Who: Wisconsin, Merrimack, Ferris State, Yale
When: January 2nd-3rd
Where: Kohl Center; Madison, Wisconsin
This year’s Badger Showdown features our #4, 7 and 14 ranked teams, as well as an improving Merrimack squad. In the first game, Wisconsin pairs off with Merrimack. The player to watch is Wisconsin defenseman Brendan Smith. Smith is currently 3rd in the country at 1.53 ppg, and is a serious threat to make back to back defensemen Hobey winners.
Merrimack has the top scoring Freshman in the country in Stephane Da Costa. Da Costa has 9 goals and 19 points in just 13 games played by the Warriors. Merrimack also has the 6th best power play in the country, which they will need if they are to upset the Badgers, who have the 5th stingiest defense in the entire country.
The other matchup features Ferris State and Yale. A win by Ferris State would certainly help out their numbers for getting into the NCAA tournament, although don’t get me started on selecting the NCAA tournament field that way. In keeping with the theme of the CCHA over the past couple years, Ferris State is the 2nd best defensive team over this year, allowing just 1.72 gpg. They have some work to do in keeping Yale out of the net, as the Bulldogs lead the country scoring 4.33 gpg.
My theory in life is when in doubt, go with the home team so that is what I am going to do here and take Wisconsin.
Florida College Classic
Who: Cornell, Colorado College, Maine, Princeton
When: December 29th and 30th
Where: Germain Arena; Estero, Florida
Oh to go from Ithaca, Colorado Springs, Orono and Princeton in December to Estero, Florida in December. Two top 10 teams are featured in this tournament as well as in the Badger Showdown. Heck, this tournament could be even better than the Badger Showdown.
These Florida fans are in for a nice treat: a potential coming out party for Maine’s Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist is a great player, but I don’t think people outside of the world of college hockey know who he is. Furthermore, I don’t think a lot of people even in the college hockey world know much about this kid. Nyquist is 5th in points per game, and is one of the elite scorers in the country at 11-14–25. As a Penguins fan, I am not too happy that Nyquist is a future Red Wing.
Colorado College is the favorite to win the tournament methinks, and they have the goalie who should be on the World Junior team. The Tigers are pretty consistent, ranked 9th in both offense and defense. They are pretty balanced on offense, and feature perhaps the most “selfish” player in America in Mike Testuwide, who has 12 goals and just 2 assists.
Princeton is probably the biggest underachieving team in the country this year. They had virtually every relevant guy back from a team that was ever so close to a Frozen last year, and they have been awful this year. Zane Kalemba has gone from perhaps the best goalie in the country to one with a .903 save percentage. I honestly have no idea what’s going on with that team.
Who: Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, RPI
When: December 29th and 30th
Where: Joe Louis Arena; Detroit, Michigan
Here’s a trivia question for you: Which of these four teams will have the most players missing from the tournament due to being on the US roster for the WJC.
The answer: RPI with one. Jerry D’Amigo. Given that he was the player of the game in the US’s first game, he will be a tough cog to replace. The Engineers (cool name by the way) sit in 8th in ECAC Hockey, but have some impressive wins on the year over UNH, BU (maybe that’s not so impressive) and Yale. Sophomore goalie Allen York has an under 3 GAA, but a save percentage under .900. He actually got some decent ice time last year, playing in 16 games, but this tournament will give him a chance to grow and hopefully get better for RPI down the stretch. RPI’s big gun is Junior Chase Polacek, who leads the team with 12 goals and 26 points.
Michigan has really struggled this year, but they get a boost from Chris Brown not going to Saskatchewan. They’ve really struggled offensively, with Louie Caporusso finally starting to turn it around, bu their depth on the blueline is the most troubling thing. Bryan Hogan has been a bit shaky this year, but the defensemen have been just as shaky.
The Spartans come into the tournament as pretty overwhelming favorites, quite the subplot considering how their season went last year. Corey Tropp still leads the country with 16 goals, although he has slipped to 5th in goals per game. Then again, given the stingy defense in the CCHA, he should get a little boost for playing in that conference. The Spartans need to find some balance, as they have 2 players with 7 goals, and then none over 4. I honestly don’t know what to make of this year’s Spartan team, given that they were so awful last year and have been pretty darn good this year. I’m picking them to win the tourney.
Dodge Holiday Classic
Who: Minnesota, Bowling Green, Northern Michigan, Clarkson
When: January 2nd and 3rd
Where: Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis
Woof. I only included this tournament because it is the one that I will be watching on TV. The interesting thing about this one is Jacob Cepis, who transferred from Bowling Green to Minnesota will play his first game for the Gophers against…Bowling Green. Weird.
Screw it, the Gophers trick me all the time, I might as well let them do it again: I’m taking them to win the tourney.
Who: Notre Dame, North Dakota, Niagara, Colgate
When: January 2nd and 3rd
Where: Sears Centre; Hoffman Estates, Illinois
I really didn’t want to include this tournament because I didn’t want to type Shillelagh over and over.
My main factoid going into the tournament is this: North Dakota has the 7th best defense in the country, but Brad Eidsness is terrible. I could be politically correct about it, but he is a trainwreck. He is good for a soft goal a night/weekend, and generally looks like he doesn’t know where the puck is half the time. Also, it appears Senior captain Chay Genoway won’t be playing, as he is still suffering from a concussion. While it has certainly hurt the Sioux, I have to give them kudos for the way they’ve handled this. Head injuries are nothing to mess with, and kudos to North Dakota for putting a player’s long term health above victories.
Notre Dame has struggled a bit this season, but they have had the brightest of bright spots in Freshman goalie Mike Johnson. Johnson leads the country at midseason with a .940 mark. Johnson has split time with Junior Brad Phillips, although Johnson has gotten the most ice time. Given that he has been excellent I would expect him to get more PT in the 2nd half of the season, but Phillips has asserted himself nicely as well (2.25, .919) so perhaps it’s worth keeping the sharing thing going. It got another CCHA team to the final game last year, afterall.
I fully expect to see a UND-UND title game, although I wouldn’t be too shocked to see Colgate there. I’m going with the home ice (kinda) advantage again and taking Notre Dame to win it.