Germain Arena, Estero, Fla., Dec. 28-29
St. Cloud State (8-9-1, 4-8-0 WCHA) vs. Maine (10-7-2, 6-3-1 Hockey East), 4:00 p.m. Tuesday
Boston College (7-3-3, 4-1-3 Hockey East) vs. Cornell (7-2-2, 4-1-1 ECAC), 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Consolation/Championship: 4:00 p.m./7:00 p.m. Wednesday
Television: CSTV, DirecTV Ch. 610
St. Cloud State
Players to watch: Dave Iannazzo, F (8-8-16); Billy Hengen, F (5-9-14); Joe Jensen, F (4-8-12); Justin Fletcher, D (4-8-12)
Notable: St. Cloud is the only unranked team in this tournament but could be considered the dark horse to win it all. The Huskies enter the tournament on a three-game losing streak, but two of those games were against No. 1 Minnesota and all three were effectively one-goal losses (the second Minnesota game was a two-goal loss with an empty net) … Last season, St. Cloud won its only in-season tournament, walking past Harvard and Providence on its way to the inaugural Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Pot championship … Part of St. Cloud’s 8-9-1 record is the fact that they play in this season’s ultra-competitive WCHA. The Huskies are 4-1-1 outside of the conference.
Players to watch: Derek Damon, F (10-7-17); Jon Jankus, F (4-10-14); Michel Leveille (5-4-9); Jimmy Howard, G (9-7-2, 2.25 GAA, .908 sv%)
Notable: Maine is looking to kick off the second half of its season better than it finished the first half. In a rematch of last year’s NCAA regional semifinal, the Black Bears fell to Harvard, 4-1, on Dec. 11 … The loss to Harvard snapped a six-game unbeaten streak, which at the time was tops in the country … After returning from the Florida College Classic, Maine will be just a week away from focusing on its league schedule. The Black Bears face Quinnipiac and the U.S. Under-18 team the weekend of Jan. 7, and then finish the year with 14 straight Hockey East games … Despite the fact that Maine might not have lived up to first-half expectations, the Black Bears still rank eighth in the nation in scoring defense. Helping that along is the nation’s fourth-ranked penalty kill (.885).
Players to watch: Patrick Eaves, F (7-10-17); Ryan Shannon, F (2-9-11); Matti Kaltiainen, G (3-3-0, 2.01 GAA, .906 sv%)
Notable: Boston College finds itself in a strange place at the midpoint of the season — looking for offense. The usually potent Eagle offense is ranked 26th in the nation, scoring at a clip of only 3.00 goals per game. Thankfully the Eagles defense, behind a steady goaltending position, has played ultra-stingy allowing only 1.92 goals per game (second in the nation behind first-round opponent Cornell) … BC entered the Christmas break without having put together three wins in a row. The last time that happened was the 1996-97 season, when BC finished 15-19-4. That year, BC didn’t win three straight all year … BC will be without the services of goaltender Cory Schneider, who is in Grand Forks, N.D., representing the United States at the World Junior Championship.
Players to watch: Matt Moulson, F (8-6-14); Shane Hynes, F (3-9-12); David McKee, G (7-2-2, 1.46 GAA, .935 sv%)
Notable: When Cornell faces off against BC in the opening round of the tournament, it will be a rematch of the 2002 NCAA Northeast Regional final which was won by Cornell, 2-1, in double overtime. It will also pit the nation’s two best defenses against one another. Cornell enters the game ranked first with a 1.45 goals against average. BC is slightly behind a 1.92 … Cornell’s season can be deemed “streaky.” The Big Red began with four straight wins before hitting a four-game winless skid (0-2-2). They closed the first half with three more wins … Specialty teams have helped move the Big Red up in the rankings. Cornell’s power play is ranked fifth in the nation and its penalty kill is second, behind only Wisconsin.
“We’re thrilled to start the second half in such a strong tournament and in warm weather, It’s great to start the second half with a team we don’t face too often [in St. Cloud]. Whether we play Cornell or Boston College [in the second game], we’ll have a strong opponent. So it’s a great way to see where we’re at.” — Maine head coach Tim Whitehead, commenting on the strength of the field in Florida.
“We’re looking at Florida as a springboard to the second half of the season. The field of Hockey East, the WCHA and the ECAC is quite a field.” — BC coach Jerry York.
“I think we’re playing pretty well right now. We had a tough result at Harvard because we ran into a hot team and a hot goalie there. They outplayed us. But other than that, we were on a pretty good run there, so we hope to pick up playing some pretty good hockey in the second half.” — Whitehead on his team’s play entering the second half.
The field at the Florida College Classic could be the best of any holiday tournament, as it’s the only one with three nationally-ranked teams. The fourth club, St. Cloud, plays in the toughest conference and is playing well entering the tournament. The translation is that handicapping this field is next to impossible. It will be interesting to see which of the nation’s two best defenses holds up in the BC-Cornell game. If Maine gets past St. Cloud, one might give the Black Bears the upper hand in the championship, provided goaltender Jimmy Howard plays his best game.