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College Hockey:
Denver Cup Tournament Preview

Magness Arena, Denver, Jan. 1-2

Northeastern (6-8-2, 3-4-1 Hockey East) vs. Colgate (12-4-0, 5-1-0 ECAC), 4:05 p.m. MT, Saturday
Air Force (9-5-2, 3-3-0 CHA) at Denver (11-5-1, 8-3-1 WCHA), 7:05 p.m. MT, Saturday
Consolation/Championship: 4:05/7:05 MT, Sunday

Northeastern

Players to watch: Jason Guerriero, F (6-13-19); Mike Morris, F (6-9-15); Brian Swiniarski, F (7-5-12); Keni Gibson, G (6-7-2, 2.75 GAA, .910 sv%)

Notable: A season ago, it was a holiday tournament that turned the season around for Northeastern. The Huskies entered the Rensselaer Holiday tournament at 2-9-2, still without a win in Hockey East play. The Huskies went on to win that tournament and went 9-7-5 for the remainder of the season, quite the dramatic turnaround. Northeastern’s first round opponent in that game? Colgate, the same team they’ll match up with in the first round of the Denver Cup… Northeastern’s offense, which had been rolling along, hit a snag right before the holiday break. In the final four games, the Huskies scored just four goals total, dropping two to Boston College, one to Vermont and tying Mass.-Lowell… Twelve of Northeastern’s first 16 games have come against team that either have been or are currently ranked in the USCHO.com/CSTV national poll.

Colgate

Players to watch: Jon Smyth, LW (9-6-15); Kyle Wilson, C (3-12-15); Adam Mitchell, F (7-7-14); Steve Silverthorn, G (11-3-0, 2.02 GAA, .913 sv%)

Notable: Colgate currently sits 12th in the USCHO.com/CSTV poll, its highest ranking of the season… The two games in Denver will be Colgate’s final two non-league games of the year. The Raiders began the year with seven straight non-league games and 12 of the team’s first 18 games are against non-league opponents… Two of Colgate’s four losses have come against Hockey East opponents (Northeastern, Mass.-Lowell)… Though most teams schedule exhibition games against Canadian schools at the beginning of the year, Colgate waited until mid-December to play Ottawa. The game against the Gee Gees was Colgate last outing before the holiday break, a game the Raiders won, 7-1.

Air Force

Players to watch: Brandon Merkosky, F (7-9-16); Andrew Ramsey, F (5-10-12); Brian Gineo, D (5-7-12); Peter Foster, G (8-5-2, 2.07 GAA, .922 sv%)

Notable: Air Force is off to one of the best starts in school history, matching the all-time high for wins before the break with nine. The Falcons also won a school-best six consecutive road games (though one was a neutral ice game)… This is Air Force’s second tournament of the season. The Falcons won the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament by upsetting RPI, 1-0… Goaltender Peter Foster has posted some pretty impressive numbers but none more impressive than his nation’s best five shutouts… Air Force has plenty of tournament victories under its belt recently, though most came in their own tournament, the Radisson Holiday Classic, which was annually comprised of Division II and Division III level teams.

Denver

Players to watch: Gabe Gauthier, F (10-9-19); Brett Skinner, D (2-16-18); Jeff Drummond, F (8-9-17); Matt Carle, F (6-10-16)

Notable: Should the Pioneers win this year’s tournament, it will be five consecutive Denver Cup victories for the host team. That’s a feat the school has accomplished only once before in the past, winning all of the tournaments between 1992 and 1996… Denver has already faced potential day two opponent Northeastern, winning on the road, 4-2… History would say Denver is lock to beat Air Force in the opening round as the Pioneers have handed the Falcons 16 straight losses in the all-time series, including the opening rounds of the 1995 and 2000 Denver Cup tournaments. The last time Air Force beat Denver was January 15, 1980, 5-3, in Denver.

Quotable

“I think the field is strong any time the national champions are playing in a tournament…and I think they’re (Denver) playing very, very well. Northeastern is a team that beat us earlier in a heartbreaker with four seconds to go in overtime. It’ll be a great opportunity to play them again. I think Air Force can surprise teams as well. I’m thrilled to be going out there. It’s a way for us to get a little more exposure and a little bit of a better proving ground in some ways.” – Colgate coach Dan Vaughn on the field at the Denver Cup

“It’s a long season and it’s very difficult to maintain a high level of play every game. You’ve got all kinds of challenges you have to deal with from game to game. We’ve been fairly consistent over the last two months and I’m pleased with that. We’ve developed and really improved in every aspect of the game. We have nine days off this year and our guys really deserve it. I know they are going to be anxious to get back and get going after the break.” – Denver coach George Gwozdecky on his team’s play to date

“Holiday tournaments are tough because normally you’re coming in with four teams who have been off because of exams or because of the holidays. It takes a little while to get going. Traditionally, these tournaments have been a great way to get yourself back in terms of game shape. We’ve gotten off to a good start this year but we also know that the second half will be tougher than the first half because we’re going to see every team’s best game.” — Vaughn on returning from the long holiday break

“I think there’s always a little bit of an advantage for the host team, at least for that first game of the semi-finals. Any host, no matter where, will have a slight advantage in the sense that everybody is coming back from the holidays and having very few, if any practices prior to the tournament. So, when you have an opportunity to practice one more time rather than traveling during your practice time, it gives you a little bit of a slight edge.” – Gwozdecky on the advantages of hosting the tournament

Outlook

Northeastern has already beat one team in the field (Colgate) and gave Denver a good run at home. Still, traveling to Colorado and playing in a higher altitude takes any potential advantage away from the road teams. Air Force has a good out-of-conference record but hasn’t faced the likes of Denver, so chalk that up for the Pioneers, even without the altitude advantage. Denver should be capable of taking down either Northeastern or Colgate in the championship game.


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