Who: Alabama-Huntsville (4-9-1), Mercyhurst (9-9-2), No. 12 Minnesota-Duluth (11-6-1), Vermont (8-6-2)
When: Saturday, Jan. 2 and Sunday, Jan. 3
Where: Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt.
Tickets: Click here (new window)
Saturday’s games: Mercyhurst vs. Minnesota-Duluth, 4 p.m. Eastern; Alabama-Huntsville vs. Vermont, 7 p.m.
Sunday’s games: Semifinal losers, 4 p.m. Eastern; semifinal winners, 7 p.m.
Alabama-Huntsville started out on fire with a win over Notre Dame and then a sweep of Air Force. Since then, however, the Chargers are just 1-8-1, but do have momentum after taking three points from Robert Morris four weeks ago.
UAH doesn’t have a home for next season and all signs point to the team going the independent route.
Meanwhile, this season has seen limited scoring, though four players — Cody Campbell, Andrew Coburn, Kevin Morrison and Justin Cseter — all have four snipes apiece. Cameron Talbot, the All-CHA preseason team goalie, has played solid, but has had little offensive support.
Mercyhurst enters the tournament as one of hottest teams in the nation. After a slow start, the Lakers are 7-0-1 in their last eight games, the second-longest unbeaten streak in Division I.
The Lakers have been stellar on offense and defense during the streak, outscoring opponents 33-9. Junior Ryan Zapolski has a .925 save percentage so far this season and has allowed just over a goal a game in his last eight starts.
Junior Brandon Coccimiglio leads the team in goals (10) and points (21), followed by classmates Scott Pitt (17 points) and Steve Cameron (16).
Mercyhurst has played 95 different varsity programs in its history, which includes years as a Division II and Division III program. But Lakers have never faced Minnesota-Duluth or Vermont. Mercyhurst has played Alabama-Huntsville on eight previous occasions.
Minnesota-Duluth had mixed expectations coming into this season. The defending WCHA playoff champions lost eight players (seven to graduation), making many wonder how the team would do this year.
The answer? Pretty well, actually. The Bulldogs are in the early hunt for home ice, sitting at fourth in the league. The team has two players in the top 10 in scoring in the country — sophomore Jack Connolly (26 points, tied for sixth) and junior Justin Fontaine (24 points, tied for ninth) — who lead one of the best offenses in the WCHA.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are led from the net out, with freshman Brady Hjelle and sophomore Kenny Reiter sharing time between the pipes.
Also notable is the UMD power play, at eighth in the nation.
The Catamounts have followed up last year’s run to the Frozen Four with mixed first-semester results. Their longest winning and losing streaks have both been two games.
They have thrived both at home and outside of Hockey East, posting a 5-2-1 record at the Gutterson Fieldhouse (where they’re hosting the Catamount Classic) and a 4-1-0 mark in nonconference play.
The Vermont team defense and goaltending has run hot and cold, giving up five or more goals five times already this season while at the same time posting three shutouts. The offense has struggled at times, especially on the power play where they’ve needed two power-play goals in each of the last three games to rise to a 15.9 conversation rate.