The National Championship has a new home: Hamden, Connecticut, home of the Quinnipiac Bobcats

Matt Mugno

According to the dictionary, championship means, “a contest for the position of champion in a sport, often involving a series of games or matches.” Direct. That doesn’t encapsulate the championship effect though. 

The Hamden Heavyweights won the National Championship in style. For poets and dreamers, it means something to everyone.

It requires a broad brush to paint what the title means. A good film or novel has the consumer discovering the faceted layers of its title. This applies to the 2023 Frozen Four campaign. The dust hasn’t settled but this sports world moves quickly. Here is a handful of the victory’s meaning. 

  1. Student Body and School Spirit:

It seemed like for years the school has struggled to miss the mark. Students consistently were not attending athletic events. Some other universities did not make it as far which left students wondering, “Where’s our watch party?” Deeper than that, where was the common ground of unity? The University saw a rise in participation during the fall when the men’s and women’s soccer teams won the MAAC conference titles.

What this means for the student body and school spirit is monumental. So many recognizable faces in the crowd of 19,000 at Amalie Arena was a beautiful sight. The Gophers certainly had the attendance advantage. The program gained varsity status in 1920 and low and behold, the fandom and noise in the arena post-victory for the Bobcats were unbelievable. 

ESPN released the total number of viewers for the championship game which was the largest since 2008. The 2023 National Championship, had 808,000 viewers. That is almost as many viewers as the 2021 and 2022’s entire tournaments. The Quinnipiac student body finally did it right. The pep rally was well attended, and the atmosphere in the town had been nothing short of the most fun students have had in a long time. 

Coming to Quinnipiac post the 2016 run, this is what I imagined. I’d never seen so many yellow shirts dotted on the quad before. Covid took a toll on that for a few years, and it started to feel systematic of QU in athletics and therefore in the student moral “we’re close but not good enough.” Throw that mentality out.  In the words of Zach Metsa, “ WE won the National Championship.” 

  1. What Rand Pecknold Means:

If you’ve ever questioned why you are following a dream, enter the man at the helm. No other person should describe it but the man himself as he had on the Spittin Chiclets podcast. “The only offer I had was at Quinnipiac, it paid 6,7000 bucks, they told me it would pay seven grand and then I got the contract and lost 300 bucks in the deal. I had a teaching job 61 miles away, I would get up at 6:00 a.m. as a high school history teacher at Griswold High School, got home at 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. got down, recruited, midnight practice slept… We had tryouts I had 17 skaters and 12 goalies. We didn’t have enough guys for the team. I literally asked the twelve goalies if you don’t make the team as the goalie has anyone played out before?”

Pecknold continued detailing himself and his program’s synonymous history. “We do four years Division 3, we got pretty good, some USHL players. My first AD retires after the first year and we bring in Jack MacDonald from Denver, my president John Leahy said we are going to become a D1 program. He did it to become a better academic school which was brilliant, it’s exactly what happened… there were whispers that they would go get a D1 basketball coach and a hockey coach and I was like ‘oh my god I’m gonna be out of a job!’ My fourth year we were 11-0 by Christmas and Jack convinced our president to keep me. The big thing was we got the facility which was showing commitment… Holy Cross left, the (ECAC) took us in. The 2013 Frozen Four run launched us again.”

Rand Pecknold’s program is Rand himself. Hard-working, intelligent, and detailed. These words describe the man behind the bench and the product on the ice. Pecknold is showing the student body that it may take a long time to reach the unreachable, but he has. It’s one of the most inspiring sports stories of the year. Someone somewhere woke up today and lost faith or believed they couldn’t. 

Whether you’re studying Occupational Therapy or Computer Science, Rand Pecknold is a figure of hope. Quinnipiac succeeds. Coaches and teams at the university, students, and employees, can all look to a man that took a program from barely having a substantial tryout to winning college hockey. Doesn’t the story make you want to run up Sleeping Giant? 

Most outsiders viewed Pecknold as someone who couldn’t get the team all the way. They surely didn’t know the history of the program or the man who pioneered it. 

  1. NHL Scouts Now Intrigued:

In the last 72 hours, the Bobcats went from the inaccurate and elitist-believed nobody in the tournament to suddenly being thrust into the national spotlight. 

Against Michigan and twenty-four hours before the Hobey Baker presentation at the Sparkman Wharf, it was all about Luke Hughes, Adam Fantilli, Mathew Knies, and Logan Cooley. In the championship, two scouts walked into the QBSN booth, one from Columbus and Detroit to ask us where the Quinnipiac line sheets were. That’s how quickly they gained the big leagues’ attention. 

Already, graduate TJ Friedmann signed with the Utica Comets, Skyler Brind’ Armour has decided not to sign with the Oilers but will likely get an NHL look, and Sam Lipkin has been rumored to decide by the end of the week. The York Hill Boys linemates have drawn significant interest from NHL scouts, Yaniv Perets has decided to sign a two-year contract with The Carolina Hurricanes. It’s hard to see up with the intrigue this team has garnered. 

  1. Players and Favorites May Leave: 

The flip of the coin with NHL intrigue is you lose favorites. Players that got the team this far that could have been at Quinnipiac for years will most likely be leaving. The York Hill Boys line went from complete surprises to most likely being split up. With Perets gone, the Bobcats will have lost their all-time goaltender. The goaltender is a humble and kind young man off the ice and the team quickly must quickly retain talent or sufficiently add to the machine. 

The team featured fourth-years and fifth-years that are leaving by naturally graduating. Now the team may lose key players from winning. Isn’t that something? 

At the beginning of the season, the Sherbrooke Boys were healthy scratches. Sam Lipkin was a flashy forward with limited point totals early on. Jacob Quillan had two goals in 21-22 while Collin Graf had 22 points for a mediocre Dutchmen squad. They developed so well, then became a driving force. All year QBSN and Q30 talked about how the Bobcats “have a bright future.”  Well, the future became the now in the National Tournament, and these players may be in the past by 2023-2024. 

They won the championship, and they’ve gone from your assortment of college hockey players to the relentless desire of NHL scouts. For the fans, it’s difficult to part with. They’ve supported these players all year, all through a narrative that framed the Bobcats as the “Gonzaga of hockey.” The team at its peak will not painfully see favorites depart earlier than anticipated. 

  1. Recruiting & Transfers:

Ah! Eureka! Revered Quinnipiac hockey icons are bound to leave. The championship now allows the staff to bolster the roster. 

A player has a few offers. Better than the Bobcats? Go ahead, kiss the ring. It’s the infinity gauntlet of a blue chip in recruiting. The staff has a strong culture and the players need to buy in. 

Pecknold has discussed what this means for recruiting, “one summer I said let’s go back and look through every kid we’ve had the last eleven years. Just simplify, they did what they thought we were gonna do… we got a lot of kids that overachieve and underachieve. And then, why? Why do kids fail at Quinnipiac? Why do walk-ons make it to the NHL? What happened over and over again was high hockey IQ, high character, was the overachiever. The lack of one of those was what failed them. They could be a superstar player and a turd of a kid and it wasn’t gonna work out here.”  

The Bobcats have already garnered transfers. Davis Pennington of Omaha and Cooper Moore from North Dakota will be on the Bobcats’ blue line next season to solidify and help fill in the top four d-core. You have losses from graduates and now big league offers. Amid the NCAA regionals, assistant coaches Mike Corbett and Joe Dumais are helping recruit for next year. 

Imagine the talent that wants to come to Quinnipiac seeing how players like Graf, Jake Johnson, Jacob Nordqvist, and Joey Cippolone performed this season. The championship means the program has entered another stratosphere in recruiting talent and a desire to play in Hamden from transfers. 

  1. Respect for the Name:

 Minnesota and Michigan were heavily favored by major outlets such as ESPN. The program struggled to get over the hump of winning their conference in Lake Placid and advancing to the Frozen Four. 

The national attention write-ups from Forbes, ESPN, and the Spittin Chiclets podcast appearances have culminated in a new respect. Yes, Minnesota and Michigan have existed for a hundred years. it doesn’t mean they should have doubted them. 

Coaches and players didn’t directly say it. The in-between-the-lines at pressers and outcomes reflect on that. Brandon Naurato and BobMatzko not as much. It was great to see respect put on the program’s name. 

  1. The Strength of Schedule Doesn’t Matter: 

Gophers head coach Bob Motzko called Quinnipiac the “Big Ten Killers.” That’s a rock-star nickname. It also proves that a team that has been ridiculed for playing in the ECAC was able to defeat the nation’s most revered: Ohio State, Michigan, and Minnesota fell to “Winn-ipiac”. This is how the totals tally since the Division 1 realignment:

Championships by Conference:

NCHC: 5 

Hockey East:2


Big 10:0


The Pandemic: 1 (not funny) 

This championship is a word with a million meanings. Everyone that it touches should come away with something from this championship. 

The Bobcat’s triumph transcends the game. Whether it reignited belief at Quinnipiac, maybe in a single student struggling with the grind, it brought the community together, and created a commonality amongst the diversity of the student populous. 

The title has polysemy. Whatever it means to you, take it, and run with it. You never know how it could impact your life….