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.
 (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Matthew Peca recorded the fastest hat trick in NCAA tournament history, scoring three goals in a 3:12 span of the first period, leading top-seeded Quinnipiac to a 5-1 victory over Union in the East Regional final on Sunday night.

The Bobcats, who notched their first-ever tournament win by rallying past Canisius Saturday, will face Saint Cloud State April 11 in one of the two national semifinal games in Pittsburgh.

Quinnipiac (29-7-5), an upstart that rose to the No. 1 ranking this season for the first time, trailed Canisius, the No. 16 seed, 3-1, on Saturday before turning on the jets en route to a historic weekend in Rhode Island. Peca ignited a three-goal rally in the 4-3 win over the Golden Griffins, then had three more by the 12:58 mark Sunday. The Bobcats scored six goals in a span of 24:56 across two games.

Quinnipiac goalie Eric Hartzell lost a shutout bid when Daniel Ciampini scored 3:15 into the third for Union (22-13-5).

Warren Miller of Minnesota had the previous fastest hat trick, doing it in 4:20 March 17, 1975 against Harvard. The hat trick was the first in a tournament game since March 28, 2010, when Boston College’s Ken Atkinson and Yale’s Mark Arcobello did it in the same game.

Peca, recording the first multiple-game of his college career, beat Troy Grosenick with a backhander off a rebound scramble 9:46 in.

Peca, who now has 15 goals this season, then stole an errant pass at center ice, moved down the right side and beat Grosenick with a snap shot at 10:59. He then walked out all alone in front and scored on another backhander at 12:58. The rout was on as Quinnipiac easily beat its ECAC rival for the third time this season.

After Union’s Matt Wilkins was hit with a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a hit from behind at 6:27 of the second, Jordan Samuel-Thomas, who scored the tying goal Saturday, scored at 7:22 and Peca assisted on a Kellen Jones goal at 11:42.

Grosenick, a Hobey Baker Award finalist last year, allowed six goals on the first 12 shots. Union was attempting to reach its second Frozen Four. Along the way, it saw its seven-game winning streak end.

Hartzell _ a finalist for this year’s Baker Award and the player and goalie of the year in the ECAC _ made a big stop on Max Novak early but really had most of the rest of the night off. He has all 29 Quinnipiac wins on the season.

Saint Cloud State defeated Miami (Ohio) Sunday to ensure the matchup vs. the Bobcats. UMass Lowell and Yale will meet in the other national semifinal.

 (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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