NCAA Holiday tournaments preview

By DJ Powers






NCAA: Holiday Tournaments Preview

From December 22nd to January 2nd
there will be plenty of college hockey for fans to take in. This year there are
eight Christmas/New Year’s tournaments, including the debut of the Ohio Holiday
Classic Tournament. For those unable to actually get out and see these
tournaments, several will be carried on television. There will be a plethora of
NHL prospects in action, though several teams will be missing players due the
U-20 World Junior Championships (WJC) that will be taking place at the same
time in Grand Forks, ND and Thief River Falls, MN.

 

All statistics included below are for all non-exhibition
games played through December 19th. All team rankings noted are
those according the USCHO/CSTV and the USAToday Coaches Polls from December 13th. Unless otherwise noted, all television
schedules noted are available nationally via satellite and digital cable
systems.

 

Among the teams who participated in tournaments last year
who will not be this year are: UMass-Lowell, North Dakota, Notre Dame,
Princeton and Union College.

 

 

DODGE HOLIDAY CLASSIC (December 22nd and 23rd)

 

Host school: University of Minnesota

Other participating schools: Harvard University, Merrimack
College and Northern Michigan University

Where: Mariucci Arena (University of Minnesota)

NHL prospects to be showcased: 27

TV: FOX Sport Net North (only games involving the Minnesota
Golden Gophers)

 

The 14th annual Dodge Holiday Classic will open
the post-Thanksgiving holiday tournaments this year. Host Minnesota will look
to defend its crown as they welcome Harvard, Merrimack and NMU to Mariucci
Arena in what should be a very exciting and entertaining tournament. Harvard
will face off against Northern Michigan in the tournament’s opening early game,
followed by host Minnesota against Merrimack in the late game.

 

The nation’s top ranked team, the Minnesota Golden Gophers,
come into this tournament off of home-and-home wins over conference rival St.
Cloud State two weekends ago. The Gophers will be without the services of two
of their best freshmen defensemen in Alex
Goligoski
(PIT) and Nate Hagemo
due to their participation in the WJC. The good news for Gophers fans, however,
is that Minnesota is expected to have junior defenseman P. J. Atherton (TB) in the lineup. Atherton, who had been
academically ineligible, was recently cleared to play by the NCAA. Minnesota
could also possibly see the return of senior Barry Tallackson (NJ), who had been sidelined due to a high ankle
injury.

 

Aside from the loss of Goligoski and Hagemo, the Gophers
will have all of their regulars. The trio that includes sophomores Ryan Potulny (PHI) and Danny Irmen (MIN) and junior Tyler Hirsch will be among the Gophers
players to watch. Potulny currently leads the nation in both goals (17) and
power play goals (9). Hirsch leads the nation in assists (19). Both Potulny and
Irmen are tied for 11th in the nation in points per game (1.29).

 

The #11/#13 ranked Harvard Crimson come into the tournament
as one of the hottest teams in the nation. They are coming off of wins over
ranked opponents Vermont and Maine. Two reasons for the success of the Crimson
can be attributed to the stellar play of seniors Tom Cavanagh (SJ) and goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris (PHI). Cavanagh leads the Crimson in scoring with
17 points (six goals, 11 assists) and is currently tied for 20th in
the nation in points per game (1.31). Grumet-Morris comes into the tournament
with a 7-3-1 record and a 2.00 goals against average. His .935 save percentage
currently ranks second in the nation. In his last three starts (all wins), he
has held the opposition to just one goal.

 

Two Crimson players to watch are freshman Jon Pelle and senior Andrew Lederman. Both players are
currently tied for second in scoring with ten points each. All four of
Lederman’s goals have come on the power play and he leads the team in that
category as well. Pelle’s five goals currently rank second on the team.

 

The Merrimack Warriors come into the Dodge Holiday Classic
riding a two-game wining streak and undefeated in five of their last six games
(3-1-1). They also come into this tournament having already won the Dunkin’
Donuts Coffee Pot Tournament last month. The Warriors will also be
participating in the UConn Holiday Classic the weekend following the Dodge
Holiday Classic. Merrimack has dealt with a myriad of injuries this season.
Only seven players on the roster have played in all 18 games this season.
Junior defenseman Bryan Schmidt and
sophomore defenseman Jeff Caron have
carried most of the offensive load this season. Schmidt currently leads the team
in scoring with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists). Caron is tied for second
on the team in scoring with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists). Caron, the
talented offensive-minded defenseman, did not opt into the 2004 NHL Draft. He
currently ranks 18th among all NCAA skaters on the Central Scouting
Bureau’s preliminary ranking. One Warriors player to watch is sophomore Mike Alexiou. Alexiou is a player with
size who has stepped up his game this season. He co-leads (along with Schmidt)
the team in goals with nine and leads all Merrimack forwards in scoring with 14
points.

 

The Northern Michigan Wildcats are another one of the hot
teams in the nation right now. They come into the tournament riding a five game
unbeaten streak (4-0-1) after a win and tie versus conference rival
Alaska-Fairbanks up at Carlson Arena two weekends ago. Sophomore Darin Olver (NYR) currently leads the
team in scoring with 18 points (four goals, 14 assists), while freshman Mike Santorelli (NSH) leads the team in
goals with nine. Santorelli, the Nashville Predators 2004 draft selection (178th
overall, sixth round) has been on fire, scoring goals in three of the last four
games for NMU. In the 16 games Santorelli has played thus far, there were only
four games where he did not register a point. Like Merrimack, NMU has had their
share of injury woes this season and none have been as long or significant as
the loss of junior Dirk Southern
(ANA). Southern has been out of the Wildcats lineup since Thanksgiving with an
ankle injury. His status for the Dodge Holiday Classic is still to be
determined.

 

 

FLORIDA EVERBLADES COLLEGE CLASSIC (December 28th and 29th)

 

Host School: Cornell University

Other participating Schools: Boston College, University of
Maine and St. Cloud State University

Where: TECO Arena in Estero, Florida

NHL prospects to be showcased: 28

TV: CSTV

 

Down south, the Florida Everblades College Classic will drop
the puck on its fifth year. Host Cornell will look to defend its crown as they
welcome the return of Maine as well as tournament newcomers Boston College and
St. Cloud State. Maine will face off against St. Cloud State in the opening
early game of the tournament, while host Cornell takes on Boston College in a
clash of two of the top teams in the nation in the late game.

 

The #9/#10 ranked Cornell Big Red come into this year’s
tournament with the nation’s stingiest defense. In the 11 games that they have
played, the Big Red has allowed just 16 goals against (1.45). Sophomore David McKee has been brilliant between
the pipes for Cornell thus far this season. He sports a 7-2-2 record that
includes two shutouts. His 1.46 goals against average currently ranks second in
the nation while his .935 save percentage ranks tied for second in the nation.
Junior Matt Moulson (PIT) leads the
Big Red in scoring with 14 points (eight goals, six assists). Five of Molson’s
eight goals have come on the power play. One thing that is immediately
noticeable about Cornell this season is their sheer size. They have only five
players on their roster who are under six feet tall. Montreal Canadiens fans
will want to keep an eye on two rugged defensemen prospects in the 6’5/210 lbs.
sophomore Ryan O’Byrne and the
6’2/205 lbs. junior Jon Gleed.

 

The #5 ranked Boston College Eagles come into the tournament
coming off of back-to-back overtime games. A 1-1 tie with Providence back on
December 4th and a 2-1 win over Northeastern back on December 10th.
The Eagles will be without their talented freshman goaltender Cory Schneider (VAN), who is playing
with Team USA at the World Junior Championships in Grand Forks, ND. Senior Matti Kaltiainen (BOS) will be
backstopping the Eagles during the Florida Everblades College Classic. Last
season, Boston College possessed one of the most lethal offenses in the nation,
this season the Eagles offense rank tied for 26th in the nation,
scoring an average of three goals per game. Junior Patrick Eaves (OTT) currently leads Boston College in scoring with
17 points (seven goals, 10 assists). While team offense is a concern, team defense
is not. The Eagles have the second-ranked team defense in the nation, allowing
just under two goals per game (1.92).

 

One Eagles player to watch for in this tournament is
freshman sensation Dan Bertram.
Bertram was off to a torrid start to the season but has cooled off since.
Nevertheless, his speed and skill are definitely well worth a look. Bertram,
who is eligible for the 2005 NHL Draft, is the highest ranked NCAA skater
appearing on the Central Scouting Bureau’s preliminary rankings.

 

The #14/#15 ranked University of Maine Black Bears come into
the tournament having struggled a bit recently, 1-1-2 in their last four games.
Junior starting goaltender Jimmy Howard
(DET) has had to battle through injuries and illnesses since before the start
of the season. Despite all of that however, Howard has been able to put some
very good numbers. He has posted a 9-7-2 record that includes three shutouts.
He has also posted a 2.25 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. He
has also managed to rack up the minutes as well. Howard currently ranks second
in the nation in minutes played (1011:15).

 

One area where the Maine is looking to get back on track is
on their power play. The team is ranked 40th in the nation coming
into the tournament (14.2) in that category. Junior Greg Moore (NYR) leads the team with five power play goals. Senior Derek Damon leads the Black Bears in
scoring with 17 points (10 goals, seven assists). One Maine player to watch in
this tournament is sophomore Mike
Hamilton
(ATL). The speedy forward has blossomed into a more rounded player
this season, despite having amassed just nine points (two goals, seven assists)
thus far.

 

The St. Cloud State Huskies are the WCHA’s entry in this
year’s Florida Everblades College Classic. The Huskies are coming off a
stinging sweep at the hands of conference rival Minnesota two weekends ago.
SCSU will be without the services of outstanding sophomore defenseman Casey Borer (CAR), who is with Team USA
at the World Junior Championships in Grand Forks. In addition, they will also
be without one of their top scoring forwards in junior Billy Hengen, who is out with a hand injury. SCSU comes into the
tournament sporting an 8-9-2 record. However, they are almost perfect versus
non-conference opponents thus far, going 4-1-1. Senior Dave Ianazzo leads the team in scoring with 16 points (eight goals,
eight assists). One SCSU player to watch in this tournament is sophomore
defenseman Justin Fletcher.
Fletcher, a small but talented two-way defenseman who has played alongside
Borer this season, leads all Huskies defensemen in scoring with 12 points (four
goals, eight assists).

 

 

GREAT LAKES INVITATIONAL (December 29th and 30th)

 

Host Schools: University of Michigan and Michigan Tech
University

Other participating Schools: Michigan State University and
the University of New Hampshire

Where: Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, MI

NHL prospects to be showcased: 29

TV: FOX Sport Net Detroit and FOX Sports Net New York

 

The 40th annual Great Lakes Invitational (GLI)
will drop the puck at Joe Louis Arena in what has become one of the best and
must-see holiday tournaments. Last year’s GLI champions, Boston College will
not return to defend its crown, so there will certainly be a new champion this
year. The three Michigan-based schools will instead welcome another Hockey East
powerhouse in the New Hampshire Wildcats. MSU and UNH will face off in the
opening early game of the tournament, followed by co-hosts Michigan and MTU in
the late game.

 

The #3 ranked University of Michigan Wolverines will be a
depleted team coming into the GLI as five of their players including starting
goaltender, junior Al Montoya (NYR)
and leading scorer, sophomore T. J.
Hensick
will all be participating in the World Junior Championships in
Grand Forks, ND as members of Team USA. Without Montoya, the big question will
be how effective will junior Noah Ruden
be in goal for the Wolverines. Ruden has played a total of 27 minutes this
season and has not started a single game. The good news for the Wolverines is
that they have depth both up front and on the blueline, but that doesn’t
diminish the importance of the WJC-bound players. Michigan will be looking to
players such as junior Jeff Tambellini
(LA) and freshman Chad Kolarik (PHX)
to help pick up the slack. Tambellini is second on the team in scoring with 21
points (eight goals, 13 assists). Kolarik leads all Michigan rookies in scoring
with 13 points (seven goals, six assists). Four of Kolarik’s seven goals have
come on the power play.

 

The Michigan Tech Huskies are coming off an exhibition sweep
of Canada-based Lakewood University. The Huskies are hoping that that is a
start to something better as they’ll be looking for their second and possibly
third wins of the season. MTU has just one (non-exhibition) win on the season
and it came back on October 29th versus Alaska-Anchorage. The
biggest problem for the Huskies has been defense. MTU has the second worst team
defense in the nation allowing an average of 4.81 goals per game. They lead the
nation with the most goals allowed with 77.

 

While defense has been dismal for the Huskies this season,
the offense, especially the power play has been quite a different story. MTU
possesses the 13th ranked power play in the nation converting at a
21 percent rate. Senior Colin Murphy
leads the team in scoring with 22 points (five goals, 17 assists). The most
pleasantly surprising player for MTU this season has been sophomore defenseman Lars Helminen. Lars, the brother of
former Michigan Wolverines forward Dwight Helminen (NYR), is second on the team
in scoring with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists). His 18 points rank him tied
for second in the nation among all defensemen in that category. He is also tied
for second in points per game (1.12).

 

The Michigan State Spartans are coming off of a
home-and-home split with conference rival Notre Dame two weekends ago. One area
of concern for the Spartans coming into the GLI is goal scoring, particularly
from players such as seniors Jim Slater
(ATL), Mike Lalonde and sophomore
defenseman A. J. Thelen (MIN).
Slater has just six goals on the season thus far and is second on the team in
scoring with 18 points. Lalonde, who finished last season with a team-high 22
goals has just one goal coming into the GLI this season. Thelen, who led all
Spartans defensemen with 11 goals last season, has yet to register a goal this
season. The line combination that is scoring is the forward line known as the
“er” line. Junior Colton Fretter (ATL)
leads the team with 19 points (nine goals, ten assists). Sophomore Drew Miller (ANA) is third on the team
in points with 13 (eight goals, five assists). Miller also leads the Spartans
with five power play goals. Freshman Chris
Mueller
rounds out the line combination. He leads all MSU rookies in
scoring with 10 points (one goal, nine assists).

 

The #6 ranked University of New Hampshire Wildcats are
coming off a win over the U. S. National (U-18) team and are riding a four game
(non-exhibition) unbeaten streak. The Wildcats bring one of the nation’s most
potent offenses into the GLI. UNH possesses the fifth best offense in the
nation, averaging nearly four goals per game. In addition to a great offense,
UNH also has the sixth best power play in the nation (22.0 percent). An
immensely talented pair of Colorado Avalanche prospects leads the UNH offense.
Senior Sean Collins and sophomore Brett Hemingway rank first and second
respectively on the team in scoring. Collins leads with 21 points (seven goals,
14 assists). Of his seven goals, three have come on the power play and one has
come shorthanded. Hemingway is second on the team with 20 points (12 goals,
eight assists). Hemingway’s 12 goals rank him tied for eighth in the nation in
that category. Five of Hemingway’s 12 goals have come on the power play.

 

In addition to some balanced scoring, UNH has also gotten
some solid goaltending from the tandem of junior Jeff Pietrasiak (PHX) and freshman Kevin Regan (BOS). Pietrasiak has compiled a 7-2-2 record that
includes one shutout. He has also posted a respectable 2.69 goals against average
along with a .900 save percentage. Regan has played in only five games and has
compiled a 4-1-0 record. He has a 2.60 goals against average along with a .927
save percentage.

 

 

OHIO HOLIDAY CLASSIC (December 29th and 30th)

 

Host Schools: Ohio State University and the University of
Miami-Ohio

Other participating Schools: Colorado College and Minnesota
State University-Mankato

Where: Nationwide Arena in Columbus, OH

NHL prospects to be showcased: 21

TV: ONN (Local Columbus only)

 

The inaugural Ohio Holiday Classic will be pitting the CCHA
against the WCHA in what looks to be an outstanding tournament. The two
Ohio-based CCHA teams, Ohio State and Miami-Ohio will co-host this brand new
tournament. They will face off against two formidable WCHA foes in Colorado
College and Minnesota State-Mankato. The opening early game will see Miami-Ohio
facing off against Colorado College, followed by Ohio State taking on Minnesota
State-Mankato in the late game.

 

The #9/#10 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes are coming off a tie
and a loss at Clarkson two weekends ago. Despite getting only one point in the
Clarkson series, the Buckeyes still sit in second place in the CCHA standings
coming into the tournament. One area that the Buckeyes will have to try and
address is cutting down the penalties. OSU comes into the tournament as the
most penalized team in the nation, averaging just over 31 minutes in penalties
per game and racking up 560 minutes total.

 

The Buckeyes have gotten great contributions out of their
freshman class this season, most notably from Dominic Maiani and Tom
Fritsche
. Maiani co-leads the Buckeyes in scoring with 19 points (seven
goals, 12 assists). Fritsche, the younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets
player Dan Fritsche, is fourth on the team with 17 points (two goals, 15
assists). His 15 assists lead the team. Fritsche, who is NHL draft eligible in
2005, is ranked 17th on the Central Scouting Bureau’s preliminary
rankings.

 

The Miami-Ohio RedHawks are coming off of a loss and tie
versus conference rival Ferris State two weekends ago. With the loss and tie,
the RedHawks record drops to 3-7-2 in CCHA play. One thing that Miami-Ohio will
look to do in this tournament is get at least a win on the road/neutral site.
The RedHawks are winless away Goggin Ice Arena (0-6-1) and have been outscored
nearly 2-1. Junior defenseman Andy
Greene
, who is having an outstanding year, leads Miami-Ohio in scoring with
18 points (three goals, 15 assists). Despite missing time due to injuries, the
talented scoring sophomore duo of Matt
Christie
(ANA) and Marty Guerin
(LA) have continued to be among the RedHawks top scorers. Christie is tied for
second on the team with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists). Guerin is fourth on
the team with 13 points (seven goals, six assists). Guerin has done his best
offensive work on special teams. Of his seven goals, four have come on the
power play and two have come when Miami-Ohio was on the penalty kill.

 

Sophomore goaltender Brandon
Crawford-West
(PIT) has been the workhorse for the RedHawks. He’s played in
17 games thus far, amassing a 7-8-2 record that includes two shutouts. Despite
a below .500 record, he has put up excellent numbers in goals against average
(2.31) and save percentage (.922). He also ranks fourth in the nation in
minutes played (987:22).

 

The #2 ranked Colorado College Tigers are coming off a
weekend sweep of Minnesota State-Mankato, their WCHA counterparts in this
tournament. The Tigers come into the Ohio Hockey Classic with the nation’s most
potent offense and arguably the best goaltender in senior Curtis McElhinney (CGY). McElhinney comes into the tournament with
the best winning percentage in the nation at .909. He sports a 10-1-0 record.
His .923 save percentage ranks 13th in the nation, while his 2.25
goals against average ranks 16th. McElhinney’s counterpart,
sophomore Matt Zaba (LA) has also
played very well in goal. In eight games, Zaba has racked up a 5-2-0 record,
with a 2.58 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.

 

Colorado College averages nearly four and a half goals per
game and juniors Marty Sertich and Brett Sterling (ATL) have been tearing
up the score sheets this season. They rank first and second respectively in the
nation in scoring and points per game. Sertich leads with 33 points (15 goals,
18 assists) and is averaging just under two points per game. His linemate
Sterling is second with 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) and averaging 1.67
points per game. Sterling also co-leads the nation in power play goals (9) and
game-winning goals (4).

 

The Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks come into the
tournament having lost both games to conference rival, Colorado College. One
area the Mavericks will need to address coming into this tournament is defense.
Minnesota State-Mankato ranks near the bottom in the nation in team defense,
allowing an average of three and a half goals per game. Offensively, the
Mavericks could use some more scoring, particularly from their third and fourth
lines. The top line tandem of sophomores David
Backes
(STL) and Travis Morin
(WSH) have carried much of the Mavericks offensive load thus far this season.
Backes leads the team in scoring with 20 points (11 goals, nine assists). Of
his 11 goals, six have come on the power play. Morin is second on the team in
scoring with 15 points (seven goals, eight assists). Backes and Morin are two of just five Mavericks players to have
played in all 18 games this season.

 

 

LEDYARD NATIONAL BANK CLASSIC (December 29th and 30th)

 

Host school: Dartmouth College

Other participating schools: Bowling Green State University,
Providence College and the University of Vermont

Where: Thompson Arena (Dartmouth College)

NHL prospects to be showcased: 13

TV: NONE

 

The 10th annual Ledyard National Bank Classic
shifts to Hanover, New Hampshire this year. The Dartmouth Big Green will look
to defend its crown as they welcome Bowling Green, Providence and archrival
Vermont to Thompson Arena. This tournament is unusual in that in the
even-numbered years, it is hosted by Dartmouth, while in the odd-numbered years
it is hosted by Vermont and played at the Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington.
The opening games will see Vermont facing off against Providence in the early
game, followed by host Dartmouth against Bowling Green in the late game.

 

The Dartmouth Big Green are coming off a disappointing loss
to archrival Vermont on Sunday, dropping them to 4-6-1 (3-4-0 in ECACHL play)
on the season. The biggest concern coming into this tournament for the Big
Green is offensive production. Dartmouth ranks near the bottom in the nation in
points per game, averaging just two goals per game. Furthermore, no player on
the team has amassed points in the double digits thus far. Junior Mike Ouellette leads the Big Green in
scoring with eight points (one goal, seven assists). Sophomore Tanner Glass (FLA) and senior Lee Stempniak (STL) are two of several
Dartmouth players that lead the team in goals with three each. What has
compounded Dartmouth’s offensive woes has been the devastating loss of junior Hugh Jessiman (NYR) to a season-ending
ankle injury.

 

While offensive production has been a problem, defense has
been quite the opposite. The Big Green possess the third best defense in the
nation allowing an average of just two goals against per game. They also
possess the nation’s top penalty-killing unit with a 90.3 percent efficiency
rate.

 

The #14/#11 ranked Vermont Catamounts come into the
tournament back on the winning track by beating Dartmouth 5-1 at Thompson Arena
on Sunday after losing to Harvard the previous weekend. The Catamounts have
become one of the nation’s best stories this early season, despite the loss of
one of their top forwards Brady
Leisenring
to a season-ending groin injury. The big story for Vermont has
been the excellent goaltending of freshman Joe
Fallon
. Fallon has played in 15 games thus far, amassing an 8-3-3 record
that includes three shutouts. He has a .926 save percentage and a 2.01 goals
against average. Senior Scott Mifsud
leads UVM in scoring with 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists). Seven of his 12
goals have come on the power play. Mifsud’s seven power play goals tie him for
sixth in the nation in that category. The Catamounts player to keep an eye on
is freshman sniper Torrey Mitchell
(SJ). Mitchell, who plays alongside Mifsud on the Catamounts top line, leads the
team’s rookies in scoring with 14 points (six goals, eight assists).

 

The Bowling Green Falcons are coming off a sweep at the
hands of conference rival Michigan two weekends ago. However, the bigger story
has been senior goaltender Jordan
Sigalet
(BOS), who recently went public with the fact that he has multiple
sclerosis. Sigalet has been the backbone of the Falcons defense this season and
will continue to play as long as (and whenever) he is able to.

 

The Falcons will look to get back on the winning track in
this tournament. Two outstanding Falcons players to watch in this tournament
are freshman Jonathan Matsumoto and
sophomore defenseman Jonathan Sigalet.
Matsumoto currently leads the Falcons in scoring with 12 points (seven goals,
five assists). Six of Matsumoto’s goals have come on the power play. Jonathan,
the younger of the Sigalet brothers, leads all Falcons defensemen in goals with
three and second in points with nine. He did not opt into the 2004 NHL Draft,
and will be eligible for the 2005 Draft along with Matsumoto. Sigalet and
Matsumoto rank third and 11th respectively among all NCAA skaters
appearing on the Central Scouting Bureau’s preliminary rankings.

 

The Providence College Friars coming into the tournament are
winless in their last four games (0-3-1). The Friars biggest concern is
offense, which is averaging just 2.69 points per game. Only UMass has a worse
average points per game among Hockey East teams. One problem the Friars have
had is finding someone to fill the (temporary) hole that sophomore Colin McDonald (EDM) has left.
McDonald, who has been out of the Friars lineup since late October due to a
knee injury, was on a torrid scoring pace prior to his injury, averaging a goal
per game. Senior Chris Chaput
currently leads the team in scoring with 14 points (four goals, ten assists),
while sophomore Bill McCreary leads
the team in goals with six.

 

Two Providence defensemen that are well worth a look are
junior James Pemberton (FLA) and
senior Eric Lundberg (COL).
Pemberton leads all Friars defensemen in scoring with seven points (one goal,
six assists). Lundberg, who finally scored his first career goal last month, is
tied for second among defensemen in scoring with six points (one goal, five
assists) and leads the team in penalty minutes with 36. Both players provide
the Friars with stability on the blueline as well as leadership.

 

 

TOYOTA UCONN HOLIDAY CLASSIC (December 30th and 31st)

 

Host school: University of Connecticut

Other participating schools: Brown University, College of
the Holy Cross and Merrimack College

Where: Connecticut Ice Arena (University of Connecticut)

NHL prospects to be showcased: 2

TV: NONE

 

The UConn Huskies will be looking to defend their crown in
the 12th annual UConn Holiday Classic. They will welcome Brown, Holy
Cross and Merrimack to the Connecticut Ice Arena in Storrs. Brown will face off
against Merrimack in the opening early game of the tournament. Host UConn will
take on conference rival Holy Cross in the late game.

 

The UConn Huskies would love to come out of this tournament
with the championship, not only because it is the annual tournament that they
host, but it would help boost the team’s record as well. The Huskies have just
three wins on the season coming into this tournament. UConn is coming off a 2-2
tie last weekend with Holy Cross, the team that they will meet again in their
opening game of this tournament. The Huskies will also need to find some
offense as well as find a way to get their power play going. UConn ranks near
the bottom nationally in both team offense and power play. Sophomore Cole Koidahl currently leads the team
in points with 11 (four goals, seven assists). The Huskies player to watch is
diminutive senior sniper Tim Olsen.
Olsen leads the team in goals with six and is one of only three Huskies to have
played every game thus far this season.

 

The Brown Bears come into the UConn Holiday Classic
undefeated in their last five games (4-0-1). They are currently tied with
Colgate and Vermont for third in the tightly packed ECACHL. One key to the
Bears’ recent success has been the stellar goaltending of freshman Adam D’Alba. D’Alba has played in six
games this season, posting a 4-0-1 record that includes one shutout. He has
played a low number of games he has played thus far, and D’Alba currently leads
the nation in both save percentage (.962) and goals against average (1.35).
Talented sophomore Brian Ihnacak
(PIT) leads the team in scoring with 12 points (seven goals, five assists).
Ihanacak, along with freshman defenseman Paul
Baier
(LA) are the only two NHL prospects that will be playing in this
tournament.

 

The Holy Cross Crusaders bring a four game unbeaten streak
(3-0-1) into the tournament. Junior Tony
Quesada
has been very good in net recently for the Crusaders. He currently
sports a 3-3-1 record with a .920 save percentage and a 2.18 goals against
average. Holy Cross comes into this tournament needing more offense. The
Crusaders rank near the bottom nationally in team offense. Junior Pierre Napert-Frenette leads the team
in points (14) as well as goals (7) and assists (7). While offense has been of
some concern for the Crusaders, defense has been a different story. Holy Cross
currently ranks 16th in the nation in team defense, allowing an
average of 2.53 goals per game. One Crusaders player to watch in this
tournament is senior Andrew McKay.
McKay has been on a torrid point streak of late. In three of the last four
games for Holy Cross, McKay has notched six points (two goals, four assists).

 

 

BADGER SHOWDOWN (December 31st and January 1st)

 

Host school: University of Wisconsin

Other participating schools: Clarkson University, Ferris
State University and Yale University

Where: Kohl Center (University of Wisconsin)

NHL prospects to be showcased: 18

TV: UPN/WPN (Local Madison, Wisconsin only)

 

The 16th annual Badger Showdown will be dropping
the puck at the Kohl Center as the Wisconsin Badgers will look to reclaim the
championship crown, hosting Clarkson, Yale and returning defending Showdown
champs Ferris State this year. Clarkson will face off against FSU in the
opening early game. Host Wisconsin takes on Yale in the late game.

 

The #4 ranked Wisconsin Badgers have been one of the best
stories of the first half of the season. The immensely talented underclassmen
have carried most of the offensive load this season. However, they come into
this tournament without two of their top sophomores in forward Jake Dowell (CHI) and defenseman Jeff Likens. The two are with Team USA
at the World Junior Championships in Grand Forks, ND. The always-exciting
sophomore Robbie Earl (TOR) leads
the team in scoring with 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists). Earl also ranks tied
for sixth in the nation in points per game (1.33). Earl’s linemate, freshman
sensation Joe Pavelski (SJ) is
second on the team in scoring with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists).
Pavelski currently ranks second in the nation among rookies in points as well
as points per game (1.17).

 

The keys to the Badgers’ success have been a balance of
outstanding offensive production and a very solid defense. Wisconsin comes into
this tournament with the nation’s eighth best team defense, allowing just over
two goals per game (2.17). The goaltending tandem of senior Bernd Bruckler (PHI) and sophomore Brian Elliott (OTT) have been superb.
Bruckler, who has started the majority of the games, has posted a 10-4-0 record
that includes one shutout. He’s also posted a 2.41 goals against average and a
.914 save percentage. Bruckler’s backup, Elliott has played in just four games
but has posted some excellent numbers in those few games. He has put together a
3-1-0 that includes two shutouts along with a stingy 1.17 goals against average
and a .944 save percentage.

 

The Clarkson Golden Knights are coming off of a win and tie
versus Ohio State two weekends ago. While that’s good news for Clarkson coming
into this tournament, the bad news is they’ll be without the services of
talented freshman Shawn Weller
(OTT), who will be at the World Junior Championships with Team USA. The Golden
Knights seniors have been the story in Potsdam this year. The senior trio of Jay Latulippe, Chris Blight and Mac
Faulkner
all lead the team in scoring. Latulippe and Blight co-lead the
team in points with 15 each. Latulippe and Faulkner both co-lead the team in
goals with seven apiece. Six of Latulippe’s seven goals have come on the power
play. Clarkson will also be looking for their second and possibly third wins
away from Cheel Arena in this tournament. While it’s been a struggle for
Clarkson to win games this season, it’s been much more so on the road. Their
lone road win came back in October versus non-conference rival Wayne State.

 

The Ferris State Bulldogs, who won the Badger Showdown last
year, come into the tournament this season having taken three of four points
from conference rival Miami-Ohio at Goggin. FSU has managed to put together
quite a competitive team this season, despite the many offseason departures and
the rash of injuries that have hit the team. Speedy senior Jeff Legue leads the team in points with 17 (11 goals, six assists).
Of his 11 goals, three have come on the power play and three have come
shorthanded. Legue’s three shorthanded tallies tie him for first in the nation
in that category. Senior defenseman Matt
York
, who is enjoying an outstanding year on the Bulldogs blueline has 10
points on the season thus far (all assists) and is looking for his first goal
of the year. One Bulldogs player to watch (if he does play) is freshman
goaltender Derek MacIntyre (SJ).
MacIntyre, the lone NHL prospect on the FSU roster, is having a fairly good
season despite the few games that he has played. He has amassed a 2-2-0 record
in the seven games that he has appeared in.

 

To say that the Yale Bulldogs are struggling thus far this
season is probably an understatement. They are coming into this tournament with
just one win on the season, and rank at or near the bottom nationally in
virtually every statistical category. However, it is their defense that needs
the most help. Yale has the highest average goals allowed per game total in the
nation, surrendering an average of 5.17 goals.

 

Offensively, Yale does have some players who can put the net
but unfortunately the Bulldogs are not a high scoring team. Sophomore Brad Mills leads the Bulldogs with 12
points (three goals, nine assists). Junior Christian
Jensen
has carried a good part of the Yale offensive load, leading the team
in goals with seven. One Bulldogs player who is well worth a look and could
help jumpstart the offense is freshman Blair
Yaworski
. A hard-working, talent forward, Yaworski will be eligible for the
2005 NHL Draft. He is ranked 12th among all NCAA skaters appearing
on the Central Scouting Bureau’s preliminary rankings.

 

 

WELLS FARGO DENVER CUP (January 1st and 2nd)

 

Host school: University of Denver

Other participating schools: Air Force Academy, Colgate
University and Northeastern University

Where: Magness Arena (University of Denver)

NHL prospects to be showcased: 10

TV: FOX Sports Net Rocky Mountain (Denver vs. Air Force game
only), Comcast (Championship Game only)

 

Out west, Magness Arena in Denver will be rocking as the 13th
annual Wells Fargo Denver Cup will be dropping the puck on the final 2004-05
holiday tournament to get underway on New Year’s Day. Defending tournament
champs and host Denver Pioneers will look to defend their crown as they welcome
Air Force, Colgate and Northeastern to this year’s tournament. Colgate will be
facing off against Northeastern in the opening early game. Host Denver will
drop the puck against in-state rival Air Force in the late game.

 

The #7 ranked Denver Pioneers are coming off a win and tie
versus Minnesota-Duluth at the DECC in Duluth this past weekend and have upped
their record versus conference opponents to 8-3-1. The defending national
champions come into the tournament as the hottest team in the nation, unbeaten
in their last seven games (6-0-1). The Pioneers have really been getting it
done with a potent and balanced offensive attack. Denver currently has the
third ranked team offense in the nation averaging 4.18 goals per game. Junior Gabe Gauthier co-leads the team in
scoring with 19 points (ten goals, nine assists). Senior Jon Foster, who has been outstanding for DU this season, leads the
team in goals with 11 and is fifth on the team in points with 15.

 

Perhaps the biggest story for Denver this season has been
the sensational performances of their top two defensemen in junior Brett Skinner (VAN) and sophomore Matt Carle (SJ). Skinner co-leads the
team in scoring with 19 points (two goals, 17 assists). His 19 points leads the
nation’s defensemen as well. He also ranks third among the nation’s defensemen
in points per game (1.12). Carle is fourth on the team in scoring with 16
points (six goals, ten assists). He also leads all Pioneers defensemen in
goals.

 

The pleasantly surprising Air Force Falcons come into this
tournament having swept non-conference opponent American International two
weekends ago. The Falcons are off to a very good start this season sporting a
9-5-2 overall record. The biggest reason for their success this season has been
the outstanding play of sophomore goaltender Peter Foster. Foster comes into the tournament with a record 8-5-2.
He leads the nation in shutouts with five and has a .922 save percentage and a
2.07 goals against average. One area where Air Force has been very good is on
defense. They possess the seventh best defense in the nation allowing just over
two goals per game (2.12). Sophomore Brandon
Merkosky
leads the Falcons in scoring with 16 points (seven goals, nine
assists).

 

The #12 ranked Colgate Raiders are coming off an exhibition
win over the University of Ottawa this past weekend. The Raiders last regular
season wins came two weekends ago over Princeton and Yale respectively. Colgate
currently is tied for third in the ECACHL with a 5-1-0 record in conference
play and 12-4-0 overall. The Raiders bring one of the nation’s top defenses to
the tournament. Colgate’s fifth ranked team defense has allowed just over two
goals per game (2.06) thus far this season. Senior Steve Silverthorn has been stellar in goal for the Raiders,
compiling an 11-3-0 record with a 2.02 goals against average and a .913 save
percentage.

 

Colgate is also solid offensively. Junior Jon Smyth leads the team with 16 points
(nine goals, seven assists). Of Smyth’s nine goals, four have come on the power
play and one has come shorthanded. Fellow junior forward Kyle Wilson (MIN), one of two NHL prospects on the Colgate roster,
is second on the team in points with 15 (three goals, 12 assists). His 12
assists lead the team in that category. One Colgate player to watch in this
tournament is sophomore Mike Campaner.
The offensive-minded defenseman is having an excellent year and leads all
Raiders defensemen in scoring with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists).

 

The Northeastern Huskies, who were the NCAA’s “upset kings”
earlier in the season, are coming off of a pair of overtime tilts two weekends
ago that resulted in a loss to Boston College back on December 10th
and a 2-2 tie versus UMass-Lowell on December 11th. The Huskies come
into the tournament as the nation’s least penalized team, averaging just under
14 penalty minutes per game (13.8). Northeastern has gotten excellent
goaltending from senior Keni Gibson.
Gibson has been a workhorse for the Huskies, appearing in 15 of the team’s 16
games thus far. He has posted a 6-7-2 record thus far. He ranks ninth in the
nation in minutes played (916:21).

 

The talented tandem of senior Jason Guerrero and junior Mike
Morris
(SJ) lead the Huskies in scoring. Guerrero leads the team with 19 points
(six goals, 13 assists). Morris is right behind him with 15 points (six goals,
nine assists). Three of Morris’ six goals have come on the power play. One
Huskies player to keep an eye on is outstanding sophomore defenseman Steve Birnstill. He ranks second in
scoring among all Huskies defensemen with seven points (two goals, five
assists) playing in all 16 games this season. Birnstill, who did not opt into
the 2004 NHL Draft, will be eligible for the 2005 NHL Draft. He is ranked sixth
among all NCAA skaters appearing on the Central Scouting Bureau’s preliminary
rankings.

 

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editorial staff.