Lightning Classic Preview

Site: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Fla.

Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 29-30, 2007

Participants: Rensselaer, Colorado College, Massachusetts, Notre Dame

Game 1: Massachusetts vs. Notre Dame, 5:05 p.m. ET

Massachusetts Minutemen (7-3-5, 4-2-4 Hockey East)

Head coach: Don “Toot” Cahoon

Leading scorers: Fr. James Marcou (3-10 — 13), Jr. Chris Davis (2-8 — 10)

Leading netminder: Fr. Paul Dainton (5-3-5, 2.01 GAA, .929 SV%)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-4-0, 10-2-0 CCHA)

Head coach: Jeff Jackson

Leading scorers: Jr. Erik Condra (8-14 — 22), Mark Van Guilder (8-10 — 18)

Leading netminder: Jr. Jordan Pearce (13-4-0, 2.01 GAA, .911 SV%)

Game 2: Rensselaer vs. Colorado College, 8:05 p.m. ET

Rensselaer Engineers(8-7-3, 3-3-2 ECAC)

Head coach: Seth Appert

Leading scorers: Jr. Andrei Uryadov (6-10 — 16), Fr. Tyler Helfrich (3-11 — 14)

Leading netminders: Jr. Mathias Lange (4-2-2, 1.96 GAA, .937 SV%), Sr. Jordan Alford (4-5-1, 2.72 GAA, .902 SV%)

Colorado College Tigers (11-5-0, 11-3-0 WCHA)

Head coach: Scott Owens

Leading scorers: Jr. Chad Rau (10-9 — 19), So. Bill Sweatt (4-10 — 14)

Leading netminder: Fr. Richard Bachman (10-3-0, 1.77 GAA, .939 SV%)

Tournament Outlook

This tournament was first played Oct. 28-29, 2006, and is marking its midseason debut. This Florida tournament shows off teams from each of the recent traditional “big four” conferences tourney and all four teams are ranked — three in the top 10. The first game sees No. 9 Massachusetts tangle with No. 6 Notre Dame. The Minutemen were 4-1-1 in their last six to end the first half of the season, finishing up with a 4-1 win over New Hampshire Dec. 8. UMass leading scorer, James Marcou, is one of the top rookies nationally, tied for 12th in points per game. Starting goaltender Paul Dainton is 16th nationally in goals-against average, 13th in save percentage. Defense is the strength of the stingy Minutemen, who give up just 2.07 goals per game on average (eighth), but have only the 42nd-best penalty kill in the country (88.3). UMass is a team that scores by committee: 21 Minutemen have at least one point this season, and in the first four games of the year, UMass scored 10 goals by 10 different players. Head coach Don Cahoon has never lost to Notre Dame (7-0-0), and the teams last met in 1999 when they split a pair of games in South Bend.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are another team that scores by committee in front of junior netminder Jordan Pearce. Pearce is 15th in the nation in goals-against average, 35th in save percentage. Notre Dame’s offense is third nationally, averaging 3.55 goals per game, yet none of the Irish players are among the nations top-most scorers. Leader Erik Condra is 37th nationally in points per game, Mark Van Guilder is 80th and sophomore Ryan Thang is 35th nationally in goals per game. Van Guilder is a power-play threat, with five on the season. This is the third in-season tournament for the Irish, who opened the year at the Lefty McFadden Invitational in Dayton, Ohio, and captured the Rensselaer Holiday Tournament tourney title at Thanksgiving. The Irish carry the longest winning streak in the country into the Lightning Classic (9-0-0). During that streak, the Irish were 4-0-0 at home, 4-0-0 on the road, and 1-0-0 on neutral ice.

The No. 17 Rensselaer Engineers play No. 4 Colorado College in the second match. RPI ended the first half of the season with a pair of home losses to No. 1 Miami Dec. 15-16, outscored by the RedHawks 12-4 in those contests, but held leads or were tied going into the third period of each game, and the Engineers are 2-4-0 in their last six games. Rookie Tyler Helfrich is 14th among freshmen nationally, and RPI has the 37th-best scoring offense in the country. Rensselaer’s strength is between the pipes where junior Mathias Lange and senior Jordan Alford split time. Lange is 11th nationally in goals-against average and sixth for save percentage. Alford started both games against Miami. Leading scorer Andrei Uryadov’s six-game point streak was snapped in RPI’s 7-3 loss to Miami Dec. 15, but his assist the next night was his 10th point in seven games. The Engineers are 18-42-1 all-time against teams from the WCHA, including a loss to Minnesota earlier this season in St. Paul. The Engineers are 1-6-0 against ranked teams this season, having lost to Miami twice, Minnesota, Boston College, Notre Dame and Harvard and also defeating Harvard..

The Colorado College Tigers ended their first half with a road split against conference foe St. Cloud State Dec. 14-15, but CC went 4-2-0 in its last six games. The Tigers are marking the program’s 70th anniversary this year and their first-ever appearance in Florida. CC will be without sophomore left winger Bill Sweatt, the team’s second-leading scorer, who is playing with Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championship tournament in Europe. Leading scorer junior Chad Rau, who is the WCHA point leader, carries a career-best, 10-game point streak into the classic. Rau has three mulit-goal games this season and has been in on six game-winners for the Tigers. During his 10-game streak, Rau has eight goals and six assists. CC’s 3-1 win over St. Cloud State (Dec. 15) marked the eighth time in 12 conference starts that rookie goaltender Richard Bachman allowed one or fewer goals in a game. Bachman leads all WCHA goalies in goals-against average and is tied for fourth nationally in save percentage. CC has the 12th-best scoring offense in the nation, the 10th-best defense, the 17th-best power play (18.3) and the sixth-best penalty kill (88.9).