Houston Fieldhouse, Troy, N.Y., Dec. 28-29
Northeastern vs. Colgate, 4 ET Sunday
Mercyhurst at Rensselaer, 7 ET Sunday
Consolation, 4 ET Monday
Championship, 7 ET Monday
Players to Watch: LW Jon Smyth, Soph. (11-7–18); C Kyle Wilson, Soph. (6-11–17); F Kyle Doyle, Sr. (8-8–16).
Noteable: Jon Smyth, the team leader with 11 goals, had a four-goal effort against Clarkson earlier this season. … Colgate is led by long-time assistant Stan Moore, who is leading the team on an interim basis while Don Vaughan acts as the school’s athletic director on an interim basis. Moore was an assistant at Colgate, left to be head coach at Union — where he was an ECAC Coach of the Year in 1997 — and then returned to Colgate as an assistant. … Colgate has been one of the ECAC’s more successful teams in nonleague games this season, going 4-3-2. … The school recently announced that it would begin awarding athletic scholarships for the first time.
Players to Watch: F Rich Hansen, Jr. (3-13–16); C Adam Tackaberry, Sr. (7-6–13); G Andy Franck, Soph. (5-4-1, 3.60, .898).
Noteable: Mercyhurst, relatively speaking, has struggled in league play compared to nonleague. It is just 4-3 in Atlantic Hockey, but 2-3-1 in nonleague games against a tough schedule that includes wins over Ohio State and Western Michigan, and a tie with Cornell, all on the road. … Adam Tackaberry is tied for the team lead with seven goals, six coming on the power play.
Players to Watch: F Eric Ortlip, Sr. (5-4–9); F Jason Guerriero, Jr. (4-4–8); G Keni Gibson, Jr. (2-7-2, 3.06, .891).
Noteable: Keni Gibson has recorded back-to-back shutouts, marking the first consecutive blankings for Northeastern since the 1956-57 season (Ed Kerr). It was also the team’s first wins of the season, against Princeton and Vermont. The Huskies still do not have a win in Hockey East play. … The Northeastern penalty kill has stopped 13 straight and 22 of the last 24. … A Northeastern player has scored his first collegiate goal in each of the last four games (Jonathan Koop, Brian Deeth, Ray Ortiz, Steve Sanders). … Northeastern scored exactly two goals in eight consecutive games, going 0-7-1 in that span. The next game, it scored just one goal, but won the game, 1-0, over Vermont.
Players to Watch: F Kevin Croxton, Soph. (6-9–15); D Scott Basiuk, Sr. (4-7–11); G Nathan Marsters, Sr. (7-4-1, 2.73, .898).
Noteable: Nathan Marsters spent his first two years getting the bulk of the playing time in goal, with Kevin Kurk as the backup. Last season, the pair wound up splitting time, until Kurk did not even make the trip to Cornell for the team’s season-ending playoff series. This season, Marsters has 12 of the team’s 15 decisions, while Kurk has two. … RPI is 5-3-1 outside the league, including an impressive sweep of St. Cloud State. … RPI plays host to the 53rd annual tournament, the oldest in the nation. Because of the ever-increasing amount of Christmas-time tournaments, including those at schools that can guarantee higher revenue to incoming teams, RPI will move the tournament to Thanksgiving time next season in hopes of attracting a higher quality field. Thanksgiving-time tournaments used to be more plentiful, but this year, there are none, and nine at Christmas time. Next year’s RPI tournament features Air Force, Findlay and Sacred Heart. The RPI tournament was also played at Thanksgiving in 1981, 1982, and 1985-87.
Colgate coach Stan Moore: “We’ve got to see if we can get used to the word It’s one of the things we’ve stressed all year. The players might be getting tired of hearing the same voice saying the same word. We’ve shown that we can play some strong games, and other times we’ve been inconsistent.”
Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin: “We’re excited. … Certainly, when you look at the traditions of RPI and Colgate, it’s exciting to be part of that field. We realize it’s a daunting task. … We’re excited and fortunate that the RPI coaching thought of us as they’re making their tournament field. Christmas break came at a good time for us [a lot of guys had the flu]. We’ve played at RPI before and to play with the likes of RPI, Northeastern and Colgate, is an honor and we’re looking forward to a good challenge.”
Moore: “We played Northeastern to a 3-3 tie in the first game of the year. I’m certain they’ve improved as a team, and I know we have. … The thing with these holiday tournaments is that it’s not just playing. It’s who is mentally ready coming off the break, and who’s able to be competitive. That first practice [Dec. 26], it’s my responsibility to make sure we’re focused on having intensity. … That’s when we work off the Christmas cake.”
Gotkin: “Clearly we’ve had peaks and valleys in 13 games. We’re still trying to figure out who we are and what team we have. We have another opportunity at rpi to hopefully learn something else. … I hope people start to count us out. People forget we only have four seniors on our team. It’s not like we have and old grizzly team. But that’s made it an interesting first half of the year.”
Analysis: Certainly not a star-studded field, but there is still plenty to play for. Northeastern is looking to continue building confidence in nonleague games. Colgate and RPI have been two of the ECAC’s better teams in nonleague play, and have conference pride on the line. Mercyhurst, meanwhile, has been the giant killer, and has another chance to make noise in that regard. RPI has had trouble in its own tournament, and might have that trouble again. Colgate looks strongest in the field.