Who: Bentley (6-7-3), Connecticut (2-12-2), No. 15 Massachusetts (10-5), No. 18 Union (8-3-5)
When: Tuesday, Dec. 29 and Wednesday, Dec. 30
Where: Freitas Ice Forum, Storrs, Conn.
Tickets: Click here (new window)
Tuesday’s games: Massachusetts vs. Union, 4 p.m. Eastern; Connecticut vs. Bentley, 7:15 p.m.
Wednesday’s games: Semifinal losers, 4 p.m. Eastern; semifinal winners, 7:15 p.m.
There’s more on the line in the late semifinal of the UConn Holiday Classic than just a berth in the finals. The game between host Connecticut and Bentley also will count as an Atlantic Hockey league game. The teams have already met once this season, with Bentley coming out on top, 4-3.
The Falcons currently sit in sixth place in the Atlantic Hockey standings with a 5-4-2 league record, and an overall record of 6-7-3. Bentley has been hit hard by injuries so far this season, with first-liners Erik Perterson and Dustin Cloutier missing significant time. Coach Ryan Soderquist’s plan to platoon goaltenders Kyle Rank and Joe Calvi was interrupted on Nov. 20 when Calvi injured his ankle in warmups. Cloutier is back in the lineup, while Calvi and Peterson are on the mend and may see action this week.
Picking up the slack have been senior Marc Menzione (17 points) and freshmen Joe Campanelli and Dan Koudys (10 points each).
Rank is the main man in net, posting a 3.77 GAA. Senior Booby Preece leads a defensive corps that is shouldering more of the offensive load than it was called on to do last season. Preece has nine points while classmate Justin Kemmerer has three goals, already more than any Bentley blueliner scored last season.
Connecticut is struggling so far, off to a 2-12-1 start; 2-8-2 in league play. The Huskies are on a five-game losing streak heading into the tournament. Junior Andrew Olsen has eight points so far this season as do freshman defenseman Alex Gerke and rookie forward Sean Ambrosie.
Freshman Jeff Larson has seen the majority of time in net for the Huskies, posting a 3.45 GAA. Junior goaltender Brad McInnis missed two months due to an injury, but is back in the lineup.
Of note: This is the first time in the 17-year history of UConn’s tournament that two ranked teams are appearing.
Few teams got out of the gate any faster than UMass. The Minutemen won their first four and stood at 7-1-0 and then 9-2-0 before Thanksgiving.
However, three straight losses to teams that have spent time in the nation’s top 10 knocked UMass down a few pegs before recovering with a win to go into the break.
Despite the three-game pothole, the Minutemen share Hockey East top offense honors with Boston College (3.67 goals per game) and are none too shabby defensively with 2.73 goals allowed. Their power play converts at an impressive 27.5 percent clip.
James Marcou (5-21–26) and Casey Wellman (13-9–22) lead Hockey East in overall points and goals scored, respectively, while Justin Braun and Matthew Irwin each have provided a dozen or more points from the blue line. Irwin’s shot on the power play has been especially lethal, finding the back of the net four times.
Union has ridden shotgun next to Quinnipiac so far this season, for while the Dutchmen remain the only undefeated team in ECAC Hockey play, it’s the Bobcats who have amassed the staggering overall win totals.
That’s just fine by Union coach Nate Leaman, whose boys are playing great team hockey unbeknown to many around the country. Many would be surprised to hear that the Dutch have a true superstar, as they have been so adept at generating offense borne of depth, widespread talent, creativity and adroit system play. But a star is indeed born in the slick and stealthy Mario Valery-Trabucco, who has already amassed 10 goals and 11 assists in only 15 games. Classmate Jason Walters (seven) and sophomore Kelly Zajac (six) rank 2-3 on the team’s goal-scoring list, but don’t overlook junior Adam Presizniuk, either — the playmaker who scored 38 points in 39 games last year is eking out an improved rate so far this winter, with 15 points in 15 games.
Third-year goalie Corey Milan and frosh Keith Kinkaid have played roughly equal time, with Kinkaid (2.58 goals-against average, .908 save rate) holding the negligibly better hand. The Union power play is rumbling along at 21.2 percent for the year, but the penalty killing has been a major sore spot for Leaman & Co.: At 72 percent, either the PK will have to improve or the penalties (13 minutes a game) will have to drop accordingly.