2013-14 College Hockey Holiday Wrap-up



After some extensive travel, I’m finally sitting in front of the fireplace to do a holiday update. I had the opportunity to travel To Massachusetts and then by train to New York City for a pre-Christmas visit to Madison Square Garden for a Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Rangers game and to Burlington, VT to catch the first two games of the Catamount Cup  at UVM. Finally, a big thank you  to the 20 or so great guys that allowed me to skate in their Alumni Hockey game in North Adams, MA on Christmas Eve. It was a blast. The post game tradition of a burger or hot dog (or two or three) at Jacks in North Adams was certainly enjoyable. The hot dogs are in fact “Fit for a King” and have been so since 1917.

We’ll deter from our regular format this week due to the holiday break for many teams and the number of tournaments. There were some interesting match-ups, venues and some unexpected results which are typically found in holiday play. So, here we go:

Ledyard Bank Classic:

Let’s start off with the Ledyard Bank Classic involving Air Force Falcons, Providence FriarsDartmouth Big Green and Northeastern Huskies.  Perhaps the most successful “Performer” during the holiday was the Air Force Falcons. In the opening game of the tourney being played at Dartmouth’s Thompson Arena, The Falcons pulled a mild upset defeating #16 Northeastern 5-2. The effort however was dominant out shooting the Huskies 29-16 and leveraging two Mitch Torrel goals for the win.  In the evening game, the Providence Friars  squeaked by  the host Dartmouth Big Green 3-2 adding to the frustration of the Big Green 2013-14 season. The Friars outshot the hosts 37-23 and sans Jon Gillies who is in the World Junior Tourney rode backup Derek Army’s 21 saves and Ross Mauermann’s  13th goal of the season for the win. On day two, Air Force faced highly ranked and #1 Pairwise team Providence for the tourney title.  Once again, it was the Falcons jumping out to a 2 goal lead  and holding off a 2 goal rally in the third (including an extra attacker goal) to gain an impressive 3-2 win and the tourney title for Air Force. Offensive MVP Mitch Torrel scored his third goal of the tourney in the win.  In the other game, Northeastern and Dartmouth dispensed with defense and rang up 16 goals in an 8-8 tie. Most interesting was the 4 consecutive goals scored by the Huskies in the last 11:30 including two extra attacker goals to earn the tie.  An outstanding weekend effort by the Air Force Falcons.

UCONN Hockey Classic:

After having played this “classic” in Storrs, CT for the past 20 years, the game was moved to Hartford’s XL Center – the new home for UCONN hockey as they join Hockey East in 2014-15.  This tourney featured #8 QuinnipiacUniversity of Massachusetts, Sacred Heart and host University of Connecticut.  Despite out shooting the Minutemen 38-21, the Bobcats needed a game tying goal by Tim Clifton, his first of the year at 1:28 of the second period for the 2-2 tie. In the nightcap, the host Connecticut Huskies were upended  by a struggling Sacred Heart squad 3-0. The Pioneers scored all three goals in the second period en route to the win. Certainly an anemic effort by the Huskies in their home debut at the XL Center.  The second set of games pretty much played true to form as Quinnipiac mopped up Sacred Heart 5-0 out shooting them 54-12. Also, true to form UMass fell flat in the third place game being defeated by tourney host UConn  2-1. The Minutemen continue to prove they can only be relied upon for inconsistent efforts game after game.

Catamount Cup:

The Catamount Cup was not a true tournament but rather a showcase featuring host University of Vermont, #10 UMass-Lowell, #9 Clarkson and Canisius of Atlantic Hockey.  I was able to attend the first two games of the Catamount Cup and was not disappointed. In a truly exciting matchup of former ECAC rivals, UVM and Clarkson battled in a high energy matchup on Saturday night with the ‘Cats prevailing 3-2. UVM rode an early two-goal first period lead to the win. However, Clarkson made it interesting out shooting the Catamounts 31-19 and closing the lead to a goal after an extra attacker goal by Jeff DiNallo at 18:56. An outstanding effort by goaltender Brody Hoffman preserved the win for Vermont. In the matinée, UMass-Lowell disposed of an overmatched Canisius squad  5-2 out shooting the Griffs 37-23. On Sunday, it was a romp for The Catamounts 6-2 over a Canisius squad that had no answer for the speed and energy of this underappreciated UVM squad. The ‘Cats were up 3-0 before the midway point of period one and breezed to the route out shooting Canisius 61-28.  In the marquee game on Sunday, #10 Lowell faced off against #9 Clarkson, a team trying to shake off the disappointing one-goal loss to UVM. After a scoreless first period, Lowell cranked things up in the second out shooting Clarkson 15-4 and scoring the games only goal up to that point on the power play for a 1-0 lead. Possibly spent from their early game with UVM, Lowell punched in  two more late third period goals for a solid 3-1 win over a strong Clarkson squad.  Both UVM and Lowell have to be encouraged after their weekend play while Clarkson needs to regroup for their non-conference series against this same Lowell team next weekend.

Three Rivers Classic:

Boston College and Bowling Green  joined Penn State and Robert Morris for the second annual Three Rivers Classic college hockey tournament at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA . Certainly the expectation was to have a Pennsylvania team in the championship game and that was easily configured placing Penn State vs Robert Morris, arguably the weakest squad in the Tourney and #7 ranked Boston College vs the WCHA’s Bowling Green in the other match. In the matinée, Boston College racked up three goals in the first period, outshot Bowling Green 38-27 and won a laugher 5-0.  The nightcap was a tighter contest – at least from the standpoint of the final score. Penn State dominated from every other aspect out shooting the Colonials 62-28 and converting 40% on the power play in the 3-2 win. The win obviously set up  a Big 10 vs Hockey East championship game  – great for the fans – right?  Well, only if it was a quality matchup which it was not.  The Eagles fell  early by a goal but it was all Boston College after that as the Eagles buried the next 8 goals for a 8-2 win. Sorry, the Nittany Lions are not ready for prime time yet as this was a yawner for those that stuck around for the full 60 minutes. And, oh by the way, Bowling Green won the consolation game 3-2 over Robert Morris now 2-12-2. 

Great Lakes Invitational:

This all “Michigan” tournament featured #3 Michigan, Michigan Tech University, Western Michigan and the Michigan State Spartans.  In a highly entertaining tourney played outside at COMERICA Field in Detroit, 3 of 4 games went to overtime with Western Michigan outlasting the rest of the field for the championship. Michigan Tech dominated from a territorial and shot advantage in game one vs Michigan State but needed a goal by Alex Petan  at 8:13 of period three to forge a 2-2 tie and send the game to OT. After a scoreless overtime session, the obligatory shootout to decide who would advance was won by MTU on a shootout goal by Ryan Furne. In the days other game, Western Michigan found itself in a dogfight with  Michigan and upset the Wolverines on a breakaway goal by Josh Pitt at 4:41 of the overtime session. In the consolation game Michigan faced Michigan State in a rivalry game. Unfortunately only one team showed up as Michigan was blanked by Michigan State 3-0. In a truly uninspiring effort by a highly ranked team, Michigan was outshot 40-29 and dropped their second game of the tourney. The game was over 1:27 into the first on a GWG by Thomas Ebbing of Michigan StateWestern Michigan earned the GLI trophy in the championship game in front of an announced 26,000 in attendance 1-0 in overtime vs Michigan Tech. In a tight defensive battle, devoid of power play opportunities on either side, the game remained scoreless after 60 minutes.  Justin Kovacs of WWU was the hero scoring the overtime GWG, his 9th of the year. Kudos to goaltenders Phoenix Copley of MTU and Lukas Hafner of WMU for strong efforts on both ends of the rink. A confidence building weekend for the Broncos.

Florida College Hockey Classic:

Tournament mainstays Cornell and Maine were joined by Princeton University and New Hampshire in Estero, Florida in this long running holiday tourney. In the marquee game on day one, Cornell found a way to prevail 4-2 despite being outshot by UNH 46-24 including 17-9 in the first period and 18-6 in the third. A second period power play goal by Brian Ferlin at 18:09 proved to be the GWG. An empty net goal by Cornell at 18:58 of the third was the nail in the coffin. A frustrating loss for the Wildcats who did everything but put the puck in the net. An outstanding game for Cornell goaltender Andy Iles who stopped 44 of 46 SOG and improved his record to 7-4-2. One of college hockey’s more consistent performers as of late, the Maine Black Bears shut out Princeton 4-0 in a game that on paper looks much closer than the score.  On day two in the championship game,  Cornell and Maine battled for 65 minutes (including overtime) requiring a winner to be determined by a shootout. It took 9 shootout rounds (yawn) to determine a winner. Cornell’s Rodger Craig was the shootout hero earning the Big Red the 2013 Florida College Hockey Classic title. In the consolation game, UNH converted 2 of 6 power play opportunities and outshot Princeton 46-23 en route to the win. Really, was this one ever in doubt? Princeton falls to 3-14-0 (yawn).

Non-Conference Games:

The University of Wisconsin hosted the University of Alabama-Huntsville in a two-game series. Despite the mismatch, the underdog Chargers actually put a scare into UW on Saturday losing 3-2 after a 5-0 blowout on Friday. On Friday the Badgers outshot UAH 55-9 but required third period goals by Besse, Barnes and Mertsch for the win. On Saturday, they outshot the Chargers 45-20  but held on to a one goal lead after   an extra attacker goal by UAH at 19:41 of the third ultimately winning 3-2. The box score says attendance was 9775. I don’t believe that for a minute.  The Chargers are now 1-19-0.

Ohio State University hosted Atlantic Hockey leader Mercyhurst College in a two-game series and destroyed them by a combined score of 13-5 (6-3/7-2) and outshot the Lakers  106-61 in the series. Ohio State improves their record to 10-6-0. Of their 10 wins – 8 of then come at the expense of Atlantic Conference schools. No further comment is needed other than that the Buckeyes are #23 in the Pairwise. These games “ain’t” helping your Pairwise.

#11 Yale University  faced Holy Cross and won predictably 4-1 out shooting Holy Cross 37-22. Ugh. No further elaboration needed.

Exhibition Games:

My how things have changed since the “Cold War”. The Russian Red Stars, described as a European “All-Star” team and a Junior hockey level squad that is a “feeder” system to the Kontinental Hockey League played several Ivy league teams over the holidays. They were whacked by Harvard 9-3, Yale 6-3 and defeated by Colgate  3-2.  Hopefully, the cultural aspect of their trip to the USA is  fulfilling as the game results have not been.

Miami University took on the USA National Team Development Program in Oxford, OH on New Years Eve. Certainly the services of team leader Riley Barber were missed as Miami fell to Team USA 4-2. In a tight game, Miami outshot Team USA 29-27 and although they tied the game at 2-2 10 seconds into period three allowed the GWG by Team USA at  19:09 of the third and an empty net goal at 19:50. Team USA has defeated Michigan and Miami and lost to  RPI 2-1 and to D-III Utica College. Team USA faces #3 St. Cloud State University on Saturday, January 4.

Happy New Year!

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