December 26, 2004
UConn Hockey Classic

Connecticut Ice Arena • Storrs, Conn.

Holiday Tournament Preview

This week's schedule
National TV Schedule

Holiday Tournament Previews
Badger Hockey Showdown
Florida College Classic
Great Lakes Invitational
Ledyard National Bank Classic
Ohio Hockey Classic
Wells Fargo Denver Cup
Dodge Holiday Classic


Thursday, December 30
Brown vs. Merrimack, 1:30 p.m. ET
Holy Cross at Connecticut, 4:30 p.m. ET

Friday, December 31
Third-Place Game, 1:30 p.m. ET
Championship Game, 4:30 p.m. ET


Close games and shootouts were the rule, as both semifinal games had to be decided by penalty shots. Connecticut and Air Force outlasted Bentley and Sacred Heart, respectively, to reach the final, where the host Huskies prevailed, 1-0. Freshman Scott Tomes, the tournament MVP, posted the shutout to earn the win, with Tim Olsen providing the offensive heroics for the second day in a row. Olsen’s terrific tournament propelled him to a second-half scoring spree in which he had 19 goals and 16 assists – or 85 percent of his season point total.


This year marks the most star-studded field to visit Storrs for the holiday, with two teams from the “Big Four” conferences and a 2004 NCAA Tournament team making appearances. Brown and Merrimack should be warned before clearing space in their trophy case, however – the only other Big Four team to make an appearance, Ferris State in 2002, suffered a stunning first-round loss. The Bulldogs entered that tournament ranked eighth in the nation, but were stunned in overtime by Alabama-Huntsville, which went on to take the title.


We could list off some incredibly talented defensemen, like Merrimack’s Bryan Schmidt or Connecticut’s Mark Murphy, or great goalies like Brown’s Adam D’Alba or the Holy Cross tandem of Tony Quesada and Ben Conway.

But what warms us up on cold New England afternoons is offense, and there will be some gifts on display in this post-Christmas affair. For Merrimack, Brent Gough should be back up to speed after missing more than two months with a broken arm. He’s been able to skate with the team for nearly a month now, so his legs will still be there, and his hands have helped him lead the team in scoring in each of his years in a Warrior sweater.

Brown and Holy Cross both boast talented sophomores; keep an eye on the Bears’ Brian Ihnacak, a crafty forward who makes up for his lack of size with a very skilled stick. He’s got 5-2—7 totals in Brown’s current five-game unbeaten streak. Holy Cross sophomore James Sixsmith hasn’t been as hot lately – just one assist in eight games – but he’s a very skilled playmaker. He had an assist Dec. 8 against UConn and could be ready to break out of his slump.

The Huskies most dynamic player is Tim Olsen, but he’s struggled this season with just nine points in 15 games. Keep an eye on his linemates, Cole Koidahl and Matt Grew, who will try to make this tournament, like last year, Olsen’s launching pad for a great second half.


The two Atlantic Hockey entries are playing back-to-back games against each other—albeit three weeks apart. In their appearance in Worcester before the break, the teams tied, 2-2, fitting since both are playing their best hockey of the season right now. UConn has goaltender Scott Tomes back from an ACL injury he suffered in the first weekend of the season against Rensselaer. Holy Cross’ turnaround began at another holiday tournament—the Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Pot over Thanksgiving weekend, when the Crusaders beat Union for third place. They are 3-0-1 since.

An Atlantic Hockey win here would still be an upset, however, even though the ECACHL and Hockey East invitees aren’t among the strongest in those leagues. Fact is, they are both playing some of their best hockey at the moment as well. Brown is 4-0-1 since freshman Adam D’Alba emerged as the answer in goal, and Merrimack is as healthy as it’s been since the start of the season. The winner of this one will be the favorite on New Year’s Eve, and it will probably come down to whether the Warriors can generate goals against D’Alba.

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