Up on the biggest hill in Hamden, Connecticut is one of, if not the greatest sports complex in all of New England.
Driving up the hill for the first time you will not know what to expect. When you get to the top, you'll certainly be amazed. On one side you have the basketball court and on the other you have a rink unlike any other.
From games at Hamden High School to games at the little Northford Ice Pavillion, the Quinnipiac Bobcats finally earned a place to call their own in 2007: the TD Bank SportsCenter. They have skated out to different warm-up songs for the past six years now at the bank and each year brings in new faces to the family.
A close-knit family that started off with nothing is now forming into a powerhouse that is moving up the intense food chain of NCAA DI hockey.
The Bobcats, formally known as the Braves, started off as an Independent team in DII. In 1999 they were invited to join the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) and were implanted into the prestigious Division I athletics.
With all of the opportunities, the Quinnipiac Bobcats have never looked back. Winning the MAAC in 2002 over and intense 6-4 victory over Mercyhurst booked their ticket to their first ever NCAA tournament only to lose to Cornell in the first round.
Four years later the Bobcats would get revenge on the "Big Red" of Cornell who were the highest ranked team to ever be beaten by Quinnipiac. The Bobcats skated to a 5-2 victory that day over No. 12 Cornell. I still have the ticket.
On January 27, 2007 the University bused all their fans up the giant hill for the unveiling of the new arena. My 12-year-old self stood there in complete shock as I was introduced to the nicest arena my eyes had ever come across. To make it even better, the arena sat right up the street from my house.
Not only has this team made me love hockey, they have taught me all the rules in this wonderful game. If I was ever grounded I would not lose my T.V. privileges or my video games. My parents would take away something that meant more to me: my opportunity to go to the Quinnipiac Hockey games.
In the six years that the Bobcats have been up the street, I have seen Reid Cashman connect on home-run passes to Mike Atkinson, all four years of Bud Fisher's legacy as one of the best goalies to ever be between the pipes for the Bobcats. I've seen Brandon Wong put on one of the greatest performance a freshmen has ever amounted to in the blue and gold and I have seen on ice chemistry like no other in Conner and Kellen Jones.
This ride has not been all smiles however as with all pros there are always cons. Cons like Matt Sorteberg breaking his ankle in the postgame celebration in '07. The infamous second half slide we see every year after the holiday break, the second-round defeat year after year or even the rise and fall of the promising Scott Zurevinski.
However, the season ends with this team bringing back, year after year, their extreme work ethic, the growing talent and the lovable players like Brandon Wong, Zach Hansen and Loren Baron. These players are not just a team. They are a family that strives for greatness every game and every year. They come out firing every game and if they come out flat you can see them running the hill bright and early the next morning.
One of the main reasons Quinnipiac sees success every year is their head coach Rand Pecknold. Rand just finished up his 17th year as the Bobcats commander and chief. His excellent recruiting skills shine every year when the fans see the talent of the new freshmen. Rand is the reason this team rose from the ashes and he will be the reason the keep seeing success. Since coming to Quinnipiac he has posted a 317-216-56 record.
Pecknold's success has been noticed by many as he was a two-time finalist for the Spencer Penrose National Coach of the Year, the 2005 Atlantic Hockey Coach of the Year and the 2006 InsideCollegeHockey.com ECAC Hockey Coach of the Year.
Every year this team gets better and although they have not been able to notch a top-four finish in the ECAC they have finished in the top eight every year, resulting in a home playoff series in the first round of their conference playoffs.
For the diehard fans, this team is not just an excuse to get out of the house. This team is a family to us as we've seen them mature and felt the heartbreak of the tough losses.
The incoming class of 2012 will make it one of the best teams to ever take the ice at the bank and I feel the top-four finish is only the beginning of the success we'll see in 2012.