Holiday Tournament Previews: Part I
Mike Eidelbes, Nate Ewell and Jess Myers
27-28 – Wells Fargo Denver Cup – Magness Arena
– Denver, Colo.
Field: Clarkson vs. No. 6 New Hampshire; No. 13
Miami vs. No. 10 Denver
Year's Winner: Denver
Historical Fact: Three of the four teams in this
year's tournament – Denver, Miami and New Hampshire
– took part in the 1997 Denver Cup. Miami, behind
tourney MVP Dan Boyle, beat Denver and UNH to win first
place and run their record to 13-3-0. Poised for an NCAA
Tournament berth, coach Mark Mazzoleni's troops posted a
6-9-4 during the season's second half and was swept by Northern
Michigan in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.
to Watch For: With three ranked teams participating,
the Denver Cup is arguably the second-best tournament of
the holiday season behind the Everblades College Classic.
The Pioneers, however, are winless in their last four games,
and Miami is 3-3-1 in its last seven. The two meet Friday
in a classic teacher vs. student matchup – Denver's
George Gwozdecky was Enrico Blasi's coach at Miami and Blasi
was a DU assistant coach before taking the reins in Oxford.
New Hampshire, which beat Clarkson earlier this month, has
been pretty steady outside of a recent loss to St. Lawrence.
The Golden Knights, meanwhile, are 5-5-1 under interim coach
We See It: The smart play would be to go with the
Wildcats, but Denver has come into its tournament with a
winless streak of two or more games on four occasions and
won titles in three of those years. The Pioneers get an
emotional lift with the expected return of goaltender Wade
Dubielewicz. They've also got revenge on their minds after
UNH handed them their first loss of the 2001-02 season in
Durham, snapping a nine-game winning streak. Denver edges
New Hampshire in the championship game.
27-28 – Dodge Holiday Classic – Mariucci Arena
– Minneapolis, Minn.
Field: Bowling Green vs. No. 5 Boston College,
Yale vs. No. 11 Minnesota
Won Last Year: Minnesota
Three times the winner of this tournament has won the NCAA
championship later in the same season: Lake Superior State
in 1993, Boston University in 1994 and Minnesota in 2001.
To Watch For: It's the haves versus the have-nots
in the opening round as the last two NCAA champs take on
what can only be described as "lesser" foes. What
makes the BC-BG game interesting is that Falcons coach Scott
Paluch was an assistant at BC for eight years, and Eagles
coach Jerry York was the skipper at BG for 15 years, including
their only NCAA title (1984). Yale, missing superstar Chris
Higgins (U.S. National Junior Team), has three Minnesotans
on its roster, and Bulldogs coach Tim Taylor skated with
the Warroad (Minn.) Lakers for a season, but that's about
it for Connecticut connections.
We See It: When it comes to matching talent for
talent, the second round of this tournament is likely to
be more interesting than the openers. After an 8-0-1 start,
Boston College (9-3-3) is 1-3-2 in its last six, but still
should make quick work of Bowling Green (3-10-1). And although
Minnesota has been known to choke on this tournament in
the past, this doesn't seem to be the year for that to happen
– at least not in round one. Yale should rebound from
its loss to Minnesota and claim third place, while BC has
more offense and will sting Minnesota's still-suspect goaltending
for the title.
Great Weekend Getaways
take on the tourneys worth the trip this holiday season
Everblades College Classic
just checked the roster of the ECHL’s Florida
Everblades (it’s college-laden, by the way).
Call us crazy, but all four of the teams in this tournament
could give the ’Blades a run for their money.
Wells Fargo Denver Cup
A rarity: four good teams not hurt at all by the World
Dodge Holiday Classic
Bowling Green coach
Scott Paluch, a former Boston College assistant, probably
wishes he wasn’t such a good recruiter right
Great Lakes Invitational
For a couple of days, the biggest attractions
are on our side of the Detroit River. But you can
still visit Windsor post-game.
This field would have made a great Frozen Four, circa
Ledyard Bank Tournament
Corporate sponsorship changed the name of
this tourney from the Auld Lang Syne Classic (although
if it keeps you from singing, we don’t mind).
Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Tournament
Now that the Rose Bowl has sold out to the
BCS, we'll call this 52-year-old tournament the granddaddy
of them all.
Subway Ice Classic
Famous dieter Jared faced a much bigger challenge
than the Sioux will in the Subway Holiday Classic.
And you thought the U.S. News rankings were
the last time you’d see Alabama-Huntsville,
Connecticut, Ferris State and Findlay mentioned in
the same place.
27-28 – Subway Ice Classic –
Ralph Engelstad Arena –
Grand Forks, N.D.
Manitoba vs. Bemidji State, Brown vs. No. 3 North Dakota
Won Last Year: First year
Historical Fact: Manitoba will see some familiar
faces in Grand Forks. The Bisons have already played
exhibitions against North Dakota (a 6-1 loss) and Bemidji
State (a 4-2 loss) this season.
To Watch For: Retired Bemidji State coach Bob Peters
built a D-III dynasty by recruiting heavily in
Winnipeg. But the opening round exhibition between the Beavers
and the Winnipeg-based Bisons will be lacking emotional
angles (and fans) as only one Beaver, freshman forward Jean-Guy
Gervais, hails from Winnipeg. If Manitoba can somehow beat
Bemidji in the opener, the championship could be the Sioux
vs. the Bisons, which is a matchup hockey fans in Fargo
have dreamed about for years. But until North Dakota State
(also nicknamed the Bison) makes its long-awaited move
to get D-I hockey, it won't happen.
We See It: North Dakota athletic administrators
apparently had to scramble to find opponents to fill
this first-year tournament. If they were seeking "worthy"
opponents for the top-ranked Sioux, they failed. So that
sets up the perfect scenario for a
"Chaminade over Virginia" type upset in a holiday
tournament. You read it here first: Manitoba will beat the
top-ranked team in the polls in Grand Forks.
Sorry, I don't know what I was thinking there. (Note to
self: No more drinking at breakfast.) In fact, if the North
Dakota fourth line and backup goalie don't see at least
15 minutes of playing time in the title game, there should
be a NCAA investigation launched.
28-29 – Ledyard National Bank Classic – Thompson
Arena – Hanover, N.H.
Field: UMass Lowell vs. Vermont; Notre Dame vs.
Won Last Year: Dartmouth hosts this tournament
every other year, and Vermont won it in 2000. Vermont hosts
a holiday tourney in odd-numbered seasons, and Lake Superior
State won that event last year.
Historical Fact: John Ledyard, whose name adorns
the bank that sponsors this event, is a
legendary figure at Dartmouth, despite dropping out
of school after less than a year (and there’s nothing
wrong with that – Maine’s still allowed to brag
about Paul Kariya). An avid outdoorsman who spent four months
living with the Iroquois, he chopped down a tree, carved
a canoe, and headed South on the Connecticut River, never
to return to college. Among his travels, he trekked across
two-thirds of Russia before being arrested and returned
to Poland. We presume he was looking for a hockey game,
unaware that the Russians wouldn’t adopt the sport
until the 1930s.
to Watch For: Only the home team can be really
happy with its first-half showing, as sophomore Lee Stempniak
(10-5—15 in 10 GP) has led the Big Green to a 6-4-0
record. Notre Dame has enjoyed moderate success thus far,
including a three-game winning streak leading up to the
break, but the Irish were under .500 before that (albeit
against a very tough schedule). Vermont (5-7-2) may have
surpassed last year’s win total, but that wasn’t
a particularly tough mountain to climb, and the Catamounts’
most impressive win came against Colgate. Of all four teams,
UMass Lowell has the best player (Ed McGrane) and the best
win to this point (at Colorado College), but the River Hawks’
goaltending has left them winless in Hockey East.
We See It: In New Hampshire, winning a primary
is supposed to foretell success in the end – yet Dartmouth
has won its first-round game four straight times in this
tourney, only to lose in the finals. This time they’ll
finish the deal, extending their Thompson Arena record to
8-0-0 in the process. If the first George Bush was this
good in New Hampshire, you might have never heard of Monica