Western Massachusetts is home to two Division I Hockey programs and both are in the middle of playoff runs. Friday night was a big night for western Massachusetts college hockey fans.
UMass Minutemen are playing Boston College Friday night in the Hockey East semifinals and the AIC Yellow Jackets beat Robert Morris 3-2 in overtime. They advance to the Atlantic Conference final game Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
UMass and AIC hockey fans celebrated Friday night at a watch party for both teams. The watch party was held at the Stinger Pub on the AIC campus.
“I think they’ve been doing great,” said Cameron Dafeo, an AIC student. “I think they surprised a lot of people, especially after last year’s season. But they really turned it around and they’re having a great year.”
The Minutemen have been ranked the third best team in the nation by USA Today, and the Yellow Jackets made their first trip to the Semifinal in the Atlantic Conference.
Though in different conferences these teams have a lot in common. The head coaches of both programs won coach of the year in their respective conferences.
Both students and administrations said the success on the ice has had a big impact on the campus community.
“There’s been a ton of excitement here on campus and throughout the city of Springfield, it’s been an amazing run, a Cinderella story as everyone is talking about,” said AIC Associate Athletic Director Jessica Chaplan.
“It’s been a wild experience, packed houses, screaming fans, parents alumni, not much more you can say,” said UMass sophomore Jacob Frank.
Chaplin said she hopes both teams’ success will help continue the hockey tradition in Western Massachusetts.
A win for both teams would clinch a spot in their conference tournament finals on Saturday.
This is the Minutemen’s first Hockey East Semifinal appearance since 2007.