December 27, 2005
Dodge Holiday Classic

Mariucci Arena • Minneapolis, Minn.

Holiday Tournament Preview


Thursday, December 29
Canisius vs. UMass-Lowell, 5:07 p.m. ET
Union at Minnesota, 8:07 p.m. ET

Friday, December 30
Union vs. Canisius/UMass-Lowell, 5:07 p.m. ET
Canisius/UMass-Lowell at Minnesota, 8:07 p.m. ET

On TV: Fox Sports Net North will carry Minnesota's games live both nights.

Northern Michigan scored just one official goal, and finished second in the tournament, while Chris Serino’s final Merrimack team scored eight times and had to settle for third. The Wildcats got to the title game by tying Harvard 0-0 in the tournament opener and winning the ensuing shootout 3-2. Minnesota had little trouble with Merrimack on the opening day, winning 6-2, but the Warriors bounced back to beat Harvard 6-4 in the third place game in the first-ever meeting between the two Massachusetts schools. After the tournament, Merrimack went 1-15-0 the rest of the season. The Gophers got two goals from Tyler Hirsch (the eventual tournament MVP) in the title game, beating Northern Michigan 4-1. The title game’s final three minutes featured 17 penalties, including game disqualifications for Minnesota’s Ben Gordon and NMU’s Geoff Waugh.


With Minnesota winning nine of the previous 14 tournaments and six titles in a row, the all-tournament team has been understandably dominated by Golden Gophers. The last non-Gopher named tournament MVP was Princeton forward Syl Apps, after the Tigers shut out Boston University 3-0 in the 1998 title game. Minnesota lost 4-1 to Princeton and 6-5 to Ohio State that season, which was Doug Woog’s final campaign as the Gophers’ head coach. That was also the only season that no Gophers were named to the all-tournament team.


If you’re heading to Mariucci Arena to see hot young Gopher forwards like Phil Kessel and Blake Wheeler, or freshman goalie Jeff Frazee, you’re off by about two time zones. That trio is skating for Team USA at the World Junior Tournament in Vancouver, which will surely open up some ice time for some previously little-known Gophers to get on the ice.

Despite the offensive leadership by UMass-Lowell’s senior trio of Bobby Robins, Mark Pandolfo and Elias Godoy, the RiverHawks are five games under .500 at the break and are quickly falling out of striking distance in the Hockey East race. Union senior goalie Kris Mayotte has seen action in 17 of the Dutchmen’s 18 games thus far, and has put up good numbers in leading the team to an above-.500 mark thus far (despite losing a pair at Ohio State in their last series). Anytime Canisius can hit the ice, it must be a bit of a relief to get away from the off-ice mess the program has endured for the past year. After a decent start, the Golden Griffins head to Minneapolis on a four-game losing streak.


The most interesting game of the tournament might be the opener, with Canisius and UML relatively evenly-matched. With Blaise MacDonald returning to the site of his greatest coaching glory (Niagara’s upset of New Hampshire in the 2000 NCAA Regional at Mariucci Arena) we’ll give the nod to the RiverHawks. With Kessel and Wheeler out of the Minnesota lineup in the nightcap, we’ll give the Dutchmen a chance to be competitive if their goalie gets hot. Still, we can’t see the host club (12-0 in this tourney under Don Lucia) losing the opener, or in the title game.

In the consolation round, give the nod to Canisius to put the distractions aside and beat Union in a close one. In the title game, we see the RiverHawks taking an early lead (let’s say 2-0) before the Golden Gophers storm back, with a raucous holiday crowd on their side, for the victory and their seventh consecutive crown.