It has been a long time since the doors to the NCAA hockey champions club have been this wide open entering the Frozen Four.
For the first time since 1958 — and only the second time since the tournament’s inaugural event — the Frozen Four will be made up of four teams all looking for their first national championship.
Yale, Massachusetts-Lowell, St. Cloud State and Quinnipiac earned trips to Pittsburgh for the 2013 Frozen Four by winning NCAA regional championships this weekend.
It’s a new-look group, to be sure.
Only Yale has ever been to the Frozen Four before, and that was a third-place finish in 1952.
Three teams will make their Frozen Four debuts at Consol Energy Center for the national semifinals on April 11. It’s the first time that’s happened in tournament history, excluding the inaugural event in 1948.
Both semifinals will be matchups of No. 1 regional seeds against No. 4s.
Massachusetts-Lowell, the top seed in the Northeast Regional, will play Yale out of the West Regional at 4:30 p.m. EDT in one semifinal; top overall seed Quinnipiac will face St. Cloud State at 8 p.m. EDT in the other.
For only the second time since 1993, college hockey will add to the list of teams that have won the Division I men’s championship. Minnesota-Duluth became the 18th member of the group in 2011, and either the Bulldogs, the River Hawks, the Huskies or the Bobcats will be No. 19.
The Frozen Four field contains two teams from ECAC Hockey for the first time since 1983. Both Yale and Quinnipiac, however, trail in the all-time series against their semifinal opponents.
Lowell has an 8-3 record against the Bulldogs, with the last meeting going to the River Hawks 2-1 on Jan. 15, 1999, in New Haven, Conn.
St. Cloud State has won three of the four games played against the Bobcats, all coming since the 2009-10 season. The teams split a series in St. Cloud, Minn., in October 2010 after the Huskies earned a road sweep the previous season.
Yale won the West Regional by beating Minnesota 3-2 in overtime and North Dakota 4-1. The Bulldogs finished third in ECAC Hockey.
Massachusetts-Lowell added to a growing trophy case by advancing through the Northeast Regional, beating Wisconsin 6-1 and New Hampshire 2-0. The River Hawks won both the Hockey East regular season and playoff titles for the first time.
St. Cloud State beat Notre Dame 5-1 and Miami 4-1 in the Midwest Regional. The Huskies won a share of the WCHA regular season title for the first time.
Quinnipiac rallied for a 4-3 win over Canisius and routed Union 5-1 in the East Regional. The Bobcats rolled to the ECAC Hockey regular season title, winning by 10 points.
The Frozen Four semifinals will be televised by ESPN2, with the April 13 championship game on ESPN.