QuinniPeople: Tyra Nieuwendyk, IceCats captain cheers bobcats to victory

Olivia Kettell, Executive Producer

Chances are, you were one of the many Quinnipiac University fans across the country cheering on the school’s hockey teams this season. Luckily, you weren’t alone. Quinnipiac hockey has its own cheer squad, the IceCats, who hit the rink to boost school spirit during each game; whether at home in Hamden or at the national championship in Tampa, Florida.

Senior Tyra Nieuwendyk is one of the team’s captains. She reflects on her experience being on the team throughout her college career and making this year’s trip to the Frozen Four.

“I tried out in August of 2019, which was kind of a long time ago now, almost four years ago, which is making me really sad,” Nieuwendyk said. “But I worked all summer because I kind of was drawn to Quinnipiac for this team just because it’s so different.” 

Not many schools have a hockey cheer team, and Nieuwendyk says she was determined to try out.

“My dad and I worked on skating drills and stuff like that so that I was comfortable enough to try out for the team, and I ended up making it. I think I tried out with like close to 40 other people, and there was only three freshmen that year along with myself,” Nieuwendyk said. 

Nieuwendyk’s dad did more than just help her sharpen her skating skills. Her father, National Hockey League hall-of-famer, Olympic gold medalist and three-time Stanley Cup champion Joe Nieuwendyk, is a large part of why she loves being around the sport. 

“You definitely want to be around hockey, especially growing up in that setting,” Nieuwendyk said. “So Quinnipiac has been the perfect place, the perfect setting. It’s a great hockey culture here and I’ve loved every second of it.”

The hockey culture that we see today can be attributed to the IceCats, which allowed Nieuwendyk to travel to Tampa and cheer on the men’s ice hockey team as they won the national championship.

 “We were like, oh my God, we’re going to Tampa. This is crazy. I remember standing on the ice, shaking my poms, and then when [Coach] Rand [Pecknold] walked off, he said, ‘We’re all going to Tampa!’ So then we all got really excited. And that kind of built up the excitement to go there and it was a great experience,” Nieuwendyk said. 

The IceCats also held down the fan section at the home rink, and Nieuwendyk says that cheering at each annual Yale v.s. Quinnipiac game that she could, was one of her favorite memories.

“Yale is always crazy. It’s so fun. The fans are rowdy and it’s an unreal experience. I can’t even describe how crazy Yale is, it’s so fun. It’s definitely one of my core memories from college, dancing all three years at the Yale game,” Nieuwendyk said.  

Apart from the big games themselves, Nieuwendyk said that being on the IceCats team is an integral part of her Quinnipiac experience.

 “If you’re coming into college and you’re looking for an experience that is so original and so unique, and you want to be a part of a team, engaged in the community, playing with kids, being a role model to other people and setting a really good example for the school, definitely join IceCats,” Nieuwendyk said.

“That’s been my favorite memory from college. It’s been the best experience of my life and I would ten out of ten do it again, every single time.”