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Back in town
Men’s ice hockey prepares for national championship rematch
It is by far the biggest sporting event of the year for Quinnipiac athletics. The Yale Game.
It’s tough to forget what happened the last time Quinnipiac and Yale squared off against one another for bragging rights. It was for the national championship, in front of the whole country, on ESPN. The Bobcats lost to the Bulldogs in search of the first national championship in school history.
Yale celebrated a 4-0 shutout victory in Pittsburgh for the title.
Six months later, the War for Whitney Ave. begins again. Fifth-ranked Quinnipiac and No. 9 Yale renew their rivalry on Saturday night at the High Point Solutions Arena for the 12th annual Heroes Hat game. Two schools separated by 10 miles will play for the first time this season and since Yale won the national championship.
“When the time comes Saturday morning, everyone is going to know,” Quinnipiac assistant coach Bill Riga said. “It is something special, and obviously we can’t make up for the fact that we lost in the national championship game, on a game in November, but certainly there is a little extra juice there.”
Quinnipiac has already began its non-conference schedule, along with two ECAC Hockey games. The Bobcats have quietly run off eight consecutive victories and are 8-1, with the lone loss coming in the first game of the season.
The Bobcats realize they must not get too caught up in the emotion and hype.
“You have to stay out of the penalty box with the high emotions and high intensity,” senior assistant captain Connor Jones said. “We have to stay out of the penalty box to start the game off, and just play simple and outwork them. If we stay focused, and pay attention to detail, I think we’ll like the end result.”
The Bulldogs come into Saturday’s game with not much to show for it on their resume. Yale split its first conference weekend by tying St. Lawrence on Friday and defeating Clarkson 6-3 on Saturday. Prior to those games, the only other contests Yale has played were a 4-1 loss to Brown and 3-2 win over Princeton in out-of-conference matchups at the Liberty Invitational.
This year, Quinnipiac has four of the country’s top 25 scorers. Former United States Hockey League standout Sam Anas, leads the Bobcats and is tied for third in the country in scoring with 13 points on seven goals and six assists. Anas also has three game-winning and three power-play goals to lead the team.
“I don’t think I could have asked for a better start,” Anas said. “It’s been a great start, hopefully we keep it going.”
Even though, Anas hasn’t experienced the Yale game before, the freshman has watched the game on television before and knows how thrilling the atmosphere is.
“There is a lot of talk around campus,” Anas said. “Last year I was able to watch one of the games on NBC and I saw what the atmosphere was like. I’m really excited and it’s going to be fun.”
The Bobcats are focusing on their strong defense to stop Yale’s 3.25 goals per game.
“We play a similar style to them, in terms of we like to go to a transition game, we like uptempo, we like to get our forwards and d on the rush,” Riga said. “For us, we need to go out there an doutcompete them, but also defend. We know they have good offense, we need to go out and defend first and let our offense come to us.”
Quinnipiac will have to shut down and limit Yale’s highly skilled trio of forwards. Anthony Day, Jesse Root and Kenny Agostino have all given the Bobcats fits in years past. Day leads the Bulldogs with four points on three goals and one assist. Root has three points on two goals and an assist, while Agostino has added two assists.
Yale comes into Saturday’s matchup with a question mark in goal. After graduating national championship hero Jeff Malcolm, the Bulldogs are relying on two freshman, Alex Lyon and Patrick Spano, to man the pipes. Each have split the last two weekends series in net. Lyon started in net against Brown and St. Lawrence, allowing three goals in each game. Spano started the other games against Princeton and Clarkson, surrendering two goals and three goals, respectively.
But for the Bobcats, they still have a sour taste in their mouths.
“We definitely haven’t forgot what happened last year and even though we are putting that behind us, we want to show everyone that we deserved better last year,” senior captain Cory Hibbeler said. “We want to send that message to Yale, that it is going to be a long season and they’re going to have to come and catch us.”
Added Jones: “It’s huge, from what happened last year, we want to take it to them, and we want to win, for sure.”