The looming Thanksgiving holiday and resultant short work week means that the standard weekly columns are on hiatus this week. Just because thats the case, however, doesnt mean the hockey is going to stop as there will be a bountiful horn of on-ice action this weekend — all of the non-conference variety.
Within the MCHA and NCHA, Lake Forest plays host to St. Olaf for two, while Marian travels to take on the University of Wisconsin-Superior and UW-Stevens Point.
Additionally, MCHA and NCHA teams will be participants in three different holiday tournaments as UW-Stout heads to Northfield, Vt. for the renowned Primelink Shootout; St. Norbert, St. Scholastica and Lawrence play host to Salem State at the Western Thanksgiving Showcase in Duluth; and Adrian hosts teams from both regions in the Hackett Builders Tournament.
With that much action going on, why not offer up a brief preview of the three tournaments?
(Editor’s note: All game times are local)
When: Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27th and 28th
Where: Kreitzberg Arena, Northfield, Vt.
Who: No. 3 Plattsburgh (6-1-0), No. 7 UW-Stout (4-2-2), No. 9 Middlebury (1-0-1), No. 10 Norwich (2-0-0)
Schedule: 11/27 — Plattsburgh v. Middlebury, 3:00 p.m.; Stout @ Norwich, 6:00 p.m.
11/28 — Third Place Game, 3:00 p.m.; Championship Game, 6:00 p.m.
About the Tournament: Without a doubt the premier Thanksgiving weekend tournament in the nation, the Primelink once again features a stellar field as all four participants are currently ranked in the top 10 nationally. Established in 1998, Plattsburgh, Norwich and Middlebury currently rotate hosting rights and the fourth team has varied since SUNY-Potsdam was dropped from the regular rotation in 2007.
Since 1999, the Primelink champion has won the national title three times and qualified for the NCAA tournament all but twice. Since its inception, seven of the 10 tournament champions have made it to at least the NCAA semifinals. Additionally, last season marked the first time since 1994 one of the three regular Primelink participants failed to appear in the national championship game.
Western schools have rounded out the field since 2006, with St. Johns participating in 2007 and St. Thomas making the trip a year ago. Both posted 0-2 marks but have been competitive: none of the losses were by more than two goals.
This year, 4-2-2 and seventh ranked UW-Stout becomes the first NCHA team to participate in the Primelink. Fresh off their first title game appearance in school history, the Blue Devils enter the national fray for the second time in eight months.
About Stout: Since dropping back-to-back home games to St. Norbert, the Blue Devils are undefeated in their last six. After downing St. Thomas and St. Marys at home, they tied twice at St. Scholastica and garnered a home sweep over Stevens Point a week ago. The prolific forward line of Scott Motz (5 goals, six assists, 11 points), Derek Hanson (3-8-11) and Joel Gaulrapp (4-6-10) has paced the attack thus far. Freshman goaltender Tom Lescovich has seen action in eight games this season and is 4-2-2 with a 2.35 goals against average and .929 save percentage
About Norwich: The host Cadets are five time winners of the Primelink and earned their most recent title in 2006. They opened up their season a week ago with conference wins over the University of New England and Southern Maine. Ten freshmen saw the ice for the Cadets last weekend and were led by forward Matt McCanns three points; five tallied at least two points. Sophomore forward Owen Carpino also posted a three point weekend. Senior goaltender Ryan Klingensmith picked up both wins last week, stopping 39 of 44 shots in the process.
About Middlebury: The defending Primelink champions, the Panthers have won the tourney five times and enter the weekend at 1-0-1 this season. They opened their campaign last weekend with a tie at Tufts and a win at Connecticut College. Like Norwich, Middlebury is also somewhat inexperienced as only five upperclassmen saw ice time a week ago. Freshman forward Mathieu Dubuc (3-1-4) and junior forward Ken Suchoski (2-1-3) lead the team in scoring. Sophomore netminder John Yanchek started both games, saving 54 of the 60 shots he faced.
About Plattsburgh: The third ranked Cardinals lost some key players from last years juggernaut, but are off to a 6-1 start nonetheless. Their lone blemish is a 5-2 loss to currently second ranked Oswego. Junior forwards Eric Satim (5-8-13) and Dylan Clarke (4-9-13) have been the Cardinals main offensive contributors, while time in goal has been split between freshmen Ryan Williams (4-0-0, 1.25, .946) and Josh Leis (2-1-0, 2.01, .889). The Cardinals have twice claimed the Primelink crown with their most recent title coming in 2007.
Western Thanksgiving Showcase
When: Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27th and 28th
Where: Mars-Lakeview Arena, Duluth, Minn.
Who: No. 1 St. Norbert (8-0-1), No. 8 St. Scholastica (3-1-2), Lawrence (6-1-0), and Salem State (3-0-0)
Schedule: 11/27 — St. Norbert v. Lawrence, 3:35 p.m.; St. Scholastica v. Salem State, 7:05 p.m.
11/28 — St. Norbert v. Salem State, 3:35 p.m.; St. Scholastica v. Lawrence, 7:05 p.m.
About the Showcase: After being hosted by St. Norbert in its inaugural year, hosting rights head to St. Scholastica this season and will be held by Lawrence next year.
MASCAC representative Salem State enters the field this season, replacing Oswego from a year ago.
Though the Showcase is not a true tournament as all four pairings are pre-determined, St. Scholastica was the winner last season as the Saints were the lone team to register two wins. The Saints scored a 4-3 overtime win over Lawrence in their Friday opener and downed Oswego 5-4 on Saturday. Interestingly, all nine goals in the Oswego game were scored in the second period.
The Lakers earned a 4-3 win over St. Norbert in last seasons Friday night main event, but the Green Knights rebounded to score a 4-0 win over Lawrence on Saturday.
About St. Norbert: The top-ranked and undefeated Green Knights enter the weekend allowing only 1.44 goals per game, tops in the nation among teams that have played more than two games. Junior goaltender B.J. OBrien has seen action in nine games thus far and is 8-0-1 with a 1.37 goals against average and .933 save percentage. Senior forwards Shane Wheeler (9-8-17) and Matt Boyd (5-7-12), along with freshman Cody Keefer (7-7-14) and junior defenseman Nick Tabisz (4-7-11) lead the Green Knights in scoring. St. Norberts meeting with Salem State will be the first in school history.
About Lawrence: The upstart Vikings are 6-1 on the season with their lone blemish being a 6-2 loss to UW-Superior two weeks ago. Junior goaltender Evan Johnson has garnered every decision this season, and posted a 3.03 goals against average and .899 save percentage in the process. Senior forward Marc Howe (9-5-14) and sophomore forward Ben DiMarco (8-6-14) lead the team in scoring, while sophomore forwards Matt Hughes (4-4-8) and Sam Johnson (4-4-8) have also made significant dents in the scoresheet. The Vikings have already defeated a NCHA team this season as they scored a 3-2 win over UW-Eau Claire to open the season.
About St. Scholastica: The eighth ranked host Saints are coming off a bye week and sit at 3-1-2 on the season. They most recently played to a pair of home ties against conference foe UW-Stout. Junior forward Riley Riddell (3-1-4) and sophomore forward Jeremy Dawes (2-2-4) lead the team in scoring. Goaltending duties have been split between sophomore Brennan Poderzay (2-1-0, 2.19, .924) and senior Zach Kleiman (1-0-2, 2.00, .919) and its unclear who will get the call this weekend. Like St. Norbert, St. Scholastica has never faced Salem State.
About Salem State: The Vikings venture to the Twin Ports holding a perfect 3-0 m