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Yale–Quinnipiac rivalry gets serious

It's a big enough surprise that the Yale men's hockey team will play for the national championship tomorrow night for the first time in the 65-year history of the NCAA Tournament. But to alums of my age and older, it's the opponent that's equally surprising: when did Quinnipiac University, up the road in Hamden, become a national hockey power? For that matter, when did little Quinnipiac College become Quinnipiac University?

It all started with a charismatic new president, John L. Lahey, who took office in 1987. Quinnipiac had been founded as a business college in 1929 and had built a campus in the Whitneyville neighborhood of Hamden before moving out to a new location in the shadow of Sleeping Giant in 1966. It was a small commuter college until, in Lahey's administration, the school increased enrollment, built dormitories, added graduate programs, and, in 1995, acquired the University of Bridgeport's law school. The university now has 6,000 undergraduates—more than Yale—and 2,400 graduate and professional students.

To help raise the school's profile, Lahey established the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, which puts the school's name in the news whenever its political polls are reported. And in the 1990s, the school started putting more emphasis on athletics. The hockey team joined NCAA Division I in 1998, and in 2005 they joined the ECAC, the hockey conference that also includes Yale and five other Ivy League teams. In 2007, the school completed its TD Bank Sports Center, a 3,000-seat arena atop a hill near its main campus.

So the Bulldogs and the Bobcats (they were the Braves before sensitivity to Native Americans became an issue) now face each other on the ice at least twice a year. And thanks to regular Quinnipiac campus shuttles to the Elm City, their students meet on the streets of New Haven or on the dance floor at Toad's Place far more than in my day. (In casting about for a "Subway Series"–style nickname for this championship game, the best we could come up with in the office was "the Toad's Cup.")

Q-Pac students (actually, as far as I can tell, only Yale students call it Q-Pac, which rhymes with "Tupac") put great emphasis on their rivalry with Yale, while Elis largely pretend not to be interested. But since the Bobcats, ranked No. 1 in the nation at various times this season, have beaten the Bulldogs three times this year—twice in the regular season and in the consolation game of the ECAC Tournament—there's no ignoring Quinnipiac as they stand between the Bulldogs and their first national championship since 1902.

Filed under Quinnipiac, Frozen Four, men's ice hockey
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