Preview of the Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Pot and RPI/Bank of America Holiday Classic

By DJ Powers

Two traditional holiday tournaments will take place over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The second annual Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Pot Tournament will take place at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence on November 26th and 27th. The granddaddy of all the college hockey holiday tournaments, the RPI/Bank of America Holiday Tournament will take place on November 27th and 28th at the Houston Fieldhouse on the campus of RPI.

The Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Pot is hosted by Providence College. In addition to Providence, Holy Cross, Merrimack and Union College will be participating in this year’s tournament. Providence, who lost to Northeastern in the Tournament Championship game last year, will look to claim the Coffee Pot this year.

The Friars are coming off of a 8-4 loss to conference rival Maine on Sunday. Providence was actually off to a very good start to their season, winning four of their first five regular season games. On October 30th, that all changed. The Friars suffered a 2-0 loss to UMass. However, suffering the defeat was not nearly as devastating as the loss of sophomore Colin McDonald (EDM). McDonald was off to a torrid start for the Friars when he suffered a sprained MCL to his right knee in the latter stage of the game. Recently, the news got even worse when it was reported that McDonald would likely not return to the Friars lineup until after Christmas. In the five games he played, he racked up five goals. Since McDonald went down, the Friars have gone 1-6-1.

With McDonald out of the lineup, sophomore Bill McCreary and senior Chris Chaput have been leading the Friars offense. McCreary co-leads Providence in goals with five, while Chaput leads the team in points with 11 (four goals, seven assists). Three NHL-drafted Friars defensemen have also chipped in points. Junior James Pemberton (FLA) currently leads all Providence defensemen in scoring with six points (one goal, five assists). Freshman Trevor Ludwig (DAL) notched his first career multi-point game that also included his first collegiate goal in last Sunday’s loss to Maine. Ludwig didn’t have to wait nearly as long as senior Eric Lundberg (COL) did to score his first collegiate goal. It took 109 games to do it but Lundberg finally got his first goal back on November 6th in Providence’s 4-1 over Wayne State. The goal came on a Friars power play.

The reigning Atlantic Hockey champion, Holy Cross, come into the Coffee Pot Tournament in desperate need of a win. The Crusaders bring a five game winless streak into the weekend. The streak includes being shutout in two of their last three games versus conference rival Army and Hockey East powerhouse Boston College, respectively.

The biggest problem currently plaguing the Crusaders is offense. Holy Cross ranks near the bottom nationally in total team offense, averaging just 2.30 goals per game. Outstanding sophomore Jamie Sixsmith leads the team in points with ten (three goals, seven assists). Sixsmith is the lone player on the Holy Cross roster who has points in double digits. Junior Pierre Napert-Frenette leads the team in goals with five.

Juniors Tony Quesada and Ben Conway have split time in the Crusaders nets. Quesada, who enjoyed an outstanding season last year, is off to a fairly decent start. He has posted a 2-2-2 record in his six starts with a very respectable .929 save percentage and 2.13 goals against average.

Merrimack is coming off of a stinging loss to conference rival Northeastern on Tuesday. The Warriors come into the Coffee Pot Tournament seeking a desperately needed win. They bring a four game losing streak into the weekend. The Warriors are also in danger of dropping to the bottom of the Hockey East standings if they can’t turn things around. They currently sit one point ahead of winless UMass-Lowell.

One area that has contributed to the Warriors’ woes is injuries. Merrimack has been decimated by injuries this early season. So hard hit have the Warriors been that only eight skaters (forwards and defensemen) have suited up for all 12 games thus far. Furthermore, two defensemen in junior Brian Schmidt and outstanding sophomore Jeff Caron lead the team in scoring with eleven points a piece. Schmidt also co-leads the team in goals with five. Interestingly, all of Schmidt’s goals have come on the power play.

One forward who is playing very well for Merrimack thus far this season is sophomore Mike Alexiou. He currently ranks third in scoring for Merimack with ten points (five goals, five assists). Like Schmidt, Alexiou has also excelled on the power play. Four of Alexiou’s five goals have come with the man-advantage.

Union College is one of the hottest teams in the nation right now. The Dutchmen are coming off of a successful weekend, posting wins over Ivy Leaguers Princeton and Yale. Union brings a six-game winning streak into the Coffee Pot Tournament. The Dutchmen currently sit atop the ECAC standings and are a perfect 6-0-0 in conference play thus far. They have posted an overall record of 7-5-0 coming into the Coffee Pot Tournament.

One of the pleasant surprises for Union this season has been the stellar play of freshman goaltender Justin Mrazek (WSH). The Washington Capitals prospect, who shares duties with junior Kris Mayotte, currently ranks fifth in the nation in both goals against average (1.62) and save percentage (.937). He has posted a 3-2-0 record in his five starts thus far. Another player that has had many taking notice of his outstanding play has been the imposing sophomore Olivier Bouchard. Bouchard is currently fourth on the team in scoring with 11 points (six goals, five assists).

Senior Jordan Webb has been a crucial player in Union’s success thus far. He leads the Dutchmen in goals with eleven. The area where Webb has really excelled has been on the power play. Of his eleven goals, eight have come on the power play. His eight power play goals also lead the nation. In the weekend home-and-home series versus RPI back on November 12th, Webb notched four points (three goals, one assist) in leading Union to the sweep.

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The RPI/Bank of America Holiday Tournament will drop the puck on its 54th year, when host RPI will welcome Air Force, Sacred Heart and Robert Morris University to the Houston Fieldhouse. The Engineers will look to remedy their last place finish in their tournament from nearly a year ago. Last year’s tournament winner St. Cloud State will not be back to defend their title.

Host RPI is coming off of a loss at Princeton on Saturday night. The Engineers come into the tournament with three of the nation’s top scorers in junior Kevin Croxton and Kirk MacDonald and senior Nick Economakos. Croxton leads the Engineers with 19 points (six goals, 13 assists). Economakos is second on the team with 18 points while MacDonald is third with 17. Economakos’ 14 assists tie him for second in the nation in that category. RPI possesses the sixth best offense in the nation, but the high-scoring trio have accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Engineers total offense to date. So spreading the offensive wealth is a concern. One area where spreading the wealth hasn’t been a problem is on the power play. RPI ranks eighth in the nation in that category, with a 22.9 percent efficiency. MacDonald leads the team in power play goals with six.

An area that hasn’t been quite sorted out yet for RPI is their goaltending situation. While senior Andrew Martin and freshman Jordan Alford have been splitting time between the pipes, neither is playing consistently well enough to be named the starter. Of the two netminders, Alford has the better record (2-1-1) and winning percentage (.625). However, Martin has the better goals against average (2.60) and the slightly better save percentage (.898). Martin also posted RPI’s lone shutout thus far this season when he shutout Mercyhurst back on October 30th.

Outstanding sophomore Oren Eizenman could make a return to the lineup for this weekend’s tournament. Eizenman, who leads all RPI underclassmen in scoring with nine points (three goals, six assists), was out of the lineup last weekend due to illness.

Sacred Heart is coming off of a win over conference rival Quinnipiac on Tuesday night. The Pioneers currently sit atop the Atlantic Hockey standings with Canisius despite the fact the team has only two wins in their last seven games.

Sacred Heart enters the tournament needing more offense. In their first three games (all wins), they racked up 15 goals. In their next seven games, they’ve scored a total of 13 goals while putting together a dismal 2-5-0 record in that stretch. Sophomore Pierre Luc O’Brien leads the Pioneers in points (8) and goals (4). All of his goals have come on the power play. One forward to watch on the Pioneers team is freshman Alexandre Parent. While he has just one goal on the season thus far, he is tied for the team lead in assists with six. He has also earned two Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Week honors for his multi-point outings versus Army back on October 16th and most recently versus Canisius on November 15th.

One interesting note about the Pioneers offensive stats is their power play goals. While their overall power play efficiency is at a mere 12.5 percent (50th in the nation), nearly half of the team’s goals were scored with the man advantage. Eleven of Sacred Heart’s 23 goals on the season thus far have come on the power play.

The lone NHL prospect from the Atlantic Hockey Conference is the Pioneers’ sophomore goaltender Jason Smith (NJ). The New Jersey Devils prospect has seen action in only three games thus far this season, posting a record of 1-2-0. His lone win came back on October 23rd versus American International. Smith currently serves as the backup to senior starter Kevin Lapointe.

Air Force is coming off of a weekend sweep at Robert Morris University. The Falcons come into the tournament with one of the stingiest defenses in the nation. Air Force is currently tied for ninth in the nation in team defense, allowing an average of 2.40 goals per game. The main reason behind the Falcons excellent defensive start could be attributed to the stellar goaltending of sophomore Peter Foster. Foster, the son of former NHL forward Dwight Foster, has put up some impressive numbers thus far this season. In his ten starts, Foster has posted a 4-4-2 record that includes a 2.35 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. Three of Foster’s victories have been by shutout. His three shutouts currently lead the nation. The most recent shutout win came last Friday versus conference rival Robert Morris, where he made 35 saves. The shutout also earned him his second CHA Defensive Player of the Week honors.

The Falcons offense is led by sophomores Andrew Ramsey and Brandon Merkosky. Both players lead the team with ten points apiece. In Air Force’s last game versus RMU, Merkosky set a new CHA record for most shots on goal in a game with 12. The previous record of eleven was set by Alabama-Huntsville sniper Jared Ross and former top Niagara player Joe Tallari. One forward who will be noticeably absent from the Falcons lineup in the tournament will be talented junior Mike Knaeble. Knaeble, one of Air Force’s best players last season, suffered a fractured fibula in the win over Robert Morris last Friday and is expected to be out six to eight weeks.

NCAA Division I’s newest team, Robert Morris University, is coming off a weekend series that saw them being swept by conference rival Air Force. While the Colonials have been going through some "growing pains", they have been able to enjoy some early success both as a team and among individual players. The Colonials won their first ever Division I game back on October 22nd in a 3-1 win at Canisius. Their first win at home came eight days later on October 30th when they defeated Bentley 3-1. Those are also the only two wins that the Colonials have on the season thus far.

Freshman defenseman Jeff Gilbert currently leads RMU in scoring with seven points (three goals, four assists). Junior Kurt Wright and freshman Brett Hopfe co-lead the team in goals with four apiece. Hopfe scored RMU’s first ever hat-trick back on October 23rd, in the 5-4 loss to Canisius. His performance also earned him the CHA Offensive Player of the Week honors as well.

The freshman tandem of Christian Boucher and Jamie Flury have been sharing the goaltending duties for the Colonials thus far this season. While neither has put up stellar won-loss-tie record or goals against average numbers, both have put up respectable save percentage numbers. Boucher, who has started the majority of the games, currently has a .907 save percentage. His counterpart Flury has posted a .897 save percentage in the four games that he has played in. Both goaltenders have played very well despite the losses. Boucher has already earned two CHA Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performances in the weekend series versus Bentley on October 29th and again in the series versus conference opponent Wayne State on November 15th. Flury is the current CHA Rookie of the Week for his outing in the weekend series versus Air Force, that saw him stop 46 of 48 shots in the 2-1 overtime loss last Saturday.