There is no doubt this has been a storybook season for the Quinnipiac hockey team, which is ranked No. 1 in the country for the first time in school history.
The team is 21-3-4 and is unbeaten in ECAC play (14-0-2). The Bobcats have 30 points, 11 ahead of second-place Yale.
One of the architects of the program’s success, athletic director Jack McDonald, has deep Boston roots.
McDonald is a native of Braintree and a former star track athlete at Archbishop Williams and Boston College (Class of 1973). He was inducted into the BC Hall of Fame in 1982 and the Archbishop Williams Hall of Fame in 1997. He is thoroughly enjoying the Bobcats’ success.
“It’s a surreal ride here, it’s amazing,’’ said McDonald. “You never, ever thought that the words ‘Number One’ would ever be used.
“Sports is great and it’s full of surprises; you never know what’s going to happen. Even when we were No. 20 in the polls and No. 18 and No. 15 and No. 10, we never ever thought about No. 1. Ever.
“To spend three weeks at No. 2, we were thinking, ‘This has been fun.’ Then, all of a sudden, it happened. It has been amazing.’’
This isn’t his first experience with hockey success. McDonald, who is in his 18th year in Hamden, Conn., served as AD at the University of Denver from 1990-95 and was assistant AD for marketing at BC from 1987-90.
“Having been able to be at BC for so many years and Denver, to be with them and for at least a couple of days, ahead of them is pretty cool,’’ said McDonald. “It’s really cool. It’s a great, great statement for the university. Quinnipiac is a great place.’’
One of the more remarkable aspects of the Bobcats’ season has been the consistency of play. Sometimes when teams haven’t had a high level of success, they don’t have the ability to handle it and fall back to earth. So far, Quinnipiac hasn’t had any such hiccup.
“We had a little quick five-minute congratulations meeting with the president [John Lahey], myself, and the coach [Rand Pecknold],’’ said McDonald. “I think everyone said, ‘Keep your eye on the prize,’ a hundred times.
“We’re excited about it, there’s no question we are. We haven’t been this deep into a season — in fact, I don’t think any of our sports have been this deep into a season — with a zero in the loss column. It’s very unique.
“I heard a quote one time, ‘One shift, one period, one game.’ That’s the one I use the most. Let’s get by St. Lawrence on Friday and we’ll see what happens after that.’’
McDonald has a storied legacy at BC. He was a four-time New England champion and set the New England indoor mile record (4 minutes 0.9 seconds) in 1976. He coached the men’s and women’s track and cross-country teams, earning Big East, New England, and NCAA District 1 Coach of the Year honors in 1984 and 1987.
The excellence expected at BC is also expected at Quinnipiac. McDonald said the staff has high standards for the student-athletes and the student-athletes have those same standards for themselves, which has helped keep them grounded.
“I think the guys have their eye on the prize,’’ said McDonald. “Behind it all, they have the best grade-point average they’ve ever had, they are still doing a ton of community service, and they’ve done it all without losing focus on their education and giving back to the community.
“They were like that when we weren’t ranked. Men’s hockey is getting the attention, but they are exactly a picture of the entire athletic department and Quinnipiac University. They represent our growth. Men’s ice hockey is really helping the university attract attention.’’
Bentley on the verge
This stands as a very important weekend for Bentley (11-15-1, 9-11-1). The Falcons, who have dropped five games in a row, host Army (7-14-4, 7-9-4) Friday and will travel to West Point for a game Saturday. The Falcons are 3 points out of a bye in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs and 1 point out of home ice in the first round . . . Another key matchup this weekend is between Holy Cross (14-10-2, 10-7-2) and Connecticut (13-12-3, 10-9-2). The teams are tied with Canisius for fourth in the AHA standings. UConn has earned at least a point in five of the last six outings, moving up from 10th place. Holy Cross has been idle for two weeks because of the blizzard . . . Northeastern (8-14-3, 4-11-3) has an opportunity to move up in the Hockey East standings with a two-game set against Vermont (8-14-4, 5-10-4) at Matthews Arena. The Catamounts have won just two of 11 games on the road. The Huskies are coming off a strong effort in the Beanpot, where they lost to BC in the championship game. Rookie forward Kevin Roy turned in a dynamic performance with five goals in the tournament’s two games, earning Most Valuable Player honors. Roy became NU’s fifth MVP and first since goaltender Bruce Racine in 1988. He is the first MVP of a second-place team since Boston University’s Sean Field in 2004 . . . There could be some serious movement in Hockey East this weekend. BC (17-7-2, 12-6-1) is in first place with 25 points, only 1 point ahead of Merrimack and New Hampshire. Providence is alone in fourth with 23. Although Maine (13 points) is in the ninth spot, the Black Bears are only 1 point out of a playoff spot. BC heads to Merrimack Friday and will host UNH Sunday.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.