LAKE PLACID — The Herb Brooks Arena could be awash in Pioneer Spirit this weekend when the NCAA Men’s Division III Ice Hockey Championships return to the Olympic Village.
Of the teams in the Frozen Four, no outfit is more aptly named than the Utica College Pioneers, who will be making their first appearance in the NCAA semifinals. In fact, Utica is in uncharted territory. The Pioneers are participating in their first national tournament in their 12-year history.
Utica scored a stunning 4-2 come-from-behind victory over Bowdoin College on Saturday before a frenzied following of 3,847 at the Utica Auditorium. NCAA and tourney officials are banking on a good number of those fans making the trek to Lake Placid.
Utica, enjoying its most successful (21-5-1) season yet, will be taking on another Frozen Four first-timer in Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The Blugolds earned their way East by knocking off two-time NCAA champ St. Norbert College 3-1 in a quarterfinal game Saturday.
Eau Claire will take a 22-5-2 record into Friday’s national semifinal against Utica College at 7:30 p.m.
The opener Friday will pair two familiar foes in Norwich University and Oswego State. They will face off at 4 p.m.
Norwich University (24-3-1) blanked No. 10 Babson College 4-0 in their NCAA championship tournament quarterfinal match-up on Saturday. The second ranked Cadets had lost their three previous games against the Beavers, including last week when they fell 2-1 in the ECAC East championship game. The win pushed Norwich into the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year, also their 11th trip in the last 17 seasons.
The third-ranked Lakers (24-4-0) are headed back to the NCAA division III men’s ice hockey semifinals for a fourth straight season. Oswego State skated past the nation’s sixth-ranked team Adrian College 3-2 and snapped the Bulldogs 17-game winning streak. They also outshot their hosts 55-33.