The East-West battle lines will be drawn in the NCAA Frozen Four between the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and Hockey East, which will have two representatives apiece next weekend at TD Garden.
Boston University will carry the banner not only for the city of Boston but also as the reigning Beanpot and Hockey East tournament champions — both of which were won on the Terriers’ home-away-from-home ice at TD Garden — when it faces North Dakota in next Thursday’s nightcap.
“It’s been an incredible year for us, obviously, but I think it’s been a great year for the league,’’ said BU coach David Quinn. “I know we got three teams in [the NCAA Tournament], but I know we had three other teams were hovering between the 16th and 21st spot.
“There’s such a fine line in the RPI and the pair ratings between the 14th team and the 18th team that we could have had five teams in.’’
Providence, which tied for second in the Hockey East regular-season standings, will face Nebraska-Omaha on Thursday at 5 p.m. The Friars secured their fourth Frozen Four appearance (and first since 1985) with a 4-1 victory over Denver in the East Regional final last Sunday at Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.
“We all watched with a lot of pride when Providence beat Denver,’’ said Quinn, a native of Cranston, R.I. “It’s pretty cool to have two teams from the Hockey East in the Frozen Four in Boston, one team about 4 miles from the Garden and the other about 60. So it’s going to be a special weekend.’’
Asked what concerns he harbored about having to venture to the East Coast to play, potentially, back-to-back games against Hockey East opponents, Omaha coach Dean Blais said, “That’s hockey.
“Obviously, I assume it’ll be a great home crowd and home-ice advantage for [BU]. But, like I said, that’s hockey.
“Our group will have a good mind-set and a good perspective and will be well-prepared for that entire scenario. Big challenge for our group, no question, but I think it’s one we’ll work hard to be prepared for and look forward to.’’
There at the start
Nebraska-Omaha’s first Frozen Four appearance may have been 18 years in the making, but Quinn could be credited for helping establish the foundation. He joined Omaha’s fledgling program in 1996 and worked for six years to build it, serving as an assistant coach and lead recruiter for then-head coach Mike Kemp.
“UNO will always hold a special place in my heart,’’ Quinn said. “It was an incredible opportunity to be part of something from the ground up. It was a unique experience and I have lot of friends there and I know a lot of former players will be coming out [to Boston], because I’ve been in touch with a lot of them.
“But, to be honest, when you’re in this situation, you don’t take a lot of time to think about those things. We’re just focused on beating North Dakota. It is an interesting sidebar, but most of the focus, if not all of the focus, is going to be on playing a very tough North Dakota team.’’
Asked how difficult it was to get Omaha’s program up and running, Quinn said, “It was hard, but when you have a university that’s committed to hockey like UNO was, it certainly makes your job a lot easier.
“But the fan support we had, with the facilities we had, the resources we had, it was an incredible six years. I look back on those six years with a lot of memories, a lot of satisfaction and a lot of pride.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.