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October 6, 2006 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Breaking the Ice

by Matt Taylor and Ron Ayers/

The college hockey season begins today, with two tremendous events featuring some of the top teams in the sport.

Hall of Fame Game

Maine vs. Minnesota
St. Paul, Minn. — Oct. 6

These rivals take part in the unofficial kickoff to the season. They are no strangers to each other, having taken part in many classic games over the years, including the 2002 NCAA Final in this building (Xcel Energy Center), won by Minnesota on a power-play goal in overtime.

Minnesota has the unofficial home-ice advantage, but are not the same team as last year after losing Ryan Potulny, Phil Kessel and Kris Chucko to the NHL early along with last year's graduating class including defensemen Chris Harrington and P.J. Atherton and forward Andy Sertich.

The Black Bears are fresh off a trip to the Frozen Four last year, but lost a lot of scoring between homebred Hobey Baker finalist Greg Moore and Derek Damon. Josh Soares and Billy Ryan lead the current crop, and sophomore goaltender Ben Bishop looks to build off his outstanding initial season.

No matter how you slice it, though, these are two premiere program, and it provides a heckuva introduction to the college hockey season.

Icebreaker

Vermont, Colgate, Denver, Miami
Oxford, Ohio — Oct. 6-7

The 10th Annual Icebreaker, the season-opening tradition, offers possibly the deepest field of any early-season tournament. The tournament also marks the opening and dedication of Miami's Steve Cady Arena at the Goggin Ice Center.

"We gave them a short list of important criteria," said Cady, Miami's athletic director and building namesake, to the Hamilton (Ohio) Journal News. "One was that when you walk into the arena, it had to have a 'wow factor' while still maintaining the intimacy the old building had of seating close to the rink. We didn't want to lose the feel of the old building ... We wanted a loud, intimate building."

The $34 million building has a seating capacity of approximately 3,800.

All of the teams are coming off solid seasons, which saw them all ranked for most of the year. Miami (8th), Denver (9th) and Colgate (14th) are all ranked in the preseason polls, and the Catamounts also received votes. Each can be considered legitimate contenders for NCAA berths in the spring.

Vermont spent its first season in Hockey East last year, and finished an disappointing sixth after a fast start that saw them go 15-4-1 in the first half of the season. Then, immediately after the new year, the wheels came off. This year the Catamounts bring back leading scorer Torrey Mitchell, and hope to get continuing production from sophomores Dean Strong and Peter Lenes. Goalie Joe Fallon enjoyed a stellar sophomore campaign last year, finishing with a 15-4-5 mark and six shutouts.

ECAC members Colgate tied for the regular season crown last year with Dartmouth but failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament. This year, the Raiders are the consensus No. 1 pick by both the coaches and the media to take the ECAC. They bring back three 30-point scorers this year in Tyler Burton, Marc Fulton and Jesse Winchester along with 18-win goalie Mark Dekanich as well as an NHL draft pick in freshman David McIntyre. They should be definite contenders this year to return to the top of the league.

Denver's championship run ended last season with an untimely exit at the hand of Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA playoffs at home, but have reloaded and look to get back to the top. The Pioneers' recruiting class has five NHL draft picks, including two former members of the USNTDP U-18 team in Tyler Ruegsegger and Rhett Rakhshani. They lost last year's Hobey Baker winner Matt Carle and Paul Statsny to the NHL early, but return talented junior Ryan Dingle.

The goalie situation remains undecided as the season starts. George Gwozdecky is leaving all options on the table, and both Peter Mannino and Glenn Fisher will be watched closely by the coaches during Denver's exhibition against Calgary, and during practices leading up to the tournament. While the platoon that Denver has employed for the past two years is not out of the question, Gwozdecky indicated that a strong performance by either goalie may lead him away from it.

Miami comes off a breakout season which saw it ranked as high as No. 1 and netted it a CCHA regular season crown along with 26 wins, one short of a school record. It also, unfortunately, produced another first round exit in the NCAAs. The RedHawks lost stud defenseman Andy Greene, and Matt Davis, but bring back nearly everyone else, including goalies Charlie Effinger and Jeff Zatkoff.

First day games: Vermont vs. Colgate, Denver vs. Miami

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