Connecticut invades Frozen Four with Quinnipiac and Yale
April 8, 2013 4:00 AM
Mitch Witek (10) and Yale will be half of the Connecticut contingent at the Frozen Four, along with Quinnipiac.
By Sam Werner Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Yale and Quinnipiac's home rinks are separated by about eight miles down Whitney Avenue in New Haven, Conn. There's a chance Saturday night the two teams could be divided only by the red line at Consol Energy Center.
The two teams head into this weekend's Frozen Four with hopes of bringing the NCAA championship trophy back to Connecticut.
Both teams would have to win their respective semifinals -- Yale against Massachusetts Lowell and Quinnipiac against St. Cloud State -- to set up an all-Nutmeg State final, but their presence in Pittsburgh is a significant milestone for college hockey in Connecticut.
Before this season, neither seemed like a favorite to reach the Frozen Four. Quinnipiac went from unranked in the preseason polls to the No. 1 team for most of the season. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, barely snuck into the 16-team NCAA tournament field but knocked off giants Minnesota and North Dakota en route to their first Frozen Four appearance since 1952.
An in-state Frozen Four showdown, usually reserved for schools from Massachusetts, Minnesota or Michigan, is now within reach. On both sides, though, players and coaches weren't concerned with meeting a local rival in the title game.
"It's funny how many times I've been asked that question already, and like I said, it doesn't matter who I play or who we play," Quinnipiac senior defenseman Zack Currie said. "We want to win that national championship. That's a huge goal we have here. And whoever gets put in front of us, that's who we're going to focus on and that's who we're going to have to deal with."
Quinnipiac holds a 10-5-2 edge in the budding rivalry that dates to the Bobcats joining the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) in 2005.
Three of those wins for the Bobcats came this season. Quinnipiac swept the home-and-home regular-season series, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to win, 6-2, in February at Yale.
When Yale senior forward Andrew Miller was asked if he wanted another shot at Quinnipiac, he didn't take the bait.
"We want a shot to play for a national championship," Miller said. "So we've put ourselves in a position to do that. If we get the opportunity to play in a national championship game, that would be great."
While neither camp would comment on playing a local rival, both agreed it was a positive for the ECAC to have two teams in the Frozen Four. The ECAC, widely considered to be inferior to other power conferences such as the WCHA and Hockey East, hasn't had two teams on college hockey's biggest stage since 1983.
"It may be good for ECAC, definitely good for ECAC to have the two teams there," Currie said. "But we're focused on our first game here against St. Cloud and whoever is in that second game, hopefully we can meet [Yale] there."