Rand Pecknold leads Quinnipiac

The Quinnipiac University men’s hockey team picked the wrong time to put forth its worst game of the season Friday, March 28, and as a result went home early after what was an otherwise stellar season on the ice.
Providence College outplayed the Bobcats in every facet of the opening round of the NCAA ice hockey tournament at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport that night, denying the locals a return to the Frozen Four, where they were a game away from winning a national championship in 2013.
Friars’ goalie Jon Gillies backboned the victory, making 37 saves en route to a 4-0 shutout win in the opening round of the Northeast Regional.
“It’s pretty simple, we played poorly tonight and I’m not sure why,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold, a resident of Fairfield. “I’m not sure why. I know we were in a different type of game; there was a lot of obstruction and we’re not used to that. We didn’t adjust to it.”
The coach also gave kudos to Gillies. “We didn’t play great but Gillies was really good and he would have been tough to beat,” Pecknold said.
Union College of Schenectady, N.Y., which also played in Bridgeport in the Northeast Regionals, won the national championship by defeating the University of Minnesota 7-4 in the finals of the Frozen Four in Philadelphia.
Last season, it was Pecknold’s Bobcats who were in the Frozen Four finals, losing to Yale University, 4-0 in an all-Connecticut final held in Pittsburgh.
Quinnipiac entered this year’s game with Providence ranked seventh in the country and, along with Union, was one of the favorites to emerge from the Bridgeport bracket.
“They played hard and we struggled, especially with puck retrieval,” Pecknold said after the loss. “I felt we were sluggish. Usually we skate well and that’s a big part of our game, but for some reason we just didn’t.”
Pecknold is a strong believer in “puck luck,” a phrase he uses to described those breaks on the ice that are out of a team’s control. The Fairfielder certainly didn’t believe the Bobcats saw much in the way of puck luck against the Friars.
“You have to create your own puck luck and we didn’t do that and that’s our fault,” he noted . “We had some bad bounces, particularly on their fourth goal. Then we lost our composure and played poorly across the board. Providence competed the entire game and they deserved the win.”
Pecknold was reflective after the game and was particularly full of praise for the graduating seniors: Cory Hibbeler, Connor Jones, Kellen Jones, Brooks Robinson, Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Zach Tolkinen.
“Cory Hibbeler is one of the best character players I’ve ever coached,” he said. “The entire class has been phenomenal. We have four of them graduating early and going for their MBAs, they’ve all been great in the community; I could coach another 20 years and not have another senior class like this.”
Pecknold has proven he is no slouch himself. At the helm since 1994-95 at Quinnipiac, he is sixth all-time among active NCAA coaches with 391 wins. In 2013, he was named both the ECAC Tim Taylor Coach of the Year and the New England Hockey Writer’s Association Clark Hodder Coach of the Year.
Pecknold’s Bobcats finished the 2013-14 campaign with a 24-10-06 record.

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