Quinnipiac left wing Matthew Peca (20), left, celebrates with Quinnipiac center Connor Jones (10), center, as Union defensemen Shawn Stuart (28), right, skates away after Peca scored his third goal in the first period of their East Regional final in the NCAA college hockey tournament Sunday.
By Jenn Menendez Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The ECAC is not exactly considered a power conference in college hockey, but that perception could be wiped away after this spring.
The conference will send No. 1 overall seed Quinnipiac and fourth-seeded Yale to the Frozen Four April 11 and 13 at Consol Energy Center.
If both teams advance to the title game, it would mean an all-ECAC final. That has only happened once in the history of the conference, but never in the modern era.
"This was a great year for our league," said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold after his team's win. "It's obviously phenomenal to get two out of four in the Frozen Four. We had a great season."
Quinnipiac ripped off a 21-game unbeaten streak this year, but faltered down the stretch and lost to Brown in the ECAC tournament semifinals.
The Bobcats trailed Canisius early in the East Region semifinal but roared back to win, then routed Union, 5-1, Sunday night.
"We might not have the most talent in the country," said Pecknold. "But we're No. 1 for a reason. We compete, we pull for each other and we pick up for each other."
Yale similarly struggled down the stretch and needed help from the field to get the final at-large bid to the tournament.
But the Bulldogs have been convincing since then. Yale knocked off perennial powers Minnesota and North Dakota to reach the Frozen Four.
Pecknold said his conference's strength of schedule was a key reason his team ended up No.1 in the PairWise rankings, which place a heavy value on strength of schedule.
"We're all in this together. We have to battle each other and go head-to-head, but in the end, I need those other 11 teams to do well so we can go to the NCAA tournament, as does everybody," said Pecknold. "A couple years ago, we were a big help to RPI to make the tournament. I think that was two or three years ago, the year we swept Nebraska-Omaha. I think our league is as good as any in the country, top to bottom. We might not have some of the high-end [former Minnesota star] Thomas Vaneks of the world, but we've got some great players, great student-athletes and we play hard. It was a phenomenal year for our league."
A third ECAC team -- Union -- reached the quarterfinals after defeating Boston College of the powerful Hockey East conference.
But pitted against Quinnipiac, only one ECAC team could advance in the East Region.
"It speaks volumes for the league," said Union coach Rick Bennett. "Obviously, there can only be one winner, but we hope it's someone from the ECAC."
And if Yale and Quinnipiac happen to meet?
In the most recent meeting, Quinnipiac beat Yale, 3-0, in the ECAC consolation game.
The two are separated by just seven miles -- a 15-minute drive -- in Connecticut.
Monday's USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll ranked Quinnipiac No. 1, followed by Massachusetts Lowell, St. Cloud State, Yale and Minnesota to round out the top five.
When former Penguins prospects Kenny Agostino and Ben Hanowski were traded to the Calgary Flames for Jarome Iginla last week, it seemed neither would step foot in Consol Energy Center anytime soon.
Except both play for teams that have advanced to the Frozen Four. Agostino is a left wing for Yale and Hanowksi is a center for St. Cloud State.
Each team that has advanced gets 600 tickets to sell to its fan base for the Frozen Four.
Generally, that means the fans of the two teams that lose in the semifinals will unload their tickets after April 11, making room for those who wish to attend the final.