December 28, 2006
Florida College Classic

Germain Arena • Estero, Fla.

Holiday Tournament Preview


Friday, December 29
Maine vs. Western Michigan, 4:05 p.m.
Cornell vs. New Hampshire, 7:35 p.m.

Saturday, December 30
Third-place Game, 4:05 p.m.
Championship Game, 7:35 p.m.


Senior forward Cam Abbott scored Cornell's only regulation goal and potted the game-winner in the Big Red's 3-2 shootout victory over Minnesota Duluth to win the Ned Harkness Cup. Goaltender David McKee was named MVP after allowing just a single goal in 125 minutes during the two games in the tourney. Cornell breezed past Northeastern in the opening round with a 3-0 victory. McKee only needed to make 13 saves to preserve the shutout.

Maine knocked off Hockey East foe Northeastern 4-2 in the consolation game. The Black Bears' big names — Greg Moore, Michel Léveillé and Derek Damon — each scored a goal while Moore also added an assist. Ben Bishop stopped 16 shots to earn the win.

Minnesota Duluth smoked Maine in the opening round by a 4-1 margin and outshot the Black Bears 42-23. Matt Lundin made 38 saves in the loss while his brother, Mike Lundin, scored Maine's only goal. Michael Gergen scored two goals for the Bulldogs, including an empty-netter, and Justin Williams added a goal and an assist.


Maine and Cornell have played in every one of these tournaments since the inaugural one in 2000, which was then called the Everblades College Classic. The Black Bears and Big Red have each won two tournaments. Maine won two of the first three, including the first, and Cornell has won two of the last three, including the last. The Black Bears and Big Red share identical 6-6 records in the six-year tournament history.

The two have only met in the finals once — the inaugural event — with Maine winning 2-1. They have only met in the first round once, also, with Maine winning 3-2. The Big Red came away victorious in their only consolation round meeting, 4-3. Each team has one consolation round win.

After reaching the finals in the first three years, the Black Bears have lost in the opening round of the tournament three years in a row. Last year's 4-2 win over Northeastern in the consolation round ended Maine's five-game losing streak in the Classic. After Cornell won its first ever game in the tourney — a 6-5 overtime decision over Ohio State — it went on a five-game skid of its own.


The first game looks like a bit of a mismatch on paper with Western Michigan stacking up against Maine. The Black Bears got off to an immaculate start before fading a bit, losing three in a row and going winless in four out of five games. They have since gone 2-0-1 in their last three. Offensively, Michel Léveillé leads the charge with 12 goals and eight assists, but freshman Teddy Purcell has been extremely fun to watch with five goals and 13 assists. Big Ben Bishop has a .927 save percentage and 1.75 goals against average for the Black Bears. Mark Letestu (9-10—19), Jeff Pierce (5-11—16) and Brian Bicek (8-5—13) lead the Bronco attack.

The second game is a little more of a premier showcase. New Hampshire (second in the INCH Power Rankings) and Cornell (12th) are both playing solid defense. The Wildcats are fourth in the country in scoring defense, allowing a stingy 1.94 goals per game, while Cornell is 12th by allowing 2.33 red lights per contest. UNH is back to its old ways on offense, though, scoring more often than Paris Hilton at a Las Vegas nightclub. The Wildcats' 4.38 goals per game are second in all the land, but the Big Red aren't too far behind with a clip of 3.5 scores per contest, good for 13th in the nation.

Trevor Smith is making an early push for Hockey East Player of the Year with a conference-leading 24 points. Matt Fornataro, Mike Radja, Jacob Micflikier, Josh Pollastrone and Brett Hemingway all have at least 16 points for the UNH attack, making their top two lines as dangerous as any in the country. Kevin Regan has a .925 save percentage and 2.22 goals against average for the Wildcats.

On the other hand, Cornell's leading scorer has 15 points. Topher Scott holds that honor. Jared Seminoff, Tony Romano and Mark McCutcheon are the Big Red's other double-digit scorers.


Though Maine hasn't been immune from the upset this season, the Black Bears should be a little too strong for Western Michigan. On the other side of the bracket, UNH will have too much offense for Cornell to handle, which is something a lot of quality teams are finding out this season. That sets up a great northeast rivalry in the backdrop of a Floridian sunset for the championship. The Wildcats traveled to Orono earlier this season and slapped Maine around by an 8-2 clip on Nov. 12, which marked the Black Bears' first loss of the season. It was also the first of three losses in a row for Maine. More importantly, it jumpstarted UNH to its current nine-game winning streak. These aren't just small wins, either. Three of those victories have come by two goals, while the rest have come by three or more. The Wildcats will dance in Estero on Saturday night as 5-3 winners.

— Jeff Howe