NHL

Newbies crash Frozen Four party

UMass-Lowell will be one of three schools going to its first Frozen Four.
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PITTSBURGH (AP)

Pittsburgh will host the Frozen Four for the first time ever next month. And in a season of firsts, three of four teams will be headed to the national hockey showcase for the first time.

UMass Lowell (28-10-2), Saint Cloud State (25-15-1) and Quinnipiac (29-7-5) all clinched berths in the national semifinals for the first time this weekend, setting up a new look at the Consol Energy Center April 11-13. And the fourth member, Yale (20-12-3), hasn't been this far since 1952, when the entire tournament field featured just four teams.

The River Hawks, who won both the Hockey East regular season and conference tournament titles, will meet the Bulldogs in an all-New England matchup. The Bobcats, the No. 1 overall seed who won just their first NCAA tournament game Saturday in Providence, R.I., and raced to the nation's No. 1 ranking for the first time this season, will meet the Huskies, who upended Miami, Ohio, on Sunday to win the Midwest Regional.

Both Yale and Quinnipiac, separated by just eight miles in Connecticut, are members of the ECAC.

"It's great for the state of Connecticut," Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. "And it's great for our league."

Indeed, the ECAC — often seen as inferior to Hockey East — is in a good spot these days. With last season's appearance in the Frozen Four by Union, the ECAC now has three of the last eight national semifinalists.

"It speaks volumes for the league," Union coach Rick Bennett said. "Obviously, there can only be one winner, but we hope it's someone from the ECAC."

Saint Cloud State, a member of the WCHA, is in the midst of a breakout, as well. The Huskies were 1-9 in tournament play before this weekend.

"We just want to keep this string going," Saint Cloud State center Cory Thorson said. "We don't feel like we're finished yet."

Next season, the Frozen Four will remain in Pennsylvania, and be held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

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