By Warren Kozireski —
Quinnipiac advanced to the Frozen Four for the third time in program history setting the program’s win record with 33 while ranked as the second-stingiest defense in the nation and the fourth ranked penalty kill.
They came back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Minnesota in overtime for the first national championship in program history.
A major part of that blueline corp. is senior defenseman CJ McGee from Pearl River.
“I don’t think there’s any feeling like that; kids dream about doing that, dream about playing college hockey in midget and juniors, and you dream about playing in the national championship and the to go and win it in overtime is unbelievable—that was a lot of fun,” McGee said in the celebratory locker room.
A product of the North Jersey Avalanche and Don Bosco Prep for five years, the 6’0”, 181 lb. left shot set career-bests in goals (4) and points (11) more than doubling the combined total from his first three years.
Of course, that comes with playing a collegiate career best 40 games.
McGee took a bit different route to Division I…through Louisiana.
“I played…all my midget years and finished out with the North Jersey Avalanche and then within that last year…I was tendered in Louisiana (Shreveport-NAHL). At first, I wasn’t going to Louisiana to play, it’s going to be a little bit weird. But it worked out really well. I had probably the best billet family situation I probably could have asked for and had really good roommates and was a lot of fun.”
As for the Frozen Four experience since the Bobcats won the Bridgeport Regional with wins over Merrimack and Ohio State as at-large entry.
“It’s just an unbelievable experience; just getting on the plane is just a blast with just us and the band and the Icecats and then we get off the plane and walk right on the tarmac and there’s a big crowd, playing music, the trophy is there…it’s just so cool.
“And on top of that the weather is just unbelievable—it’s just a little bit warmer here. It’s so hard not to get overwhelmed by the surroundings and what’s going on down here and try to refocus on the games.
“What our whole team is trying to do is embrace the experience, but also be able to dial it in and lock in for the games.
McGee is just one of six seniors or graduate students on the Bobcats blueline. Add six more seniors-plus at forward and the team is not lacking for voices in the room.
“For me and a bunch of other guys on the team, you don’t really need to have a letter on your jersey to be a leader. We have a big crew of older guys who have played big games, whether it’s against Michigan or St. Cloud last year or Minnesota State the year before or go to like North Dakota or Ireland this year, we have veteran experience in these big games, and I think our older guys have been able to lead and show our younger guys the way.”
Part of that leadership is taking on whatever role needed by the team at any time. When injuries hit the Bobcats this season, McGee moved up to forward.
“I played a few games at forward, which I think makes me go a little rogue at times, so I’ve been getting a little too close to the net than I should as a defenseman sometimes. But luckily a bunch of those times it’s just found its way to my stick, and I’ve been able to put it in the back of the net.
“Rand asked me one day if I would be comfortable playing a couple shifts up front and I think he was pretty happy with what I did and thought I could do it a little bit more, and then a little bit more, and then a little bit more, but thankfully our guys are back now.”
McGee got his undergraduate degree in finance and is getting his MBA this year.
“Get through this year and kind of go from there and see what happens.”
(Quinnipiac Athletics/Hockey Photos)