Bobcat fans, ice hockey alumni fill M&T Bank Arena to celebrate the national championship banner raising ceremony

A parade of about 70 former Quinnipiac men’s hockey players representing every era in program history took the ice to watch the 2023 national championship banner rise to its rightful perch on the south end of M&T Bank Arena on Saturday night, signaling an exciting start to the title defense.

“I knew the ceremony would be good, but it was way better than I even thought,” said coach Rand Pecknold, who was also marking the occasion of his 30th season on the bench. “The crowd was great. Five, six deep at the rails. It was awesome.”

For Kellen Jones ’13, MBA ’14, it was the culmination of a journey that started a decade ago when he starred on the same scoring line with his twin brother, Connor Jones ’14, MS ’14, as the Bobcats stormed into their first national title game appearance in Pittsburgh in 2013.

“It’s pretty amazing just to see how far we’ve come,” Jones said. “You look up there and you see the Frozen Four banners, the ECAC championships, the NCAA Tournament appearances. Over the last 10 or 15 years, I don’t think there’s another program that’s done what we’ve done. To win last year was just a feather in the cap — it was a long time coming.”

Derek Smith ’17, who captained the Bobcats in 2017, was there for the second Frozen Four berth, also in Tampa in 2016. The game served notice to the rest of the country that the team was here to stay.

Raising a banner raises expectations — and the Bobcats wouldn’t have it any other way, Smith said.

“It’s what we want,” Smith said. “It was a long time in the making. We had a couple opportunities at it, and I’m just proud of the guys who were able to close the deal. We’re working toward the next one.”

Kellen Jones and Smith were among the many former Bobcats who made the return trip to Tampa in April when Pecknold pulled goalie Yaniv Perets with under three minutes to play to create a 6-on-4 advantage against Minnesota. Collin Graf scored the equalizer, and the stage was set for Jacob Quillan’s stunning game-winner 10 seconds into overtime.

“That’s Rand,” Smith said. “He’s aggressive.”

Jones had a hunch the third Frozen Four appearance in 10 years would be the charm.

“I just had this feeling,” Jones said. “Third time. Rand knows what he’s doing, he’s gonna have these guys ready.”

A highlight reel of the 2023 postseason played on the videoboard to kick off the pre-game ceremony, priming the fans for the moment the gold banner was unveiled. It hangs between the 2016 Frozen Four banner and the Bobcats’ ECAC Tournament Champions banner.

Last year’s captain Zach Metsa carried the national championship trophy onto the ice before Bobcats, past and present, stood side by side for the national anthem, which was sung by Savannah Giammarco ’19, MS ’20.

More than a hundred fans clad in blue-and-gold gear curled around the arena over two hours before puck drop — despite sometimes heavy rain. The gates opened at 4:50 p.m., and within minutes, the student section began to fill in with the usual cast of characters, including the Teletubbies.

Pecknold appeared on the concourse near the pep band about a half hour before the puck was dropped. He proceeded down the steps of the student section and flashed his new championship ring, revving up the crowd.

“I was reluctant to go down there,” Pecknold said. “I usually just do it once a year, when we give out pizzas for the Yale game. But I thought, let’s embrace the moment. You never know with the students — I don’t know if they all know who I am or not. You’ve got freshmen. I have to check my self-esteem. But it was great. The kids were into it.”

The game capped another jam-packed slate of Bobcat Weekend festivities, with more to follow Sunday.

Although sixth-ranked Boston College skated to a 2-1 victory in overtime in front of 3,700, the outcome didn’t sour a special night for Bobcats hockey.

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