Site: Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum, Storrs, Conn.
Monday-Tuesday, Dec. 29-30, 2008
Participants: Merrimack, Quinnipiac, Air Force, Connecticut
Game 1: Merrimack vs. Quinnipiac, 4:00 p.m. ET Monday
Merrimack Warriors (4-8-3, 2-7-2 Hockey East)
Head coach: Mark Dennehy
Leading scorers: So. Chris Barton (4-7–11), Jr. Pat Kimball (4-4–8)
Leading netminders: Fr. Joe Cannata (2-2-3, 2,27 GAA, .922 SV%)
Quinnipiac Bobcats (7-6-1, 4-3-1 ECAC Hockey)
Head coach: Rand Pecknold
Leading scorers: Sr. Bryan Leitch (4-17–21), Sr. David Marshall (7-8–15)
Leading netminder: Fr. Nick Pisellini (6-2-1, 1.38 GAA, .948 SV%)
Game 2: Air Force at Connecticut, 7:15 p.m. ET Monday
Air Force Falcons (14-2-0, 11-1-0 Atlantic Hockey)
Head coach: Frank Serratore
Leading scorers: Jr. Jacques Lamoureux (12-12–24), Sr. Brent Olson (5-18–23), Sr. Greg Flynn (4-18–22)
Leading netminder: Jr. Andrew Volkening (14-2-0, 1.36 GAA, .943 SV%)
Connecticut Huskies (4-11-0, 3-5-0 Atlantic Hockey)
Head coach: Bruce Marshall
Leading scorers: Fr. Marcelo Ranallo (4-9–13), So. Jason Krispel (1-11–12)
Leading netminder: Jr. Beau Erickson (3-10-0, 3.84 GAA, .886 SV%)
Now in its 16th year, this season’s edition of the UConn Classic pits ECAC Hockey against Hockey East in the opening game before summoning an Atlantic Hockey opponent for host UConn in the nightcap Monday.
The first semifinal contest is Merrimack against Quinnipiac. The Warriors’ season hasn’t been long on highlights, though a Nov. 29 win over New Hampshire stands out; Merrimack has only that one win among its last seven games and stands in ninth place in Hockey East. Goaltending has been solid between Joe Cannata and junior Andrew Brathwaite, but the Warrior offense is ranked only 52nd nationally out of 58 teams, scoring an average of just 1.93 goals per game.
The Warriors’ opponents, the Bobcats, have had better fortune this season. Apart from suffering through a startling three-game scoreless streak in early November, Quinnipiac has enjoyed a solid first half. The Bobcats, 5-2-0 in their last seven entering the holiday break, are fifth in ECAC Hockey, and head coach Rand Pecknold may have found a gem in freshman netminder Nick Pisellini, who is top-three nationally in the major goaltending statistical categories. QU can score a bit as well, led by Bryan Leitch, a point-and-a-half-per-game guy through the first half of the season.
Despite now having a pair of losses — most recently its first league defeat, to RIT — Air Force remains one of the season’s most compelling stories. The 11th-ranked Falcons have talent on both ends, leading the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense, are the only men’s team in Division I averaging over four goals per game, have the top power play in conversion efficiency and are third nationwide in penalty-killing to boot. The Falcons feature three of the nation’s top 15 scorers in Jacques Lamoureux, Brent Olson and Greg Flynn, and netminder Andrew Volkening has been spectacular, ranking in the top three in the country statistically while playing nearly every minute.
UConn hosts the tournament for the 16th straight year, going all the way back to its Division III era. The Huskies, whose game against Air Force is a conference matchup for Atlantic Hockey purposes, are in last place in the AHA but have at least two games in hand on every other team in the league, and four on most. Connecticut has had trouble on both ends of the ice in 2008-09, ranking 48th of 58 Division I men’s squads in both scoring offense and scoring defense. A relatively young team, UConn has had just four seniors skate regular shifts this year, and freshman Marcelo Ranallo leads the team in scoring. Junior Beau Erickson has played most of the minutes in net, but sports a goals against average near 4 and a save percentage under .900.