HAMDEN, Conn. – Going into the Frozen Four, the center of the college hockey world may very well be around New Haven, Connecticut.
Rivals Yale and Quinnipiac, whose campuses are less than 10 miles apart along Interstate 91, make up half of the schools playing for the NCAA championship.
Oh yeah, and they don't like each other.
"If you come to one of the games, you see it at Quinnipiac or at Yale, it's a rivalry," Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said Tuesday. "It's gotten pretty good at the games at Yale. And the ones here, I don't think it's a game, it's an event. It's a big-time event and there is certainly a buzz when we play."
Quinnipiac is 10-5-2 against Yale and won all three meetings this season. But both teams have some work to do if they want to play each other for a fourth time.
Quinnipiac (29-7-5), the regular-season ECAC champions and the top-ranked team in the nation, takes on St. Cloud State (25-15-1), in one national semifinal next Thursday. Yale (20-12-3) faces Hockey East champion UMass-Lowell (28-10-2) in the other semifinal in Pittsburgh.
Because of that, Yale coach Keith Allaine declined to even talk about his Connecticut rivals on Tuesday.
"I'm not really sure what it means for the area," he said. "Our focus right now is on our hockey team and UMass-Lowell."
Yale hasn't been to a national semifinal since 1952, when there were only four teams in the tournament.
Quinnipiac, which joined the ECAC just eight years ago, is in just its second NCAA tournament, and has never been to the Frozen Four. It was a Division II program until 1998.
Yale upset the West Region top-seed Minnesota and North Dakota to make it to Pittsburgh. The Bobcats, the tournament's top seed, won the East Region with wins over Canisius and Union.
There were fans were wearing T-shirts at the game that read, "Beat Yale."
Yale almost didn't get a chance to play in this season's NCAA tournament, thanks to Quinnipiac.
The Bobcats shut out the Bulldogs 3-0 in the consolation game of the ECAC tournament. Yale got the last at-large bid only after Notre Dame beat Michigan to knock the Wolverines from that slot.
"I don't feel like we got a second chance," Yale captain Andrew Miller said. "The body of work we did in the regular season puts us in a position to play in the tournament."
Quinnipiac captain Zach Currie said he and his teammates are happy that both teams made it this far, but would not say if he'll be rooting for the Bulldogs.
"It's great for Connecticut, it's great for the ECAC, it's cool to see," he said. "It's interesting, but at the same time, we're focused on our next game."
There hasn't been much trash talking between the two teams. Currie and his teammates say they don't socialize with the Yale players, and don't run into them around New Haven.
Bobcats goalie Eric Hartzell, a Hobey Baker finalist for the top college player, said they have a healthy respect for each other on the ice.
"Over the last three years, I seem to have a glove save every year against Miller," he said. "After every game this year, he just kind of gave me that eye and said good game and told me he hated me."
Miller would not say if he wants another shot at Hartzell and Quinnipiac.
"We want a shot to play for a national championship," he said "So we've put ourselves in a position to do that. If we get the opportunity to play in a national championship game, that would be great."