I probably won’t hit every tournament, but I’ll do my best..
This year’s GLI features four coaches who are all probably in their last years as coach for one reason or another. Michigan’s Red Berenson is nearing retirement, and MSU’s Rick Comley, Michigan Tech’s Jamie Russell and Colorado College’s Scott Owens could be on their way out.
Michigan is the obvious favorite in this tournament, scoring 3.3 goals per game and allowing only 2.37. Carl Hagelin is tied for 5th in the CCHA in ppg, and Louie Caporusso is right behind him. Michigan will be without Chris Brown and Jon Merrill at World Juniors, but the Wolverines have more than enough talent to make up for it.
Colorado College will be dealt probably the biggest blow, losing their leading scorer Jaden Schwartz who will be at the WJC playing for team Canada. Schwartz leads the WCHA in points per game at the break. Tyler Johnson leads the team in goals with 12, but they will be short on offensive skill without Schwartz. Sophomore goalie Joe Howe has struggled a bit this year at times but still has the ability to steal games.
The Spartans have gone from a national championship in 2007 to 10th place in the CCHA this year, and Spartan fans have been clamoring for Comley’s dismissal. Drew Palmisano will have to steal a couple games for Sparty to have a chance, but his save percentage has taken a bit of a dive in recent weeks. Sparty is also in the back half of the CCHA in both power play and penalty kill. Brett Perlini leads the team with 11 goals, which is tied for 2nd in the CCHA, and Michigan State’s one chance is that neither CC nor their potential second game opponent really has a shut down D pair to go with his line.
Michigan Tech is a disaster, as usual, ranking 48th in scoring offense and 56th in scoring defense.
Florida College Classic
What is quickly turning into the marquee Christmas tournament, The Florida College Classic features two teams meeting or exceeding expectations, and two falling far short.
Maine comes in as both the defending champions and probable favorite. Their scoring has fallen off a bit recently, but still feature a deep group of forwards. Gustav Nyquist obviously gets the attention but it is Spencer Abbott who leads the team in goals (11) and points (21). Maine needs to figure out their goaltending situation a bit, as Dan Sullivan has just a .892 save percentage.
Miami doesn’t have the depth of the Black Bears, but Carter Camper and Andy Miele have been as good as any pair of teammates in the country. Camper still leads the nation, scoring 1.94 ppg and Miele is right on his tail, with 1.72 ppg. Reilly Smith is 2nd on the team with 12 goals, and is probably Miami’s best pro prospect. Goalie Cody Reichard has struggled this year after being one of the best goalies in America last year, having just a .888 save percentage, though Connor Knapp has been strong with a .918 mark.
St. Cloud State and Cornell have both been brutal. Dan Dunn has just a .883 save percentage and Mike Lee is only marginally better at .890. The Huskies are 10th in the WCHA in offense and tied for 10th in defense. For a team picked as high as 1st on some preseason WCHA ballots, it has been a long year. Garrett Roe has been a major disappointment, with only 2 goals and 10 points on the year.
Cornell meanwhile was picked to finish 2nd in ECAC Hockey, but currently find themselves in a tie for 10th with just 4 pts in conference play. And to make matters worse they will be without starting goalie Andy Iles, who is backing up Jack Campbell at the World Junior Championships. After a couple years with good offensive numbers, the Big Red are 8th in the conference in scoring offense. And unlike past years, they don’t have the stout defense to make up for it: Cornell is giving up 2.91 goals per game, 7th in ECAC Hockey. Sophomore Nick D’Agostino has probably been Cornell’s best player, playing the best defense and contributing 3 goals and 7 points in the team’s first 10 games.
The Gophers welcome Bemidji, Union and Ferris State to the Twin Cities. Minnesota will be without Nick Bjugstad and Erik Haula who are away at World Juniors, and wins over Union and Ferris will probably vault them into the weekly rankings. Jay Barribal and Jacob Cepis will be counted on to pick up for Bjugstad and Haula, but the Gophers will need better play in net as both Alex Kangas (.894) and Kent Patterson have struggled in net. After a strong start to his career, Cade Fairchild has really struggled the past couple of seasons for Minnesota, and Aaron Ness has as well.
Ferris had a nice start to the year, but have faded, currently sitting with a record of 9-7-3. However they sit in a tie for 4th in the CCHA despite scoring only 31 goals in their 15 conference games. Yikes. Zach Redmond, a defenseman, leads the team with 12 points on the year and only three Bulldogs have as many as five goals. One final interesting Ferris State note: the Bulldogs have scored more goals in the 2nd period (22) than in the 1st and 3rd combined (21).
Union is shaping up to be a legitimate challenger to Yale in ECAC hockey, though their last meeting was a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Bulldogs. Though Yale has gotten most of the conference’s attention, it is Union’s Jeremy Welsh who leads the conference in goals (11) and points (24), though in more games than either Broc Little or Denny Kearney. Union is 2nd in the conference in goals per game, owing to their power play, which is clicking at a startling 34.1% rate, good for first in the entire country. Sophomore goalie Keith Kinkaid has improved his save percentage to a .917 mark, though it is further down the ECAC charts than he was last year. Currently he is 8th in the conference in save percentage, though he is behind a couple goalies who share time.
It hasn’t been a great debut into the WCHA for Bemdji, who after dominating the CHA last year find themselves in 10th in their new conference. They did, however, just finish off a sweep of Nebraska-Omaha before getting swept at Wisconsin. The Beavers schedule gets quite a bit easier in the second half, with games against Alabama-Huntsville, St. Cloud, Minnesota State and Michigan Tech all sandwiched around a return trip to Omaha. If the Beavers are going to make a push up the standings, or at least a bid to avoid North Dakota, Duluth or Denver in the first round of the playoffs, after Christmas is their best bet.
Ledyard National Bank Classic
Boston College is the overwhelming favorite here against Colgate, Dartmouth and Mercyhurst, even though the Eagles will be without three players (Chris Kreider, Brian Dumoulin and Patrick Wey) who are all at World Juniors. The Eagles haven’t been as impressive as I expected this year, but they still have tons of talent. Cam Atkinson is making quite a Hobey push with 14 goals and 21 points in 16 games.
Two of the best goalies in the country this year go at it in this one, as Dartmouth’s James Mello (.945) and BC’s John Muse (.939) are 2nd and 3rd in the country in save percentage. The Big Green have at times looked like a serious contender in ECAC Hockey, allowing just 2.55 goals per game, which is a good mark for that offense heavy league. They are also scoring well, ranking 7th nationally in scoring offense.
Colgate has had a rough year, scoring just 2.62 goals per game and allowing 3.25, a big reason why they are just 3-12-1. They are led by Senior Brian Day, who has 8 goals in 16 games and is probably pissed that after his time at Colgate he won’t get to play for a better team, as his rights are held by the Islanders. Alex Evin is having a decent year in net for the Raiders with a .904 save percentage, but I don’t think he or the rest of the team is good enough to steal a win here.
Mercyhurst was one of the highest scoring teams in the country the past couple of years, and have faded to the middle of the pack a bit, ranked 23rd in the country scoring 3.18 goals per game. The Lakers have a win over 2nd place Robert Morris, and only have to play first place RIT once more so they have a chance to move up from their current spot in 7th.
Notre Dame welcomes Minnesota State, Boston University and Brown to Chicago for the 2nd annual Tournament. Both the Irish and the Terriers have players who just missed making their respective WJC squads, as Riley Sheahan was one of Canada’s last cuts and Adam Clendening just missed team USA. BU will be without Charlie Coyle however as he figures to be a big part of team USA.
After a strong start Brown has faded back a bit, now sitting in 9th in ECAC Hockey. Still, they have tied BU already this year so the rematch should be a good one. Junior Jack Maclellan leads the conference in scoring at 1.82 ppg, and also in goals per game with .82 per contest. With 9 goals, Maclellan is over halfway to his total in the previous two seasons combined (17). Speaking of improving players, Senior Harry Zolnierczyk has 7 goals this year after scoring 13 last year, 1 his Sophomore year, and none in his debut season. Defensively, the Bears suffer from the unfortunate combo of being penalized a lot (16.8 PIMs per game, 2nd most in ECAC Hockey) and not being great on the penalty kill (9th in conference).
The Irish have a mix of very good wins, like a 2-1 win over Boston College, and puzzling losses, such as their 2-3 loss to Bowling Green. The kids have been Notre Dame’s best weapons, as Freshmen TJ Tynan and Anders Lee have combined for 21 goals and 41 points, and are 1st and 2nd in the CCHA in Freshman scoring. But they have also gotten a nice dose of Senior leadership: Ryan Guentzel already has his career high in points, with 19 at the break, and is just one goal away from tying his career high. Fellow Senior Ben Ryan has 16 points.
BU, as I said, will be without Charlie Coyle but the Terriers are deep enough to cover for him. Sophomore Alex Chiasson has 6 goals and 18 points in 15 games, and relatively unheralded Freshman Sahir Gill has 16 points in 17 games. Joe Periera is the team’s leading scorer with 7 goals. While their offense is fairly deep, defensively they are not as good. Overall they allow 3.18 goals per game, 7th in Hockey East, and haven’t shut out an opponent all season. The most penalized team in the conference, the Terriers will have to shore up that end of the ice in order to make a postseason run.
The departures of Kael Mouillierat and Tyler Pitlick haven’t been kind to Minnesota State, who sit in a tie for 8th in the WCHA. They score only 2.78 goals per game, no doubt hindered by their abysmal 15.6% power play. Senior Kurt Davis has been the lone bright spot, as the defenseman is 5th in the WCHA in points from blueliners.
That’s going to wrap it up for my holiday tournament previews. If I missed your school’s my sincere apologies. From all of us (ok, one of us) here at TCHB Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers out there. I appreciate you all more than you know.