For college hockey fans, this is the most wonderful time of year. Before the 16-team NCAA tournament field set to be revealed on Sunday night (7 p.m. on ESPNU), two Tri-State clubs from both ECAC Hockey and Atlantic Hockey will be competing for conference championships this weekend in Lake Placid and Buffalo, respectively.
Cornell split the Cleary Cup as the ECAC’s regular-season champion with Quinnipiac, but the No. 2 Big Red will be the highest-seeded team in Lake Placid after Brown upset the Bobcats in a pair of tight quarterfinal affairs last weekend. Clarkson (No. 9) and the Big Red (No. 11) are both positioned well in the PairWise Rankings entering this weekend, but, of course, two wins would erase any doubts of NCAA fate.
As is typically the case in Atlantic Hockey, the lone NCAA team will be whichever comes out of the weekend with a championship. American International has been atop the standings and finished as the No. 1 seed for the first time ever, but in-state foes Niagara and RIT will battle it out for one spot in Saturday’s title game.