PITTSBURGH - Cheerleaders and a pep band as soon as they stepped off the plane. A police escort on the ride in from the airport. Their school's logo plastered about eight feet wide across the Consol Energy Center atrium. NHL ice awaiting for their use.

The NCAA sure rolls out the red carpet for teams that advance to the Frozen Four. And it's fair to say this season's qualifiers aren't used to it.

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"Pretty cool," Massachu-setts-Lowell's Chad Ruhwedel said. "I've never experienced that before."

Join the club. As college hockey's national showcase prepares to launch in Western Pennsylvania for the first time, there are three programs here - Lowell, St. Cloud State and Quinnipiac - that never have been to this far. And Yale, the fourth member, hasn't made it this far in 61 years. The Bulldogs never have won it all.

Two of the Frozen Four teams come from the ECAC Hockey conference, which held its semifinals and final at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City last month.

"We've known that it's a tough league and it always has been," Yale forward Antoine Laganiere said. "Traditionally, we don't have as many teams in the NCAAs, but I'm just happy for the league. We're finally getting the respect we deserve."


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