Who: No. 3 Colorado College (11-4-3), No. 4 Cornell (7-2-2), Maine (9-7-1), Princeton (4-8-1)
When: Tuesday, Dec. 29 and Wednesday, Dec. 30
Where: Germain Arena, Estero, Fla.
Tickets: Click here (new window)
Tuesday’s schedule: Princeton vs. Maine, 4 p.m. Eastern; Colorado College vs. Cornell, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday’s schedule: Semifinal losers, 4 p.m. Eastern; semifinal winners, 7:30 p.m.
About Colorado College
The Colorado College Tigers, back in Florida for their second time in three years, have been the surprise team of the WCHA this year. The team was saddled with low expectations coming into the season, given the loss of several top performers. However, the Tigers have had several people step up, most notably freshman Joe Howe between the pipes. Freshman Rylan Schwartz has stepped right in offensively, fitting in well with the likes of senior Bill Sweatt and junior Stephen Schultz.
The Tigers are undefeated away from home this year, though the tournament will mark the first time the team has competed on neutral ice. Their competition will have to watch out for their power play (fifth in the nation) and the CC penalty kill isn’t too shabby either, at 14th overall.
Over its illustrious history, Cornell Hockey has become one of the very few programs whose style can best be described as self-defining: When the Big Red is playing well, it’s playing “Cornell hockey.”
To neophytes or otherwise far-flung ignorami, this equates to titanically strong, devastating yet disciplined defensive play in front of a national-caliber goaltender. While copious low-scoring victories and black-and-blue opponents had been the Big Red’s hard-earned rewards in years past, this year’s team isn’t content with that arrangement: this squad is out for blood.
The Red still play stultifying defense, backchecking hard and hitting often, driving opponents to the areas of least resistance at the peripheries of the zone. Ben Scrivens is every inch and ounce the beast that he has been in the past three years (1.98 goals-against average, .929 save rate), but this team’s twist on “Cornell Hockey” is in the goal department: Blake Gallagher, Colin Greening & Co. are torching all comers with 3.64 goals per game, and the Big Red has scored close to half of its total goals (40) in the third period (17).
Cornell boasts five point-a-game players right now, and Gallagher (10 goals, 17 points), Greening (16 points) and Scrivens are legitimate Hobey Baker candidates in their final seasons under coach Mike Schafer.
The Black Bears got off to a shaky start, losing five of their first six games while giving up 28 goals and falling to the bottom of most, if not all, defensive rankings.
Since then, however, they’ve posted an 8-2-1 record thanks to some dramatically improved defensive play. They went into the break with a five-game winning streak during which they allowed only a single goal each contest.
They trot out Hockey East’s top power play (28.8 percent) and its No. 2 overall scorer in sophomore Gustav Nyquist (11-14–25). Maine’s penalty kill unit is tied for the league lead with four shorthanded goals.
The Tigers have been an utter puzzlement this year, falling far short of expectations to date. Like Clarkson, the Garden State icers started the season 3-2-0 before the engine block dropped out of the bus; the team is 1-6-1 since, including a 1-6-0 record on an ongoing nine-game road trip.
Guy Gadowsky has developed national-caliber chops for the Tigers in his five-plus years behind the bench at Hobey Baker Rink, but for reasons unknown the 2009-10 edition of Stripes On Ice has yet to really jell and generate the kind of jet-fuel explosiveness that has come to represent Princeton’s offense in recent years.
Perhaps still reeling from the soul-evisceration inflicted upon it by Minnesota-Duluth in the final minutes of last year’s NCAA first round, this squad just hasn’t lit the tinder under the current campaign. Defending Ken Dryden Award winner Zane Kalemba has fallen hard this time out, holding a goals-against of 3.36 and saving a mediocre rate of .903.
Senior Dan Bartlett leads the Tigers in goals (six) and points (10), and of the rest of the Princeton roster only classmate Cam MacIntyre (four) and junior Mike Kramer (four) have more than two goals apiece.
The special teams are pedestrian but not horrific (17 percent on the power play, 81 percent on the penalty kill), but while the team is throwing everything but the equipment manager at the net (36-plus shots per game), the goals just aren’t going in. At 2.08 goals scored per game, the Tigers have been pressing hard and giving up gratuitous opportunities in transition. This has led to nearly 33 shots by opponents, on average, and a cumulative 3.31 goals-against average.