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College Hockey:
Hockey East picks and preview – Dec. 27-31

Well, it’s just about the New Year, which personally I hope translates to much improved success in picking these games. To this point, I’m six games behind my elderly elder.

Seeing as there is no column this week, we decided to take a bit of an expanded look at each of the upcoming weekend’s holiday tournaments and non-league games. At the end of each will be the picks.

Jim last week (Dec. 7-20): 4-4-3
Dave last week: 5-3-3
Jim’s record-to-date: 53-33-9
Dave’s record-to-date: 59-27-9

Holiday Tournament Previews and Picks

Friday, Dec. 28 and Saturday, Dec. 29

Maine at Florida College Classic (vs. Minnesota-Duluth, Fri.; vs. Cornell/Ferris St., Sat.)

The annual Florida College Classic always brings Maine and Cornell to Naples along with two other clubs. This year’s field may be one of the tournament’s best ever as it includes last year’s national runner up, Ferris State, and the 2011 national champion Minnesota-Duluth. Unfortunately for the Black Bears, a team in need of wins, a powerhouse field isn’t exactly what the doctor ordered. The Black Bears open against Duluth, a team that has struggled at times this year. But it still seems difficult to pick the Black Bears to finish anywhere but fourth place.

Jim’s pick: If there is going to be an upset here, I’d expect it in the semifinals vs. UMD. But my pick record needs wins, not upset picks.
Semis: UMD 3, Maine 2; Final/Consol.: Cornell 4, Maine 2; Ferris State 4, Maine 1
Dave’s pick: Agreed.  I believe the Black Bears should start picking up the pace at some point — they can’t possibly be this bad all season, can they? — but I’ll start picking them when they start producing.
Semis: UMD 3, Maine 1; Final/Consol.: Cornell 3, Maine 1; Ferris State 4, Maine 1 

Saturday, Dec. 29 and Sunday, Dec. 30 – Holiday tournaments

Boston College at Mariucci Classic (Sat. vs. Alabama-Huntsville, Sun. vs. Minnesota)

One of the oldest holiday tournaments, the Mariucci Classic has produced plenty of history. But this year’s tournament could be historic for participant Boston College. One win, as most people know by now, will give the Eagles head coach Jerry York the all-time record for wins in Division I. Many remember that more than three weeks ago, the Eagles were unable to hold a late lead against Providence, denying York the record prior to the break. Now, it seems likely that the Eagles will earn the magical win far from home and possibly in front of a sparse crowd when the Eagles face Alabama-Huntsville in Saturday’s early game.

As for the tournament, the predetermined field means the Eagles are certain to face host Minnesota on the second night. The fourth team, Air Force, will not have to face the Eagles. If the pundits are correct, BC and Minnesota would win on Saturday setting up a game for the title in Saturday’s late game. But all too often, those plans seem to not work.

Jim’s pick: BC will certainly get past UAH, but Minnesota will be a tough road test, especially without Johnny Gaudreau (World Juniors).
Sat: BC 5, UAH 1; Sun: Minn. 4, BC 3
Dave’s pick: I’d be tempted to pick the Eagles to defeat Alabama-Huntsville, 52-0, using hyperbole to make clear that there is zero chance of York not getting the historic win. But I won’t kick a once-proud program when it’s down. As for the Gophers, they will be on their home ice and BC will be without Gaudreau. But I’m still sticking with the Eagles.
Sat: BC 5, UAH 0 ; Sun: BC 3, Minn. 2 (OT) 

Merrimack and Vermont at Catamount Cup (Sat: Merrimack vs. Princeton; Union at Vermont; Sun. Championship/Consolation)

Another long-standing holiday tournament is Vermont’s Catamount Cup. This year, the Cats have invited fellow Hockey East team, Merrimack, along with two ECAC members, Princeton and Union. Looking at the field, Union stands out at probably the best team on paper, but the Dutchmen struggled prior to the break, winless (0-1-3) in their last four. Princeton doesn’t enter with much of a better record having gone 0-3-2 in its last five. Merrimack is 2-0-1 in its last three, but that came after a five-game (0-4-1) winless streak. So it may be host Vermont, 2-2-1 in its last five, that is playing the best hockey. The Catamounts also have the shortest layoff, having played to a spirited 4-4 road tie at Providence on Dec. 20.

Jim’s pick: There is a part of me that really thinks this may be a Hockey East final. Though I will pick all the possible scenarios.
Semis: UVM 3, Union 2; MC 4, PU 2; Finals/Consol: UVM 4, PU 2; MC 4, UVM 3; MC 3, Union 2
Dave’s pick: I wish I could share Jim’s optimism regarding the Hockey East teams, but this looks like Union’s tournament to lose.
Semis: Union 3, UVM 2; MC 4, PU 1 ; Finals/Consol: UVM 3 PU 2; MC 4, UVM3; Union 4, MC 3

Massachusetts and New Hampshire at Ledyard Bank Classic (Sun: Bemidji St. vs. UMass; UNH at Dartmouth; Mon: Championship/Consolation)

Once known as the Auld Lang Syne tournament, with a final always played on New Year’s Eve, the Ledyard Bank Classic at Dartmouth is another tournament featuring two Hockey East teams: New Hampshire and UMass. The Wildcats enter as the prohibitive favorite having won seven of their last nine (7-1-1). Dartmouth, UNH’s in-state, non-league rival, also had a solid first half and holds a 7-2-2 record at the break. UMass and Bemidji State both struggled at times but both showed signs of brilliance, UMass with wins over both UNH and Providence and Bemidji closing the first half with a win and tie over Denver.

Jim’s pick: I think this will be a very competitive tournament, but I see the Wildcats winning in an all Hockey East final (but will pick all possible HEA options).
Semis: UNH 4, DC 2; UMass 3, BSU 2; Finals/Consol: UNH 4, BSU 1; UNH 3, UMass 1; DC 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: Again, Jim is more optimistic than I am.  I see UNH winning it all but UMass having a tougher time. The Minutemen impressed early against the strongest part of their schedule but have only one win in their last six.
Semis: UNH 3, DC 2; BSU 3, UMass 2; Finals/Consol: UNH 4, BSU 2; UNH 4, UMass 1; DC 4, UMass 1

Non-league Picks/Previews

Saturday, December 29

Boston University at Denver
The Terriers and Pioneers are teams that entered the break heading in opposite directions. BU won four it its last five, including a victory over No. 1 Boston College. Denver, after a red-hot start to the season, finished the first half winless in its last eight (0-5-3). The things that could make what seems like a lop-sided matchup closer are home ice for the Pioneers and BU being without top freshman defenseman Matt Grzelyck, who will be with Team USA at World Juniors.

Jim’s pick: Even without Grzelyck and on the road, I like BU here.
BU 4, DU 2 
Dave’s pick: Agreed 100 percent, even on the score.
BU 4, DU 2 

Northeastern at Harvard

Talk about a matchup of two struggling teams. Since beating Merrimack and Boston College to begin the season, the only other teams Northeastern has beaten are UMass and Alabama-Huntsville (which has just one win against Division I competition). The Huskies are struggling to score goals and need to find a way to break through in the second half. Harvard, a team that many had big expectations for entering the year, lost four players to the now nationally-known cheating scandal. The Crimson finished the first half with a 5-0 loss to Massachusetts-Lowell.

Jim’s pick: It almost seems like I should pick a 0-0 tie here. But I’ll go with the Huskies.
NU 2, HU 1  
Dave’s pick: I’m not bullish on the Crimson, but can’t pick the Huskies until they show me more.
HU 2, NU 1

Sunday, December 30

Bentley at Massachusetts-Lowell
UMass-Lowell began to right the ship before break after a somewhat disappointing first half of the season. Shutout wins over Northeastern and Harvard closed the first half with the River Hawks one game under .500. Bentley, from Atlantic Hockey, finished the first half two games under .500 (6-8-1) and has struggled in non-league play. One upside for Bentley is that it possesses the nation’s leading scorer in Brent Gensler, who finished the first half with 10 goals and 26 points.

Jim’s pick: Gensler or not, Bentley doesn’t have the tools to matchup with Lowell.
UML 4, Bentley 1 
Dave’s pick: Agreed. Lowell in a cakewalk.
UML 5, Bentley 1

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