are.”
Still, for the first time in years, it seems as if both the women and the men have a realistic shot to win the MAAC Tournament. The men have never done it in program history, but this year they’ve got as good a shot as ever.
So while people are begging for this long, cold winter to end, these teams are praying it never does.