December 26, 2005
Florida College Hockey Classic

Germain Arena • Estero, Fla.

Holiday Tournament Preview


Tuesday, December 27
Cornell vs. Northeastern, 4:05 p.m. ET
Maine vs. Minnesota Duluth, 7:35 p.m. ET

Wednesday, December 28
Third-Place Game, 4:05 p.m. ET
Championship Game, 7:35 p.m. ET


Three eventual NCAA tournament teams spent a few days in the Sunshine State, with Boston College claiming the title. But the lone non-NCAA-bound team in the field, St. Cloud State, made the biggest splash. Craig Dahl’s final Huskies club worked a 1-1 tie with Maine in the opener and beat the Black Bears in the seventh round of the ensuing shootout. The Huskies then took Boston College to two extra sessions in the final before the Eagles’ Chris Collins scored the tournament-winner in the opening minute of the second OT. Boston College got to the title game with a pair of third-period goals, breaking a 2-2 tie with Cornell in the semifinals. The Big Red needed just 20 shots on goal to score four times against Jimmy Howard in the third-place game, beating Maine 4-3 to start a 20-1-1 streak.


Maine and Cornell have participated in every Florida tournament since the inaugural event in 2000. The Black Bears have won two of the five previous tournaments (2000 and 2002) and the Big Red have won once (2003). Adding balance to the proceedings, Maine and Cornell have each gone 0-2 in the tournament twice. Despite those two winless tourneys, there’s been at least one Black Bear on the all-tournament team in each of the five previous events.


On paper, both opening round games look like mismatches, with Cornell (14th in the latest INCH Power Rankings) taking on a Northeastern team with just one win in the first half of Greg Cronin’s first season at the helm. The nightcap has seventh-ranked Maine playing a Minnesota Duluth team that’s young and still searching for identity and consistency at just about every position.

While Cornell goaltender David McKee, a top-three Hobey finalist as a junior, has looked uncharacteristically human at times this season, his numbers are still solid. And Mike Schafer has put freshmen Evan Barlow, Michael Kennedy and Ryan Kindret together on a line for stretches this season with positive results.

Maine has definitively answered the questions about life after Jimmy Howard, as sophomore Matt Lundin and rookie Ben Bishop have split the duties with impressive results. Lundin’s numbers are eye-popping, with five wins in seven games and a microscopic 0.96 goals-against average thus far. The opening day’s most intriguing matchup might be Maine’s starting goalie versus Bulldog forwards Matt McKnight, Mason Raymond and Michael Gergen. With roughly 1/50th the hype of Minnesota forward Phil Kessel, Raymond is leading the Bulldogs offensively and is tops among WCHA rookies in scoring in conference games.


While Northeastern, Maine and Cornell have been in holiday tournaments in each of the last five seasons, Minnesota Duluth will be in its first such event since the Bulldogs lost 5-1 to Boston College in 2002 in the title game of the now-defunct Silverado Shootout (in Duluth). We have no idea what previous holiday tournament experience (or lack thereof) will mean in Florida, but we do know that the opener looks like a mismatch. Look for Cornell to get a shot at the title, where the Big Red will likely face Maine, after the Black Bears win a close one with Minnesota Duluth. We’ll take the Bulldogs over the Huskies for third place, and in the battle of good goalies for the crown, we’ll like experience (McKee) over youthful exuberance (Lundin/Bishop) as Cornell wins its second Florida title in the past three seasons.