The Frozen Four championship matchup between Quinnipiac and Yale has given the two Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference foes a rare fourth meeting this season.
The Bobcats won the previous three matchups, but in two of those games, a crucial component was absent -- Yale goaltender Jeff Malcolm.
With Malcolm thriving in net for the Bulldogs, the game tonight will have a completely different dynamic.
"He's a big part of their team," Quinnipiac senior defenseman Zach Davies said.
"He kind of anchors the back end."
Malcolm's goals-against-average in the regular season was 2.33, but it has dropped to 1.67 in Yale's three NCAA tournament games.
His importance to the team, however, goes far beyond statistics.
With Malcom sidelined by an injury for about three weeks in February, the Bulldogs lost five consecutive games.
Two of those came against Quinnipiac, which scored a total of 10 goals.
"He's our rock," Yale senior forward Andrew Miller said.
"He's been solid all year, and we feel confident with him in.
"When he's there he plays great, and we need him to play great to win a national championship. I'm sure he's going to do that."
While Quinnipiac had little trouble defeating St. Cloud State Thursday night, Yale got by Massachusetts Lowell in overtime.
It was the Bulldogs' ninth overtime this season.
They lost none of those games and were 5-0-2 in the games that followed the overtime contests.
Miller makes mark
Miller's assist on a first-period goal in the victory against Massachusetts Lowell, was the 113th of his Yale career. That moved him into a tie for the Bulldogs' record.
When Miller plays an active role in the offense, it tends to do better.
In games this season when Miller records at least one point, the Bulldogs' record is 20-4-2.
That's a stark contrast to the Bulldogs' 1-8-1 record when he is shut out.
It's all about the feet
In the bowels of Consol Energy Center, there is no puck movement or drills with the stick.
Instead, it is common to see players gathered around in a circle juggling a soccer ball with their feet. .
Members of the Yale and Quinnipiac teams, many of whom played soccer growing up, said it is a way to stay loose and work on foot speed, both of which are assets once they take the ice.
Shutting down St. Cloud
The game between Quinnipiac and St. Cloud State Thursday was billed as a matchup between one of college hockey's top offenses against one of the top defenses.
The stingy Bobcats got the win.
The Huskies, who entered the game with the No. 2 offense in Division I at 3.41 goals per game, were limited to one goal.
It was only the third time in their past 20 games that St. Cloud State had been held to one goal or less.
"They deal with adversity well," Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said of his defense.
"They deal with adapting within the game, and teams like St. Cloud were running a little variation of a part we haven't seen a lot the last year.
"We had to make adjustments."
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @craig_a_meyer. First Published April 13, 2013 4:00 AM