Cyndi Freilinger, a senior St. Cloud State drum major, dances Thursday in the parking lot outside Consol Energy Center as she displays photos of player Drew LeBlanc.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Most of the advertising splashed around Consol Energy Center for Penguins games was covered. The NCAA Frozen Four logo decorated center ice.
For Yale winger Kenny Agostino, though, one of the big things that defined Thursday's national semifinal was the sound coming from high in the stands. One that identified it as a college game.
"I wasn't sure that the band was going to be able to be here, but it was great that they were able to show up," Agostino said after he and the Bulldogs beat Massachusetts Lowell, 3-2, in overtime to advance to Saturday's final against the winner of the later semifinal between Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State.
The team rooting sections were in the corners of the arena, seas of blue (Massachusetts Lowell), yellow (Quinnipiac), red (St. Cloud State) and navy (Yale).
Bands from the opposing schools played during stoppages.
"It gave it a really nice college atmosphere, which I think the players took well to," said Agostino, who skated at Consol Energy Center when he attended two summer development camps with the Penguins. That won't happen again because the Penguins shipped his rights to Calgary earlier this month as part of the Jarome Iginla trade.
The Frozen Four experience trumped those summer NHL camps.
"It was tremendous," Agostino said. "It was nice playing on ice I was a little familiar with. An NHL rink is special. There were a lot of fans, which was great, and they were loud.
"It's playoff hockey."
In the Massachusetts Lowell locker room, Penguins prospect Scott Wilson's eyes were red with emotion after the River Hawks' season ended, but he still appreciated the setting.
"The Consol is the next level," Wilson said. "I thought the crowd was amazing. For Pittsburgh to hold this for us was pretty cool. It's a first-class city, and the arena, too."
Rules of engagement
It's a good thing Steve Piotroski didn't try to count on his fingers how many Frozen Fours he has attended or worked. The secretary rules editor for NCAA hockey figures he has been to more than 20, some of them as an on-ice official.
Piotroski played hockey at Ferris State and is friends with fellow former Ferris State player Chris Kunitz of the Penguins.
He is as much an expert as you can find on the rules differences between the NCAA and the NHL. The most noticeable are:
• All penalties are served in college games regardless of whether a team scores on a delayed penalty call, making two goals possible on one infraction.
• The colleges uses hybrid icing, something the NHL has talked about, where officials determine a winner in a race for the puck by the time the lead players in the chase get to the faceoff dot.
• A team that is rewarded with a penalty shot can choose instead to have the offending team serve a minor penalty.
• Referees have the final say in replay decisions, using monitors in the penalty box and receiving some guidance from an NCAA replay official in the press box.
In addition to goals, where determinations are similar to what is allowable in the NHL, replay can be used in college games to determine where a faceoff should be, to make sure a penalty is assessed to the proper player, to determine if a defending player dislodges the net inadvertently; to confirm a hand pass; on an egregious too-many-men call that leads to a goal; and on an egregious offside that leads to a goal.
For that last one, Penguins fans only have to recall Philadelphia winger Danny Briere's goal in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs.
Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ryan Malone, the Upper St. Clair native who attended St. Cloud State before moving on to pro hockey, didn't get a chance to watch his old school play Quinnipiac Thursday night.
He was too busy with a game of his own, against the Penguins in Tampa, Fla.
But after the Lightning's game-day skate at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, it was clear Malone is thrilled that the Huskies made it to the Frozen Four for the first time.
"To see the program kind of develop and finally get there is very impressive," he said. "I'm proud to be part of that."
Malone said a friend at the school alerted him months ago that the Huskies could have a big season, and that he tried to monitor their progress.
"I haven't followed them, game-in and game-out, or anything, but I always check in to see how they're doing," he said. "For them to accomplish this is great for the university and great, really, for college hockey everywhere, with all four of the teams not the big powerhouses that you're used to."
Seven NHL off-ice officials who usually work at Penguins games are working these games, handlings thing such as the clock, penalty time and working as goal judges.
They are Leo Rudzki, Keith Schreiber, Bob Maitland, Paul Schlosser, Phil Spano, Joe Ferraro and Mike McGuire.
The Frozen Four referees and linesmen are chosen by the NCAA based on performance and recommendations from conferences.
Sights and sounds
The Hobey Baker trophy was on display in the main concourse. The award for the top college hockey player will be announced today. ... During a break in the first period of the Yale-Massachusetts Lowell game, veterans and current military personnel were honored as they were asked to stand. ... Yale's school motto is "Lux et Veritas," which means "Light is Truth." Some Bulldogs fans waved a banner with this play on words: "Pux et Veritas." ... Because the Frozen Four is an NCAA event, the only alcohol available in the arena is in the suites. There is no beer sold at the concession stands. ... Fans entering Consol Energy Center got a heavy paper goalie mask (which ran out quickly) or a helmet made of the same. For those who remember the reference, the helmets bore a resemblance to the old JOFA helmets.