Rand Pecknold enjoyed quite a year.
Pecknold led the U.S. to a bronze medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship and then he finished off his year by guiding Quinnipiac University to the school’s first NCAA Division I men’s national title.
For his efforts, Pecknold has been recognized as the 2023 USA Hockey Distinguished Achievement Award winner.
“He’s a top-quality person, and he cares about the people he works with,” said Sarah Fraser, the deputy director of athletics at Quinnipiac. “He’s very genuine and always excited to be in conversations about coaching and how to get better. He’s always on a relentless pursuit of excellence.”
Created in 1991, the USA Hockey Distinguished Achievement Award is presented annually to a U.S. citizen who has made hockey his or her profession and has made outstanding contributions, on or off the ice, to the sport in America.
Several previous winners include Bob Johnson (1991), Pat LaFontaine (1993), Joe Mullen (1995), Herb Brooks (2001), Brett Hull (2003), Willie O’ Ree (2008), Phil Housley (2013) and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team (2005).
“He wrote his own blueprint to be successful,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director at USA Hockey. “He had to find a way to be successful and better than all of the others. But he just didn’t settle to be a Division I coach, or middle of the road, but ultimately to be a national champion. And for him to have it happen in the same year that he led our U.S. National Junior Team to a bronze medal is pretty good for a double header.”
Pecknold, of Bedford, New Hampshire, recently finished his 29th season at Quinnipiac with a record 34 wins and led the Bobcats to the school’s first national championship. Quinnipiac advanced to the Frozen Four for the third time since 2013 and scored a come-from-behind overtime win against the University of Minnesota in the title game in April.
Pecknold has coached at Quinnipiac since 1994 and has won 615 games, first among active NCAA Division I coaches and ninth all-time. Pecknold turned Quinnipiac from a Division III and Division II hockey program —initially working out of a janitor’s closet and sharing a phone with other coaches — to the top team in NCAA Division I hockey.
“I think he’s extremely deserving of an award like this,” Fraser said. “He’s had such an exciting run, and it’s really gratifying to see him rewarded with a national championship and then to see recognition like this. The number of wins he has is incredibly impressive when you look at the way he worked his way up the Division I landscape. It’s not like he inherited a powerhouse. He’s had to work for everything he’s achieved.”
“It’s an honor and a privilege, and I know it meant a lot to him to get a chance to represent his country as a coach,” Kelleher said. “He spent a month away from his own team but built such a structure that they kept progressing toward a national championship and eventually made it happen. It was special for him.”
Fraser said that each time Pecknold returns from those experiences with USA Hockey, he’s refreshed and recharged with new ideas for his staff and players at Quinnipiac after collaborating with other coaches and executives.
“Every time USA Hockey calls, Rand will pick up the phone and try to serve USA Hockey in any way he’s capable of doing,” Fraser said. “He talks often about the people he’s worked with on USA Hockey staffs and how he’s incorporated things that work with our team. He’s like a kid in a candy store every time he gets a chance to do something with USA Hockey.”
Pecknold had his chance with USA Hockey this year and won a bronze medal. He also led his team at Quinnipiac to the top of the mountain in college hockey.
“We’re thrilled he had such an amazing year,” Kelleher said. “We’re thrilled for him, his program and we’re thrilled that he’s always someone who would gladly, without hesitation, represent USA Hockey as a coach whenever we ask.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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