It takes most people longer to get to the store to buy a carton of milk than it does to get from the Quinnipiac campus to Yale.
About 10 miles, that’s the length of road at stake when the two ECAC rivals meet in what is traditionally called “The Battle of Whitney Avenue.” According to the New York Times, the game is Connecticut’s hottest hockey ticket.
No. 2/3 Quinnipiac (13-0-2) “travels” to No. 10 Yale (5-2-2) for a showdown Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET on ASN at Ingalls Rink, better known to many as The Whale.
It might not be the Tobacco Road rivalry of North Carolina vs. Duke basketball, but it’s just as intense. The major difference is Quinnipiac and Yale rarely if ever recruit the same players. Yale coach Keith Allain, who has been behind the Bulldogs bench since 2006, said he’s yet to go head-to-head with the Bobcats on the recruiting trail.
“The fact is we very seldom recruit the same young man as our academic profile is quite a bit different than theirs,” Allain said.
Players from both teams echoed his statement and said despite the close proximity there is little if any interaction between the two teams, but because of the proximity and the rich history of both programs, Friday’s game is special. It’s bragging rights at home for fans of both teams.
“The only guy I’ve spent any time with from their team is (goalie Michael) Garteig at Boston’s development camp over the summer,” said Yale senior defenseman Robert O’Gara, a returning All-American and fifth-round pick of the Bruins. “Despite not liking him much when he’s wearing blue and yellow, he’s a great guy and having a very strong season so far.”
That’s about it for smack talk, folks.
Both teams are too smart for bulletin board material— go figure — and both know the significance of Friday’s game extends beyond a neighborhood rivalry.
For starters, Garteig can notch his 60th career win, a milestone he said would delight him even more if it came against Yale.
“Yale is always a good team no matter what their record says,” Garteig said. “A lot of us still remember they beat us 4-0 for the national title in 2013. Last year we tied both meetings. Games are always close.”
Garteig didn’t play in that title game, but eight seniors on Yale’s current roster did. Friday’s game will feature two of the top goalies in college hockey in Garteig and Yale junior Alex Lyon, a first-team AHCA/CCM All-America last year. He had a career high 48 saves in last season’s 3-3 tie against Quinnipiac. Both are the Mike Richter Award watch list for the top goalie in college hockey.
Garteig currently ranks third in the country with a 1.28 goals-against average and fourth in save-percentage at .940. He was named the ECAC player of the month for both October and November and is a key reason why Quinnipiac is one of two unbeaten teams remaining in men’s Division I hockey. The other unbeaten, top-ranked Providence, rallied for two goals in the third period last week to slip past Yale.
Keeping Garteig from reaching a milestone, upending an unbeaten team — it really doesn’t matter where these teams are located for this game. It’s going to be a dogfight.
“Every game we play is a big one when it comes down to the pairwise and rankings down the road,” O’Gara said. “Playing a rival like Qpac certainly adds a little fuel to the fire and considering the success they’ve had thus far this season it is certainly a huge game for us.
“Games against Qpac are always a lot of fun. The atmosphere is very exciting and the competion level, the high level of play and plenty of hatred make for some great battles.”