The traditional season-opening tournament, first played in 1997, has switched from tournament format, to an East-West round-robin, with total goals determining the winner.
To kick things off Friday, at Agganis Arena at Boston University, Massachusetts will square off against Michigan State. In the second game, North Dakota, will play against the host, the BU Terriers.
Here's a look at the first two games:
Massachusetts vs. Michigan State
After a disappointing end to the 2007-08 season, the Minutemen are looking to bounce back in 2008-09. They see this tournament as potentially being the start of the turnaround. The team returns Paul Dainton in goal, a All-Hockey East Rookie Team representative last year. UMass was ranked as highly as fifth last season, though coach Don Cahoon said he never expected the team to be that high. Gradually, the Minutemen came back down to earth, and lost in the first round of the Hockey East tournament.
Michigan State is coming off a loss in the West Regional Final to Notre Dame in 2008, and most of the goal scorers either graduated or turned pro — particularly Tim Kennedy and Justin Abdelkader. However, the Spartans do have Jeff Lerg between the pipes. Lerg helped the Spartans become National Champions in 2006-07.
This is the first game of the 2008-09 season, and it should bring some excitement to the table.
Prediction: MSU 3, UMass 2
Spartan to Watch: Nick Sucharsky
Minuteman to Watch: Paul Dainton
North Dakota vs. Boston University:
The second game should be a dandy. North Dakota is another preseason team to watch, while Boston University has a lot going for them. Both teams are back with something to prove, but each is faced with goaltending situations.
For North Dakota, Aaron Walski is the lone returning goaltender, and he will be pushed by freshman Brad Eidsness. As for BU, coach Jack Parker cut Brett Bennett from the team, leaving little-used sophomore Adam Kraus and two freshmen — Grant Rollheiser and Kieran Millan.
It's been a long time now since BU has returned to the Frozen Four, and last year the Terriers failed to make the NCAAs. The goaltending was a huge achilles' heel, and the defense — while offensively gifted — wasn't also the best at helping out.
The weekend will probably go a long way towards determining who will get the bulk of goaltending time out of the gate.
The Terriers were shocked when they heard that Colin Wilson and Matt Gilroy, both of which were expected to go pro, stayed for one more year. Wilson was the highest pick of any college player in last June's NHL Draft, while Gilroy is back for his senior year on defense.
The Sioux did lose some key players, however, they are ready to reload. Expect the Sioux to come out with the victory in this one, by a couple of goals.
Prediction: UND 4, BU 2
Sioux to Watch: Evan Trupp
Terrier to Watch: David Warsofsky
The second day's games include Massachusetts vs. North Dakota, and Michigan State vs. Boston University.
Massachusetts vs. North Dakota:
In this game, the UMass looks a little overmatched, at least on paper.
North Dakota is bigger, stronger, and faster than the Minutemen right now. However, things can change when you play the game.
Look for UMass to play a tight defensive style of play and try to avoid any creation of the open ice for the Sioux. Look for the Sioux to create a style of play to their advantage.
The game might start off close, but the Sioux are a better team.
Prediction: UND 5, UMass 2
Sioux to Watch: Andrew Kozek
Minuteman to Watch: Topher Bevis
Michigan State vs. Boston University:
Out of all the games happening in the first weekend of play, this could be the most important one.
Out of all the goaltenders, Lerg is the best one of the bunch, and the more experienced. On the other hand, he will have to face a potent offensive attack.
Expect players such as Colin Wilson, Matt Gilroy and Chris Higgins to come up with a strong performance in this game, leading to a Terrier victory.