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Surprise! Q-pac’s No. 1

Quinnipiac University, which is playing just its 15th season of Division I hockey, yesterday become the top-ranked team in the nation.

The Bobcats (21-3-4) were ranked No. 1 in both major collegiate polls, the first athletic program in university’s history to reach the top spot.

“It’s very impressive, considering we’re still in our infancy,” coach Rand Pecknold said. “It’s a great achievement and something that our fans deserve, and a credit to our alums, who got us where we are.”

The school of about 8,500 students is located in Hamden, Conn., just north of New Haven and is best known for its political polling.

But the Bobcats, who joined the ECAC conference in 2005, have been steadily moving up the hockey polls while on a 21-game unbeaten streak. The team began its 18-0-3 run on Nov. 9 with an overtime win over Colgate, and kept it going with an impressive 6-2 win over rival, No. 10 Yale, on Feb. 2.

Pecknold is in his 19th season at Quinnipiac, and has experienced success before. The Bobcats, who were a Division II program until 1998, have won 20 games 14 times.

But Pecknold said this team is special. He said the Bobcats will enjoy the ranking briefly, then get back to concentrating on their more immediate goals: beating St. Lawrence on Friday, winning an ECAC title, and making a run at a national championship.

“It’s been an outstanding year, a fun year, but they’re still hungry,” he said. “They like to win and they want it to keep rolling.”

The team, which features 24 members who earned a 3.0 or better grade-point average last semester, is also a superstitious bunch. Many of the players began growing mustaches in November as part of a prostate-cancer awareness campaign, “Mowvember.” The team didn’t lose a game, and the facial hair had to stay.

But Pecknold said with some tough games ahead, including a rematch with Yale on Feb. 22, he’s not sure they will be able to put the razors away for the year.

“I just think our league’s too good for us to have a reasonable chance of running the table,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate in this streak. We’ve had a couple of games that we maybe, probably should have lost and we found a way to win. That luck’s going to run out at some point.”