The running joke was "this shit never would have happened when we went here." As Quinnipiac took the ice -- did I mention it was the Madison Square Garden ice? -- all of the alumni in the crowd were thinking it. And all of the alumni were a little jealous they weren't still in school for this.
On Saturday Quinnipiac took on Harvard in an ECAC showdown where the Bobcats were looking to defend their #2 ranking in the country. That rank, by the way, was another thing that didn't happen while I was at school. I graduated in 2010 and the highest rank the Bobcats achieved in that time was #5, which they promptly lost the next weekend when they lost to St. Lawrence at home. I was there. I was there for most of the games.
Quinnipiac's rise to the NCAA's elite (and really their presence at Madison Square Garden last weekend) is a testament to just how far the program has come even from my time at the school just a few years ago.
My freshman year was the year they opened TD Bank Arena (now called High Point Solutions Arena), but I do remember going to the couple of games at the old house (Northford Ice Pavilion) before they finally opened the doors to "The Bank." I remember walking in for the first time, seeing the dual basketball/hockey arena and being overwhelmed by how intimate it was.
Later that year the Bobcats swept the first round of the ECAC playoffs against Union. Ried Cashman (now one of the assistant coaches at QU) was the big-man on the point, the captain and pretty much the team's best hope to make an NHL presence. It was his point shot that Jamie Bates picked up and banged home for the series winner in overtime. That was one of the loudest and coolest experiences I've ever had a hockey game.
From there the Bobcats -- and give head coach Rand Pecknold a ton of credit for this -- started building the foundation for what you see today. In reality, that foundation was probably being built a few years before that, too, but I'm bias to what was happening when I was there.
Which takes us back to Saturday's game against Harvard.
Getting to The Garden was awesome. College is sort of strange because you meet a million people, become friends with all of them, get really close and then everyone graduates and moves back home and you end up not seeing people for a long time. Saturday's game was like a freshman year reunion, and those bonds from college come back pretty quick no matter how much time had passed. Almost all of D3E (Dana 3rd floor East side, where we lived freshman year) was there. I was hugging people I hadn't seen since I graduated, meeting up with friends I hadn't seen in a few months and generally having a great time. It was awesome. The hockey game wasn't a priority anymore.
Or so I thought.
Quinnipiac jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period. It had the added benefit of Harvard calling a timeout after the first two Quinnipiac goals and then the Bobcats scoring about 10 seconds after the timeout ended. It was awesome. Then things sort of faded as I caught up with everyone. It was great to see old friends, figure out what they were up to now, making promises to not let so much time pass again and putting dates on the calendar to get back together.
And then it was 4-4. Wait, what? I had just watched the Rangers blow a late third period lead earlier in the day and now this? I was originally happy enough just to see everyone, be at the Garden watching QU and having a good time. Now I wanted blood. Harvard blood, preferably. I didn't want to see Quinnipiac lose on home ice (I'm a Rangers fan, so MSG ice is home ice regardless of who is playing).
Thankfully Derek Smith saved the day in overtime. A cross-crease pass slipped through the slot and Smith, cheating from the point, slammed it home for the game winner. And before I knew what was happening I was out of my seat and in the middle of a group bear hug of yellow just like I used to be when Quinnipaic would score when I went there. It was awesome. So very awesome.
It was even better that of the 12,000 people at The Garden that night 10,000 were Quinnipiac fans. It felt like a home game. Seriously, watch the highlights and listen to the crowd after the overtime goal. It sounded like a Rangers game (without the goal horn).
So thanks, Quinnipiac for another awesome night of hockey. It's been happening a lot more often of late.
Even though this never happened when I was at school.