“Our Worst Game of the Season”: ECAC Tournament Woahs and How They Scribe into the Big Picture

Matt Mugno

When Zach Metsa joined the ECAC Hockey Podcast in January, the 49th captain in program history stated, “We’ve won a lot but not much.”

The Quinnipiac Bobcats have captured three straight Cleary Cups which are awarded to the best team in ECAC conference play when the regular season concludes. 

Quinnipiac has not won the ECAC Tournament and Whitelaw cup in 2021,2022, or 2023. Zero for three and the third time was not the charm on St. Patrick’s Day. 

After the Bobcats’ loss in the ECAC Semi-final in double overtime on Friday to the “Mitton Miracle” (Colagte), they’ve come up short of expectations again. Expectations the program has set for themselves. Where does this loss fit into the 60-year history of the tournament?

QU’s ECAC Tournament History:

The ECAC Tournament is the oldest collegiate ice hockey conference tournament. In 2003 the tournament was set to twelve teams and four rounds of play. 

The winner of the tournament wins the Whitelaw Cup, named after Robert Whitelaw, who retired in 1989. The cup grants the winner an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. 

The ECAC Tournament was held in Boston Gardens from 1967-1992 (1992 being the last time both semi-final matches went to overtime before Friday night’s semi-finals did the same). From 1992-2002, the tournament was held in Lake Placid, shifting to a split between Atlantic City and Albany before returning to Lake Placid in 2014 and remaining at the historic site ever since. 

Program  Cornell Harvard Quinnipiac Colgate
Championships 12  11 1 2
Appearances 23 22 4 4

Above, is a chart of the 2023 semi-finalists and their ECAC championship histories. Since 2020’s Covid-canceled tournament, the Bobcats have been eliminated the following three years, in two championship overtime games, and the semi-final double-overtime goal. The last and only Whitelaw championship was in 2016. The feeling surrounding the team, from hopeful National Champions seeking to break through this season to a program repeatedly puzzled in the post-season. 

The Bobcats have won a single Whitelaw Cup in its 25-year Division I history and appeared in four in the last seven years of play. Dominant regular seasons with only a small sample of post-season success

Youth Inexperience Caught Up

Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold facilitated one of the most open and critical pressers of the season following the team’s marathon defeat. 

“Probably our worst game of the year, wrong time to do it but it happens their still kids…” Pecknold said.

Metsa last weekend following, Game Two of the quarterfinal stated how the team rebounds well in response to adversity. Last night, a different sentiment from the reigning All-American. 

“It was hit or miss. We had some stretches where we could find it, and some stretches where Colgate would take it to us and we couldn’t seem to find it,” Metsa said. “It’s frustrating because I thought we did a good job with it last week, things didn’t go our way and adversity got the better of us tonight.”

The intensity was there but the composure was not. The likes of Cristophe Tellier, Cristophe Fillion,  and Charles Alexis Legault, the Bobcat’s “York Hill Boys” line was nullified when needed most. 

With the acknowledgment that their deployment had to be radically shifted with the Skyler Brind’Amroud major and seven-minute penalty kill stretch in the second period, the power-play lineup, and the underclassman did not generate enough. 

Collin Graf’s one-quality look came in overtime as he stood up one on one with Carter “Fire-lander” Gylander but not enough came from the nation’s third-leading point scorer. 

The Harlem Globetrotters style doesn’t work on the Pistons’ defense. Sandpaper wins these games and the Raiders did not give the Bobcats an inch. 

Pecknold was displeased with his forward core crediting his fourth-line center and extra skater as his best assets.

“We didn’t do a lot of things right, we did a lot of things wrong,” Pecknold said. “We certainly had kids that were excellent, Victor (Czerneckianair) and Desi (Burgart) were our best forwards.”  He continued, “Our O-zone play was just atrocious…just poor poise with the puck, throwing pucks away, panic, panic more panic. You got to be able to be mentally tough and reset, we can’t waste the whole game.”

Dark Horse Prevails: 

Colgate has been the tournament’s dark horse, they have eliminated the No. One-seeded Bobcats and clinched the Whitelaw Cup after defeating the No. Six-seeded Harvard Crimson. If Quinnipiac is Superman, the Raiders are their kryptonite, even in regular-season play. 

Penalties cost the Bobcats a 2-0 lead in the third in Hamden on Nov. 4 and on Jan. 21 when they defeated the Bobcats in Hamilton 3-2. 

The team was the tournament sleeper, and they played the Bobcats like a record, and capped off the album with Track 17, “The Mitton Miracle.”

Of course, the tidal wave of frustration has emerged out of the Hamden faithful. Is it akin to the “Curse of the Bambino?” Is it the futility of the Toronto Maple Leafs? 

Whatever the hex is on the Hamden Heavyweights, they’ll have to look toward the 2024 ECAC Tournament for a chance to exercise these demons.