The 2010-11 holiday tourneys and why they matter

Here are capsule previews of the seven holiday tournaments in the next week:

Toyota UConn Classic

When: Wednesday, Dec. 29 and Thursday, Dec. 30

Where: Freitas Ice Forum, Storrs, Conn.

Wednesday’s schedule: Bowling Green (6-12-2) vs. Princeton (8-5), 4 p.m. EST; Holy Cross (6-7-2) at Connecticut (5-7-3), 7:15 p.m. EST

Thursday’s schedule: Consolation game, 4 p.m. EST; championship game, 7:15 p.m. EST

Why you should be interested: As usual, the UConn Classic will include an Atlantic Hockey conference game. Host Connecticut will square off against Holy Cross in the late semifinal, while Princeton will take on Bowling Green in the other. UConn has already racked up five victories after posting just seven wins all last season. Holy Cross is off to its best start in five years, currently holding down fourth place in the AHA and the top seed in the league’s east scheduling pod. Bowling Green, which won this tournament in 2005, has a combined record of 10-1 all-time against the other three teams, including 9-1 against Princeton. The Tigers, who are making their first trip ever to Storrs, are 8-2 in their last 10 games. (Chris Lerch)

Florida College Classic

When: Wednesday, Dec. 29 and Thursday, Dec. 30

Where: Germain Arena, Estero, Fla.

Wednesday’s schedule: St. Cloud State (5-11-2) vs. Cornell (4-6-1), 4 p.m. EST; No. 6 Miami (10-5-3) vs. No. 9 Maine (8-4-4), 7:30 p.m. EST

Thursday’s schedule: Consolation game, 4 p.m. EST; championship game, 7:30 p.m. EST

Why you should be interested: Most may believe that the second semifinal of the Florida College Classic might be the title game. And for good reason. No. 6. Miami will face co-host No. 9 Maine in the late game on Dec. 29, with the winner facing either St. Cloud State or the other tournament co-host, Cornell, in the title game. But it would be unwise for either the Black Bears or RedHawks to overlook their championship game matchup against either St. Cloud or Cornell. Certainly, the first half of the season wasn’t kind to either the Huskies or the Big Red. But when the tournament organizers put together this slate of teams, there was reason to believe that all four could have possibly been top-10 contenders. Don’t be surprised if the Florida College Classic, then, still boasts one of the most competitive holiday tournament fields around. (Jim Connelly)

Great Lakes Invitational

When: Wednesday, Dec. 29 and Thursday, Dec. 30

Where: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit

Wednesday’s schedule: No. 20 Colorado College (11-8-1) vs. Michigan State (6-9-3), 4 p.m. EST; No. 11 Michigan (10-5-4) vs. Michigan Tech (3-11-2), 7:30 p.m. EST

Thursday’s schedule: Consolation game, 4 p.m. EST; championship game, 7:30 p.m. EST

Why you should be interested: This year’s Great Lakes Invitational sees No. 20 Colorado College join the three perennial participants, No. 11 Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Tech, and given the season each team is having, there’s no telling whose team banner will hang in Joe Louis Arena until December 2011. Before being shut out by Nebraska-Omaha on Dec. 19 to end the first half of the season, CC won six in a row, including a two-game sweep of MTU. In the opening game of the GLI, the Tigers face the Spartans, another team that ended the first half of the season at the losing end of a blanking; MSU lost 5-0 to Michigan Dec. 11 in the Big Chill at the Big House. The Wolverines will be without Jon Merrill and Chris Brown, who are in Buffalo, N.Y., for the World Junior Championship. Michigan will play Michigan Tech in the second GLI game, and the Huskies are looking for their first win since Oct. 15, having gone 0-11-1 in their last 12. Michigan Tech’s last GLI win was a 2-1 decision over North Dakota in 2008’s third-place game. Michigan State is the defending GLI champ. (Paula C. Weston)

Ledyard Bank Tournament

When: Thursday, Dec. 30 and Friday, Dec. 31

Where: Thompson Arena, Hanover, N.H.

Thursday’s schedule: No. 5 Boston College (11-5) vs. Colgate (3-12-1), 4 p.m. EST; Mercyhurst (7-9-1) vs. Dartmouth (6-4-1), 7 p.m. EST

Friday’s schedule: Consolation game, 4 p.m. EST; championship game, 7 p.m. EST

Why you should be interested: Boston College’s seniors are already two-time champions, and led by junior illusionist Cam Atkinson, the Eagles are soaring with the country’s third-most-lethal offense. Host Dartmouth isn’t far behind, ranked seventh in the nation in offensive productivity but also boasting one of the top three goalies in the country at the moment: junior James Mello ranks second nationally in goals-against average (1.67) and save percentage (.945). Mercyhurst is inconsistent, yes, but that means it has some great outings, too: The Lakers tied Michigan on the road in the season opener, and have scored four or more goals in seven of 16 games. Look out for senior Ryan Raven and rookie Taylor Holstrom — that tandem has combined for six of ‘Hurst’s nine power-play goals. Colgate is a team falling short of expectations, but the ability is still there with a handful of stellar playmakers and veteran leaders. Senior Brian Day is both, as he has accounted for nearly a fifth of Colgate’s goals with eight in 16 games. (Brian Sullivan)

Mariucci Classic

When: Friday, Dec. 31 and Saturday, Jan. 1

Where: Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis

Friday’s schedule: No. 18 Ferris State (9-7-3) vs. Bemidji State (5-10-1), 3 p.m. CST; No. 12 Union (10-5-3) vs. No. 19 Minnesota (9-7-2), 6 p.m. CST

Saturday’s schedule: Union vs. Bemidji State, 4 p.m. CST; Ferris State vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m. CST

Why you should be interested: Even though the host Gophers traditionally dominate this tournament, this year’s Mariucci Classic could prove to be interesting. Union has the best record and highest ranking of the four teams (10-5-3; 12th). Ferris State and Minnesota are in similar boats, hanging around in the polls and both .500 in conference, while Bemidji State has been a team struggling to find its footing all season. Union could arguably be seen as the favorite here, but all of the four teams have a good chance to take the crown … particularly the Gophers, who, despite struggling, have the potential to keep with history by pulling something out to win their 13th Classic title. (Theresa Spisak)

Shillelagh Tournament

When: Saturday, Jan. 1 and Sunday, Jan. 2

Where: Sears Centre, Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Saturday’s schedule: Brown (3-4-4) vs. No. 10 Boston University (8-4-5), 3 p.m. CST; Minnesota State (6-8-4) vs. No. 12 Notre Dame (11-6-2), 6 p.m. CST

Sunday’s schedule: Minnesota State vs. Brown/Boston University, 2 p.m. CST; Notre Dame vs. Brown/Boston University, 5 p.m. CST

Why you should be interested: You might think that the Shillelagh championship game participants would be a foregone conclusion: 10th-ranked Boston University vs. 12th-ranked Notre Dame, a rematch of the Icebreaker finals which BU won. Not so fast. Brown already has road ties with BU and second-ranked New Hampshire. Minnesota State has run hot and cold (it has four-game winning and losing streaks) but recently swept No. 19 Minnesota. So even if the nationally ranked teams advance, they won’t have an easy time of it. Expect four entertaining games. (Dave Hendrickson)

Sheraton/TD Bank Catamount Cup

When: Saturday, Jan. 1 and Sunday, Jan. 2

Where: Gutterson Fieldhouse, Burlington, Vt.

Saturday’s schedule: Army (5-9-1) vs. Harvard (2-8), 4 p.m. EST; Ohio State (8-8-1) vs. Vermont (2-9-4), 7 p.m. EST

Sunday’s schedule: Ohio State vs. Army, 4 p.m.; Harvard vs. Vermont, 7 p.m.

Why you should be interested: It’s a tournament filled with teams that could really use a championship to spark a second-half surge. After seeing opponents take home the title in the first eight seasons of its tournament, Vermont has won the Catamount Cup two years in a row and three of the last five. Army and Harvard are both making their first appearance in the tournament. The Black Knights staged a minor resurgence late in the first half, going 3-3-1 after a 2-6 start. The Crimson went the other way after a 2-1 start, going into the break on a seven-game losing streak. Ohio State enters the tournament without its head coach; Mark Osiecki is on the U.S. coaching staff at the World Junior Championship and associate head coach Steve Rohlik is in charge of the Buckeyes in his absence. (Todd D. Milewski)