For the past 20 years, ECAC Hockey has been derided as a little brother to college hockey's major conferences.
The league took its current form when the power schools -- Boston University, Boston College, Providence, Northeastern, New Hampshire and Maine -- formed Hockey East in 1984. The ECAC placed a team in the title game five of the next six years, but none of its teams had played for the title since Colgate lost, 7-3, to Wisconsin in 1990. That's no longer the case.
Two ECAC teams, Quinnipiac and Yale, will meet Saturday night for the championship, assuring the league of its first title since Harvard in 1989.
"I think it's phenomenal for our league," Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. "I think the ECAC was one of the best, if not the best, league in the country this year. Top to bottom, we're as good as anyone."
The ECAC is made up of the six Ivy League teams that sponsor Division I hockey, plus six small, private schools in New York and New England. Quinnipiac, the newest team, joined in 2005.
"I think we have a terrific league," Yale coach Keith Allain said. "Maybe we don't get the publicity we deserve. But we have great players in our league. We have great universities in our league, and we have darn good coaches.
"I think that I also understand that our league hasn't had much success in this tournament. And until you earn it, you don't deserve it, so maybe things will change after this weekend."
The league has shown its mettle this postseason. The three ECAC teams that made this tournament have combined for a 7-1 record. The only loss came when Quinnipiac ousted league-mate Union in the regional final.
For the players, there's still a game to be played.
"I think it's good for the league," Quinnipiac defenseman Zach Davies said. "But when it comes down to it, it's two teams, and we want to win."
Quinnipiac rightfully has been renowned for its prowess on defense and in goal, but, for much of the NCAA tournament, it has been the Bobcats offense that has paved the way to success -- particularly early in games.
Going back to their 4-1 victory Feb. 22 against Yale, the Bobcats have scored three goals in the first period in three of their games. In each of its past two games, Quinnipiac has scored three goals in the first period.
Since Jan. 5, the team has scored three or more goals in a period seven times, including its early offensive outburst against St. Cloud State Thursday night..
As if the joy of making the national championship game wasn't enough for Quinnipiac senior forward Jeremy Langlois, he was able to make a little bit of history.
With his goal in the first period that extended the Bobcats' lead to 3-0 with 11:19 to play, he became just the 19th player in Quinnipiac's history as a Division I program to record 100 career points. Langlois has a team-high 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists).
Drew LeBlanc played an instrumental role in helping St. Cloud State advance to its first Frozen Four, but his numbers were surprisingly low late in the season.
In the Huskies' 4-1 loss against Quinnipiac, the senior forward and Hobey Baker Award finalist did not record a point, marking the fourth consecutive game in which he did not have a goal or assist. LeBlanc had at least one point in 30 of his team's first 38 games.frozenfour