Quinnipiac University comes to Atlantic City as the favorite to win the ECAC Hockey men's tournament.
Any of the four teams in tonight's semifinals, though, could leave Boardwalk Hall with the trophy on Saturday.
The Bobcats are No. 1 in the nation in all three major rankings on the NCAA's website, but Yale University (No. 9), Union College (No. 15) and Brown University (No. 20) all are close behind in the ratings percentage index (RPI).
"It should be an interesting weekend for our league," ECAC Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell said in a phone interview this week. "I use the cliche, 'Flip a coin on any given night.' "
This is the last year of the ECAC's three-year deal to hold the final two rounds of its tournament at Boardwalk Hall. Union won the championship last year and Yale the previous season.
Quinnipiac also will be a favorite in the NCAA tournament starting next week, but coach Rand Pecknold said the Bobcats are not looking that far in the future.
"My guys know we're in the tournament," Pecknold said in a phone interview this week. "So I think right now we're focused on trying to win an ECAC playoff championship. It was one of our goals before the season, along with winning a regular-season championship. So right now I don't think my guys are focused on the NCAA tournament."
Here is a look at the semifinal matchups:
(1) Quinnipiac vs. (7) Brown, 4 p.m. (FOX College Sports, Comcast Ch. 720): Quinnipiac (26-6-5) is ranked No. 1 in the nation, but the Bobcats tied Brown (15-13-6) in both their meetings this season. The Bears crashed the party at Boardwalk Hall by upsetting No. 2-seeded Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the quarterfinals, winning the best-of-three series 2 games to 1. Quinnipiac, meanwhile, needed overtime in Game 3 of its quarterfinal series with No. 9 Cornell to get to Atlantic City.
This game will feature two of the country's best goaltenders. Quinnipiac senior Eric Hartzell is third in the nation with a 1.50 goals-against average and tied for sixth with a .935 save percentage. Brown senior Anthony Borelli is third in the nation with a .942 save percentage and eighth with a 1.87 GAA.
Senior Jeremy Langlois, who played juniors for the New Jersey Hitmen in Wayne, Passaic County, leads Quinnipiac with 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists). The Bobcats also feature Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick Matthew Peca, a sophomore who is tied for second on the team with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists). While the Bobcats have five players with 11 to 14 goals, Brown has just one player in double figures - sophomore Matt Lorito with 20. Five of Lorito's goals have come in the tournament.
(3) Yale vs. (4) Union, 7:30 p.m. (FOX College Sports, Comcast Ch. 720): Yale (18-10-3) won the tournament two years ago. Union (19-12-5) won last year and advanced to the NCAA semifinals, known as the Frozen Four. The last time these teams met was in the first round of the 2006 ECAC tournament, when Yale won 3-2 in five overtimes - the longest NCAA men's hockey game ever. Both teams swept their best-of-three first-round series this year, with Yale beating St. Lawrence 6-1 and 3-0, and Union beating Dartmouth 4-1 and 5-2. Yale and Union tied in their first meeting this season, and Union won 4-2 in the second.
Yale has two of the nation's best scorers in junior Kenny Agostino, who is tied for 23rd in the NCAA with 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists), and senior Andrew Miller, who is tied for 35th with 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists).
Union features brothers Kyle and Mat Bodie. Kyle, a senior forward, is tied for the team lead with 32 points (9 goals, 23 assists), while Mat, a junior, ranks sixth in the nation among defensemen with 0.77 points per game (six goals, 18 assists).
Contact Jason Mazda:
ECAC Hockey semifinals
Where: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City
Schedule: Quinnipiac vs. Brown (semifinal), 4 p.m. today; Yale vs. Union (semifinal), 7:30 p.m. today; third-place game, 4 p.m. Saturday; championship game, 7 p.m. Saturday.
TV: All except third-place game on Fox College Sports (Comcast Ch. 721)
Tickets: One-day tickets range from $25 to $31 and $15 for students/military; tickets for both days from $42 to $87; available through Ticketmaster and Boardwalk Hall box office.