Holiday Tournament Preview
by Tom Reale/CHN Correspondent
A roundup of this week's holiday tournaments. Many teams are without key players, but in a lot of cases, these games are pivotal in the national picture:
Great Lakes Invitational (Detroit, MI)
Michigan State (12-6-2, 9-3-2-0 CCHA) vs. Michigan Tech (3-14-0, 2-12-0 WCHA)
Rensselaer (9-9-1, 3-4-0 ECAC) vs. Michigan (9-9-0, 5-7-0-0 CCHA)
Michigan Tech hasn’t won the GLI since the 1980-81 season, which was also the last year they made an appearance in the NCAA tournament. This doesn’t seem to be their year for either of those feats, as the Huskies languish in the bottom five nationally in both offense and defense, and are dead last on the penalty kill at a horrifying 63.4 percent.
Rensselaer makes its second appearance in the GLI during the silver anniversary season of its 1985 national championship win, which came at Joe Louis Arena. The following season, the Engineers were the invited team at the GLI, bashing Michigan 8-3 before losing to Michigan State by the exact same score. RPI freshman forward Jerry D’Amigo is the only player among the four squads missing for the World Junior Championships.
Michigan was to the GLI as Boston University usually is to the Beanpot in the 1990s, but the Wolverines went 10 years without a title before winning the 2007-08 GLI. It repeated last year and despite a rough first half, you can never count out Michigan. It will be back at full strength with Chris Brown and David Wohlberg returning to the team after being cut from the USA junior squad.
Michigan State comes into the tournament as the favorites on paper.
Prediction: Michigan/Rensselaer should be a decent game, especially if the Engineers can get over the injuries that have dogged them for a few weeks, but I’ll take the Wolverines behind a home crowd at the Joe to face the Spartans for the title, with Michigan State earning their 12th GLI title.
Denver Cup (Denver, CO)
Boston College (10-3-2, 7-3-2 HE) vs. St. Lawrence (8-7-2, 4-3-1 ECAC)
Nebraska-Omaha (9-7-4, 5-7-2-1 CCHA) at Denver (11-5-2, 9-3-2 WCHA)
The Denver Cup, the only tournament of the holiday season featuring fixed matchups on the second day (UNO/St. Lawrence and BC/Denver), is also the only holiday tournament to feature four teams with winning records. The big matchup of the Denver Cup is easily the battle between the Pioneers and the Eagles on January 2nd. Denver enters the week ranked 2nd in KRACH, while Boston College, one of the hottest teams on the planet, sits 6th in KRACH.
Meanwhile, St. Lawrence has done enough in the first half of the season to position themselves as a potential threat in the ECAC and Nebraska-Omaha has done well for much of the season, getting out of the gate fast with very few questionable losses on their record.
Three of the four teams in Denver will be missing personnel for the World Junior Championships: BC forward Chris Krieder, DU defenseman Matt Donovan, and UNO head coach Dean Blais are all with Team USA in Saskatchewan. Undoubtedly, the Mavericks will feel Blais’ absence more than the Eagles or the Pioneers, who should be able to ably replace Krieder and Donovan.
Regardless of the results, the four scheduled games should provide some fairly exciting hockey all around – certainly worth a look.
Prediction: If the first night’s action play out as expected, Denver/BC will be for the Denver Cup. I’ll take the Pioneers with the home ice advantage to cool off the Eagles, and St. Lawrence in a minor upset over the Mavericks for third.
UConn Hockey Classic (Storrs, CT)
Massachusetts (10-5-0, 6-4-0 HE) vs. Union (8-3-5, 4-0-3 ECAC)
Bentley (6-7-3, 5-4-2 AH) at Connecticut (2-12-2, 2-8-2 AH)
The very first game of this tournament will more than likely determine the champion of this tournament – the Minutemen and the Dutchmen are far and away the class of this tournament. Both Top 20 teams in KRACH, UMass and Union will be worth the price of admission on day one without question. The Dutchmen have been living on the edge during their 9-game unbeaten streak, tying four of those games.
The host Huskies are having a very rough year – they are scoring at a clip of only a goal and a half per game, which is worst in the nation. Bentley has fared somewhat better than UConn this season, so we’ll take the Falcons to make an appearance in the title game on Wednesday, but they’ll be clear underdogs against or UMass or Union.
Prediction: It’s a tough call, but I’ll go with UMass over Bentley for the title, with Union easily grabbing third place.
Florida College Classic (Estero, FL)
Princeton (4-8-1, 2-6-1 ECAC) vs. Maine (9-7-1, 7-4-1 HE)
Colorado College (11-4-3, 8-3-3 WCHA) vs. Cornell (7-2-2, 6-2-1 ECAC)
Just like the UConn Classic, the Florida Classic’s game of the weekend comes on the first day as Colorado College and Cornell, two of the nation’s top teams, face off in first round action on Tuesday. The Big Red were expected to have a solid season and that has borne out so far, but they face their most difficult test of the season thus far when they face the Tigers, who have surprised many of the pundits with their outstanding first half.
Princeton, meanwhile, came into the season with high expectations but has faltered thus far. Defense was the watchword for the Tigers last season, but All-ECAC goaltender Zane Kalemba has an absolutely terrible first half and scoring has been hard to come by as well. Maine, on the other hand, has been resurgent of late, winning their last five and unbeaten in their last six after starting the season 1-5-0.
Check out Joe Malta’s full preview.
Prediction: I’ll take the Tigers in a tight game over Maine for the championship, with Cornell downing Princeton in an Ivy consolation battle.