“I can’t say that this place doesn’t help,’’ Currie said. “It’s an amazing facility and it’s a huge draw for recruits and for myself to know that I was coming to a place that was pretty special, especially knowing how nice the rest of campus was as well.
“I never actually went to check out Alaska or Bowling Green, but I’m sure if they had taken me to the rink at Northford there, it might have been a little different.’’
Faith in the program
McDonald, a 1973 Boston College graduate, is a former BC athletic administrator and University of Denver AD, and he drew upon those experiences when shaping Quinnipiac’s facility, which stands head and shoulders above any other in the ECAC and will host the women’s Frozen Four next year.
“There might be bigger ones out there, but there’s none better,’’ McDonald said.
Critical in all of this, though, was Quinnipiac’s invitation to join the ECAC.
It earned the nod over Niagara, which had the hockey program but not the same academic profile as the other ECAC institutions, and Holy Cross, which had the academic credentials but whose women’s hockey program operated at club level.
Quinnipiac had spent considerable capital on its academic profile and already had raised half the money to construct the athletic facility. A huge selling point was the fact that Quinnipiac was committed to equally funding the men’s and women’s hockey programs, going so far as to carve out equal space at the TD Bank Sports Center.
“It’s the same down to the square inch,’’ said Lahey.
“I think our administration has always been in full support of the program,’’ Pecknold said. “All along, Jack was like, ‘We can win in hockey. We can win and be a top 20 team in hockey.’
“Everybody on the campus looked at him, with the exception of me, and thought he was crazy.
“Quinnipiac was never a hockey school. We’d always been basketball and baseball. Then we go Division 1 and we start winning and then we go to the ECAC and all of a sudden we’re a top 20 team and people are like, ‘Wow, how did that happen?’
“It is funny how it’s gone incrementally along the way, but Jack has been a huge supporter, and our president, John Lahey, has just been awesome. He’s one of the best presidents on the planet and the support that he gives and the resources he’s given to athletics and men’s ice hockey has been phenomenal.
“That’s probably the No. 1 reason why we’re having the success that we’re having.’’
To fully appreciate the quantum leap Quinnipiac hockey has made, one must go back to its roots at the Northford Ice Pavilion, where Pecknold and his staff did perhaps their best recruiting job attracting players to play in that facility, which is now home to the Lyman High Trojans, the North Haven Indians, the Branford Hornets, the North Branford T-Birds, the Daniel Hand Tigers, and Hamden Hall hockey team.
The rink sits on a nondescript parcel opposite a Honeywell office/warehouse complex, and nowhere are there any signs identifying it as the former home of a Frozen Four hockey team.
“You know what, we did a great job with that,’’ Pecknold said. “We found a lot of great players, a lot of great kids who paved the way for what we’re doing right now.’’
There were players such as Reid Cashman, now a Quinnipiac assistant, who was among the senior class to last play at Northford and first to put a blade on the fresh sheet at TD Bank Sports Center.
“It felt like we weren’t supposed to be there,’’ Cashman recalled of the Jan. 28, 2007, grand opening of Quinnipiac’s new facility, a 7-0 romp over Holy Cross in which the legendary Gordie Howe dropped the ceremonial opening puck.
“It felt like we were breaking into somebody else’s rink, because we only got half a year there. But it was pretty cool to be a part of that transition.’’
Cashman’s best friend and roommate, Joe Dumais, was not afforded the opportunity. Dumais, part of the gritty class of 2006 that Pecknold identified as pivotal in changing the culture of competition within the program, played all four years at Northford.
“We had a lot of guys who just loved the game, and you’ve got to love the game of hockey just to be able to play there,’’ said Dumais, now an assistant at Union, who was torn when he watched his alma mater earn a berth in the Frozen Four by defeating his Dutchmen in the East Regional championship.
“It doesn’t hold many fans, and the amenities weren’t great. But I think it just showed the character of the guys at Quinnipiac that they were playing every day at that rink.
“For them to go from that to the new rink at the TD Bank Sports Center, that’s why they’re in the Frozen Four. You have to have those kinds of amenities to attract the top talent and to get to the next level.”
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.