Quinnipiac hockey fans invade Tampa ahead of Frozen Four matchup with Michigan

It was a Bobcats takeover in Tampa on Thursday in the hours leading up to the Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey team’s Frozen Four showdown with Michigan.

Quinnipiac supporters congregated at Fan Fest, an interactive gathering space outside Amalie Arena, home to the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning and host of this year’s college hockey showcase. They could try their hand at cornhole, blast a few slap shots in the fastest shot booth or just bask in the Florida sun as a DJ spun hits from a stage.

Bobcats fans, most of them clad in the team’s distinct shade of gold, mingled with fans from Michigan, Minnesota and Boston. But inside Cigar City Brewing, a nearby eatery where the alumni association coordinated a sold-out meet-up, you’d think you were in Hamden: Boomer posed for photos, the IceCats led a “Go Bobcats” cheer and everybody was eyeing a big win over the Wolverines. Respectfully, of course.

“Quinnipiac fans are the nicest fans in college hockey,” said Colleen Hines ’99, a longtime season-ticket holder who first started attending Bobcats games with her late father, John, when she was an undergrad. She’s now a veteran of four Frozen Fours — all three Bobcats trips (2013, 2016, 2023) and one extra trip to Chicago to watch the games with family there.

“I’ve watched us [at Frozen Fours] — we get highlighted more on the big screen because we’re just genuinely nice,” she added. “It’s amazing. I’m very proud to be here and to be part of the history of Quinnipiac hockey.”

A string of travel delays and a 4 a.m. arrival at Tampa International Airport couldn’t keep sophomores Connor Coar, Michael Singer, Jason Bupp and Brandon Kauffman away from Fan Fest. Nor did the 90-degree heat preclude them from wearing Quinnipiac hockey jerseys as they stood for a rowdy interview with WFSB’s Dylan Fearon ’17, MS ’18.

They also weren’t sweating the competition.

“I think we really have a chance,” said Bupp. “Our team is a lot more well-rounded. Our defense and offense work really well together.”

“We’re a cohesive unit,” Kauffman chimed in. “We’re a new program, relatively speaking. But we’re still just as good as the other teams here. We may not get as much recognition as them but we can definitely hold our own.”

Quadruplets and 2021 QU grads Anna, Michael, Vincent and Sofia Ciacciarella were all in town to support the Bobcats — though one of the siblings is a bit conflicted. Anna, who received her bachelor’s degree in English and environmental studies, is working toward a master’s degree from Michigan. Don’t let the Michigan hat fool you.

“I’m 100% for Quinnipiac, I think they’re very deserving,” insisted Anna. “I’ve watched this Michigan team and I love Michigan as a school, obviously. But I just think that Quinnipiac is really ready for this.”

The Quinnipiac fans here in Tampa were treated to a glimpse of their Bobcats as a red carpet heralded their arrival to the rink. The players, dressed in dark blue polos, got a hero’s welcome as they filed in, high-fiving fans along the way.

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