Call it a tale of two teams from Connecticut, with the final chapter now coming up.
Whoever loses tonight in Pittsburgh, though, the Eastern College Athletic Conference and the Constitution State will still win.
League rivals Yale and Quinnipiac will meet for the NCAA Division I men's college ice hockey national championship on April 13 at the Consol Energy Center following semifinal victories against UMass Lowell and St. Cloud State, respectively, on Thursday night.
Quinnipiac (30-7-5 overall) won all three meetings with Yale (21-12-3 overall) this season, including a 3-0 decision in the ECAC Consolation Game at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on March 23. The two schools are separated by just eight miles in Connecticut’s Greater New Haven area, and have been league rivals since the Bobcats joined the ECAC in 2005. All-time, the newcomers also lead the season series with the Bulldogs, 10-5-2.
Quinnipiac also fashioned a 21-game unbeaten streak from November to March of this season, and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of the new calendar year before stumbling in Atlantic City.
“It’s been a great ride,” said Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold to the New Haven Register. “And we’ve got to get one more.”
Yale, which won at Denver and Colorado College in November, has won eight of its last 10 games, falling only in the ECAC semifinals and consolation in that span.
“People have been calling us a Cinderella story but that means they haven’t been paying attention,” said Yale forward Nico Weberg, who has been sidelined since early March with a concussion, to the Register. “I think we’re a hard-working team. We play hard, we skate hard and we grind teams down."
The ECAC is guaranteed its first national champion since 1989, when Harvard edged Minnesota, 4-3, in overtime at the new-demolished St. Paul (Minn.) Civic Center on a sudden-death score by Ed Krayer.
It also marks the first appearance of an ECAC team in the national final since Colgate lost, 7-3, to Wisconsin in 1990 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, and the first time that two ECAC schools will meet with the national title on the line since Boston University defeated Boston College, 5-3, at the Providence Civic Center in 1978 (before those two schools moved to the Hockey East Association six years later).
“Both the Bobcats and the Bulldogs pulled off impressive wins on the ice last night, once again focusing the eyes of college sports on Connecticut," said Governor Daniel P. Malloy to the Register. "There’s no doubt that these two teams have made Connecticut the center of the college hockey universe.”
A stretch that has expanded from just eight miles apart to encompass the entire nation for one night.