College hockey holiday tournaments preview, Part 2

By DJ Powers

Dodge Holiday Classic (December 29th and 30th)

Host school: University of Minnesota
Other participating schools: Canisius College, UMass-Lowell and Union College
Where: Mariucci Arena (on the campus of the University of Minnesota)
Number of NHL Prospects to be showcased: 11
TV: FOX Sports North (Minnesota games only)

#3 Minnesota will look to defend their crown in the 15th annual Dodge Holiday Classic, which gets underway on December 29th. The Golden Gophers will welcome Canisius, UMass-Lowell and Union College to Mariucci Arena.

Minnesota will face off against Union in their opening match. The Gophers are coming off of a sweep of archrival North Dakota at Ralph Engelstad Arena back on December 10th. While Minnesota is likely the favorite to win this tournament, they’ll be playing with a depleted lineup. Goaltender Jeff Frazee (NJ) and forwards Phil Kessel and Blake Wheeler (PHO) are all at the WJC in Vancouver, while freshman defenseman Nate Hagemo (CAR) is still out with an injury. In addition, sophomore Brent Borgen has recently left the team.

While the absence of four key players is significant, the depth of the Minnesota lineup should have little trouble compensating for the temporary losses.

Two players who have been on a tear for the Gophers of late have been juniors Ryan Potulny (PHI) and Danny Irmen (MIN). Potulny, who is making a very strong case for the Hobey Baker award this season, leads the team in scoring with 24 points (15 goals, nine assists). Nowhere has he been more dangerous than on the power play. His nine power play goals put him tied for first in the nation. Potulny enjoyed one of best performances of the season back on November 25th versus Michigan in the College Hockey Showcase, where he netted a hat trick on three power play goals to lead Minnesota to a 6-3 win.

After missing nine games due to a finger injury, Irmen has become arguably Minnesota’s most dominating force since his return. He has nine points (four goals, five assists) in as many games played. Irmen had a memorable performance in the Gophers recent sweep of UND, tallying six points (two goals, four assists) in the weekend series.

One of the most pleasant surprises coming out of Minnesota this season has been the stellar play of the line combination of sophomores Mike Howe and Evan Kaufmann and freshman Justin Bostrom. The trio has been wreaking havoc on the opposition. The line has combined for 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists), with Howe leading the way in scoring with nine points (six goals, three assists).

The Union College Dutchmen are coming off of consecutive losses to Ohio State back the weekend of December 11th and will be looking to get back on track versus the Golden Gophers. The sweep by Ohio State is just the third time this season that Union College has lost two consecutive games.

One key for success for Union College, particularly against host Minnesota, in this tournament will be to stay out of the penalty box. The Dutchmen come into the Dodge Holiday Classic averaging nearly 25 penalty minutes per game, which ranks them tenth in the nation.

Perhaps the single biggest reason to the success of the Dutchmen this season can be attributed to the rock-solid play of senior goaltender Kris Mayotte. Mayotte has become the workhorse for Union College, playing in 17 of 18 games thus far. He currently ranks fifth in the nation in minutes played (979:33). Mayotte has a 9-6-1 record that includes three shutouts, a 2.70 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. One of his most memorable performances came back on November 26th versus Wayne State. In the brawl-filled contest, Mayotte went the distance to post a 25-save shutout win for Union College.

Mayotte’s goaltending partner, sophomore Justin Mrazek (WSH) hasn’t seen much action thus far. He has appeared in just three games and has posted one decision – a loss back on October 8th versus Air Force in the season-opening Icebreaker Tournament.

Sophomore Josh Coyle leads Union College offensively with 18 points (nine goals, nine assists). His nine goals also lead the team. Senior Scott Seney leads the team in assists with 11 and ranks third on the team with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists). Junior Olivier Bouchard ranks second on the team in scoring with 15 points (eight goals, seven assists). He leads the Dutchmen with six power play goals.

The other opening series features UMass-Lowell facing off against Canisius.

The first half of the 2005-06 season has given UMass-Lowell and their fans very little to cheer about. After a promising 2004-05 season, this year has seen the RiverHawks struggle mightily to string together wins. Lowell comes into the Dodge Holiday Classic coming off of just their fifth win of the season over Dartmouth back on December 11th.

Two problems that have plagued the RiverHawks this season seems to be a lack of confidence and the defense. Lowell sits last in Hockey East and 53rd in the nation in team defense, which is averaging just under four goals against per game.

Goaltender Peter Vetri, who was sensational last season, is suffering through a sophomore slump. In 15 appearances, Vetri has posted a 5-10-0 record. While is record is less than stellar, the most remarkable aspect of Vetri’s game has been the sheer number of shots that he has faced. In the last seven games alone, Vetri has faced an average of 37 shots per game.

While the defense has struggled, the RiverHawks offense has as well. The loss of Ben Walter (BOS) to the professional ranks in the offseason was big. Despite the team’s offensive woes, two players who have really stepped up to the plate for Lowell this season are seniors Bobby Robins and Mark Pandolfo. The two rank first and second respectively on the team in scoring and have combined for 25 points coming into the tournament (13 goals, 12 assists).

Lowell will face a Canisius team that hasn’t fared much better than them this season. The Golden Griffins will look to snap out of a four-game losing streak against the RiverHawks. Canisius is coming off of a home-and-home sweep at the hands of Mercyhurst back on December 10th.

The turbulent year that Canisius suffered through last season seems to have spilled over into the early part of this season as well. Earlier this month, the team dismissed four players due to violations of the school’s athletic department policies. Among the players dismissed was one of the Golden Griffins top scorers in sophomore Mike Ruberto. Canisius is hoping to not only get back on track but also get back to the business of playing hockey when they meet Lowell in this tournament.

Two of the best stories coming out of the Golden Griffins lineup of late have been senior Andrew Dawe and junior Joey Coccimiglio. Dawe recently saw his seven-game point streak snapped in Canisius’ 3-4 loss to Mercyhurst on December 10th. He has tallied 11 points on the season (seven goals, four assists). His seven goals along with his four power play goals lead the team. Meanwhile, Coccimiglio continues to be the hottest Golden Griffs player, bringing an eight-game point streak into the tournament. He is currently third on the team in scoring with 14 points (six goals, eight assists). Coccimiglio has posted two three-point games already this season, the first came back on October 9th at Robert Morris and the other came back on November 12 at Bentley College. Both were Canisius victories.

One interesting fact about Canisius thus far has been their success away from the Buffalo State Sports Arena. The Golden Griffs are 3-4-0 away this season and 2-6-1 at home. Coming into the Dodge Holiday Classic, Canisius is undefeated in non-conference road games (2-0-0).

Ohio Holiday Classic (December 29th and 30th)

Host schools: Miami University and the Ohio State University
Other participating schools: College of the Holy Cross and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
Number of NHL Prospects to be showcased: 9
TV: ONN (Local Only)

The second annual Ohio Holiday Classic drops the puck at Nationwide Arena on December 29th as co-hosts Miami University and the Ohio State University welcome Holy Cross and RPI.

One of the best stories coming out of college hockey this season has been the Miami RedHawks. Miami, currently the second ranked team in both national polls, has combined superb goaltending, a stingy defense and offensive contributions from throughout the team’s lineup. The RedHawks have allowed a mere 26 goals against thus far this season, which is the fewest in the nation.

Miami possesses arguably the nation’s best goaltending tandem in sophomore Charlie Effinger and freshman Jeff Zatkoff. Both goaltenders have save percentages and goals against averages that rank in the top five in the nation. Effinger is undefeated in his seven starts thus far, posting a 5-0-2 record. Zatkoff, a 2006 NHL draft eligible goaltender, has started in nine games posting a 7-2-0 record that includes two shutouts.

The all-sophomore line combination of Nate Davis (CHI), Ryan Jones (MIN) and Nino Musitelli has been the RedHawks most potent line thus far. The trio has combined for 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists). Without the services of Davis, who is participating in the WJC with Team USA, Miami will look to find a temporary replacement to compliment Jones and Musitelli.

Senior Andy Greene anchors the RedHawks blue line and ranks among the top defensemen in scoring again this season. Along with Nate Davis, he co-leads the RedHawks in scoring with 15 points (six goals, nine assists). Another defenseman having an outstanding season to this point is Greene’s defensive partner, sophomore Mitch Ganzak. Ganzak ranks second on the team in scoring among defensemen with 13 points (one goal, 12 assists). His lone goal was the game-winner at Nebraska-Omaha back on October 22nd.

The RedHawks will face RPI in their opening game of the tournament. The Engineers are coming off of a wild 10-7 win over D-I newcomer RIT back on December 10th.

RPI brings the ECACHL’s top scoring line of senior Kevin Croxton, junior Oren Eizenman and sophomore Jonathan Ornelas to the tournament. The “CEO” line has combined for 72 points (33 goals, 39 assists) through 17 games this season. Eizenman has points in 15 of the Engineers 17 games thus far and is currently on a 14-game point streak.

In addition to the “CEO” line, the Engineers have also gotten some offensive production from their defensemen. The trio of senior defensemen – Brad Farynuk, Scott Romfo and Keith McWilliams have combined for 30 points (six goals, 24 assists) this season. Farynuk leads all RPI defensemen in scoring with 14 points (three goals, 11 assists).

One of the keys to the success for RPI this season has been the outstanding play of freshman goaltender Mathias Lange. The Klagenfurt, Austria native sports a 7-4-3 record that includes one shutout along with a .908 save percentage and a 2.57 goals against average. One of his most memorable performances came back on October 21st when he went the distance to post a 29-save win at Boston University.

The second game of the tournament’s opening series has co-host Ohio State facing off against Holy Cross.

#19 Ohio State is coming off a sweep over non-conference foe Union College back on December 11th. After somewhat of a slow start, the Buckeyes have gotten their act together in Columbus despite a remarkably tough series versus Alabama-Huntsville earlier this month. Since being swept by tournament co-host Miami back in the first weekend of November, Ohio State has gone 7-1-1 in their last nine games.

The Buckeyes will be without the services of sophomore Tom Fritsche (COL) due to his participation at the WJC in Vancouver. The Parma, Ohio native currently leads the Buckeyes with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists). His 11 assists also lead the team while his six goals co-lead the team.

With Fritsche out of the lineup, the Buckeyes will be relying players such as sophomore Dominic Maiani and junior Andrew Schembri to lead the offense. Maiani co-leads the team in with six goals and has played on Fritsche’s line for a good portion of the season. The diminutive and shifty Schembri is second on team in scoring with 14 points (five goals, nine assists).

One player who continues to improve and has become a key contributor for Ohio State this season is sophomore Matt McIlvane (OTT). He has tallied ten points (two points, eight assists) coming into the Ohio Holiday Classic. Both of his goals have come on the power play. One of McIlvane’s best performances came over Thanksgiving weekend in Ohio State’s sweep of Notre Dame, where he picked up three points (one goal, two assists) to help lead the Buckeyes.

Facing Ohio State in their opening game will be Holy Cross. The Crusaders are coming off of a sweep as well, back on December 3rd at Canisius, outscoring the Golden Griffins by a margin of 9-3 in the weekend series.

Holy Cross once again looks to make a serious run for the Atlantic Hockey crown this season. Both the team’s offense and defense currently rank in the top 20 in the nation.

A strong defense has been one of the keys to the success of Holy Cross this season. Seniors Tony Quesada and Ben Conway give the Crusaders arguably the best goaltending tandem in the Atlantic Hockey conference. In the Crusaders 4-2 win over Canisius on December 2nd, Quesada tied the school record of 45 career wins and comes into the Ohio Holiday Classic one win shy of becoming the school’s all-time winningest goaltender. On the season, Quesada has posted a 6-2-1 record that includes one shutout. His 2.32 goals against average ranks 19th in the nation while his .924 save percentage ranks 12th.

Quesada’s counterpart Conway has gone 3-1-0 in just four starts with a .919 save percentage and a 2.01 goals against average. One of Conway’s most memorable performances came in the Crusaders most recent game prior to the Ohio Holiday Classic back on December 3rd. In the game, Conway posted a 24-save win over Canisius.

While the Crusaders strong defense has been much-talked about, getting as much attention has been the excellent play of the team’s top all-senior line combination of Pierre Napert-Frenette, Tyler McGregor and Blair Bartlett. The line has combined for 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists) this season. Napert-Frenette and McGregor rank first and second respectively on the team in scoring while Bartlett ranks fifth.

Toyota UConn Holiday Classic (December 29th and 30th)

Host school: University of Connecticut
Other participating schools: U. S. Military Academy at West Point (Army), Bowling Green State University, and the University of Massachusetts
Where: Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum (on the campus of the University of Connecticut)
Number of NHL Prospects to be showcased: 7

The UConn Huskies will be looking to reclaim their tournament’s championship when the 13th annual Toyota UConn Holiday Classic gets underway at the Freitas Ice Forum in Storrs, CT on December 29th. Army, Bowling Green and UMass will join host UConn in this year’s tournament. Brown, who is not participating this year, won the tournament last year.

UConn is coming off of a sweep of conference rival Sacred Heart back on December 9th and bring a three-game winning streak in the tournament.

Coming into this season, one of the concerns about the Huskies was replacing graduated top scorer Tim Olson. Enter freshman Chris Myhro. The Eden Prairie, MN native has been a very pleasant surprise for UConn thus far. Myhro is tied with junior Cole Koidahl for the team lead in scoring with 14 points (eight goals, six assists). He has also become a catalyst on the Huskies power play, having scored five goals on it.

Another player who has been impressive for UConn has been sophomore goaltender Brad Smith. Despite having only played in six games coming into the tournament, Smith has made the most of his few starts. He has posted a 3-1-1 record. His excellent 2.25 goals against average currently ranks 15th in the nation, while his equally stellar .926 save percentage ranks ninth. His most memorable performance came back on December 8th versus Sacred Heart. In that game, Smith went the distance to post a school-record 43 saves to lead UConn to a 2-1 win. The win was also a milestone for head coach Bruce Marshall, who got his 250th career win.

The Huskies will face conference rival, Army in their game of the opening series. The two teams met back on November 26th in Storrs, with Army skating out with a 2-1 win.

The Black Knights are coming off of a 2-2 tie with American International at Tate Rink on back December 8th. After a dismal start to their season, where they went 0-7-1, Army has actually played remarkably well since. In their last eight games, the Black Knights have gone 4-2-2. The team’s turnaround could be attributed to the improved team defense and some solid, consistent goaltending from senior Brad Roberts. In Army’s four wins and two ties, they held their opponents to two goals or fewer in all but one game. In the two losses during the same stretch, the Black Knights allowed four goals.

On November 11, the Army hockey program reached a milestone when the team recorded their 1,000th win in their illustrious history. Army joins an exclusive group, becoming just the 13th team in NCAA hockey that has reached that milestone. Coincidentally, the victory was a shutout win over military academy rival Air Force.

A pair of seniors in goaltender Brad Roberts and forward Seth Beamer make up the foundation of the Black Knights team. The two have been crucial in the success of Army this season. Roberts, who is in striking distance of shattering many Army goaltending records this season, has started all 16 games. He brings a 4-9-3 record that includes one shutout into the tournament.

Beamer currently ranks fourth on the team in scoring with eight points (five goals, three assists). His five goals co-lead the team. Beamer also leads the team in power play goals (4) and penalty minutes (37). His best series performance came back on November 11th and 12th versus Air Force, where he notched four points (three goals, one assists) to help lead the Black Knights to a sweep over their military academy counterparts.

The other series in the tournament has Bowling Green facing off against UMass. Regardless of which team (UConn or Army) they face in their second game of the tournament, it will be the first meeting ever for BGSU.

The Falcons are coming off of a 6-4 win over St. Lawrence at BGSU Ice Arena back on December 10th. They will be looking to notch just their second back-to-back wins of the season when they face off against UMass in their game in the opening series of this tournament. Wins have come few and far between for BGSU this season as they have just five coming into the UConn Holiday Classic.

BGSU features a pair of sophomore forwards that have had college hockey, particularly the CCHA, buzzing. Alex Foster and Jonathan Matsumoto have created quite a splash since the season began. Despite the woes of the Falcons, the two sophomores have given the Falcons faithful something to get exciting about.

Foster, the son of former NHLer Dwight Foster, has been on a torrid scoring pace this season. He currently ranks tied for third in the nation in scoring with 28 points (five goals, 23 assists). His 23 assists are currently tied for first in the nation. Foster is coming off of scorching November, where he amassed 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in just eight games during the month. The performance also earned him the CCHA Offensive Player of the Month honor.

Foster’s linemate, Matsumoto has been equally impressive. Matsumoto ranks second on the team and is tied for 12th in the nation in scoring with 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists). One area that the Orleans, Ontario native has been particularly dangerous has been on the power play. Of his nine goals, six have come with the man-advantage. Matsumoto, who is eligible for the 2006 NHL draft, had his most memorable performance back on October 15th versus Boston College. In that contest, he notched his first career hat trick in the losing cause.

While Foster and Matsumoto have enjoyed a successful season thus far, the same can’t quite be said for freshman goaltender Jimmy Spratt (CGY). After being highly touted coming into his rookie collegiate season, things have been rough to say the least for the Chesterfield, MI native. Spratt, who splits time with senior Jon Horrell, has posted a 3-5-0 record coming into the UConn Holiday Classic. His most memorable outing came back on December 3rd versus Michigan State, where his 22-save effort helped pace the Falcons.

UMass will meet BGSU in their opening game of this tournament. The Minutemen are coming are coming off being swept at the hands of Boston College in their home-and-home series back on December 10th. Like their opponent, wins have been hard to come by for them this season. The Minutemen will be looking to post just their fifth win of the season.

The lack of defense has been a big problem for UMass. Coming into the UConn Holiday Classic, the Minutemen have been outscored on average nearly 2-1. In their 15 games played thus far, UMass has allowed three or more goals in nine of them. Furthermore, goaltending is one of the few areas where UMass seems to be quite solid in, but it is also an area where they could use more support. The Minutemen goaltenders see an average of 35.8 shots per game, one of the highest totals in the nation.

The duo of freshman Jonathan Quick (LA) and senior Gabe Winer split time in the UMass net. While they both have a mere five wins combined between them, they have both posted excellent save percentages (.927 and .910 respectively). Quick has had nine of the starts. In addition to an impressive save percentage, which ranks tied for seventh in the nation, Quick has also posted an outstanding goals against average (2.65).

One of the most glaring problems coming into the UConn Holiday Classic for the Minutemen is their anemic power play, which ranks dead last in the nation (9.1 percent efficiency rating). UMass has scored just seven power play goals, of which three were scored by senior defenseman Marvin Degon. Senior forward Stephen Werner (WSH) leads the team in scoring with 14 points (five goals, nine assists). Werner has no power play goals thus far this season, but he is one of only two players on the roster who has scored a short-handed goal.

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