Last games of the calendar year. May 2012 be kinder to me in the prognostication department, among other departments.
Season to date: 65-44-14 (.585)
There are tournaments, nonconference series, two single nonconference games and one single exhibition game. I’m not calling the exhibition game.
Two CCHA teams, Ferris State and Lake Superior, are featured in this year’s Catamount Cup, hosted by Vermont and played Dec. 29-30 in Burlington, Vt. RIT rounds out the field of FSU, LSSU and Vermont.
On Dec. 29, it’s FSU vs. RIT at 4:00 p.m., LSSU vs. Vermont at 7:05 p.m. On Dec. 30, it’s LSSU vs. RIT at 4:00 p.m., FSU vs. Vermont at 7:05 p.m. All four games in the tournament can be viewed free online.
The Bulldogs (11-6-1) ended the first half of the season on a slight skid against opponents ahead of them in the rankings, having been swept by Western Michigan Dec. 2-3, and splitting a pair of 4-1 games with Notre Dame the following weekend, losing the second game.
The Lakers (11-7-2) also went 1-3-0 in December, losing two to Ohio State Dec. 2-3 and splitting with Northern Michigan the following weekend, losing 2-1 and winning 6-3.
RIT (8-6-2), currently in second place in Atlantic Hockey, went 3-2-0 in December, ending the first half with a 4-0 loss to Robert Morris. Sophomore Michael Colavecchia (5-7–12) and senior Cameron Burt (4-8–12) lead the Tigers in scoring; junior Shane Madolora (2.18 GAA, .925 SV%) has seen most of the time in the RIT net.
Vermont (3-12-1), currently in last place in Hockey East, went 0-4-0 in December, swept by Maine followed by losses to Merrimack and St. Lawrence. On Tuesday of this week, the Catamounts lost in exhibition to the Russian Red Stars, 6-1. The Catamounts are led in scoring by junior Sebastian Stålberg (7-8–15) although sophomore Connor Brickley (8-2–10) leads the team in goals; senior Rob Madore (4.22, .857) has played 12 games for Vermont.
No. 11 FSU vs. RIT and Vermont. FSU is facing each of these opponents for the first time. I’m banking on the Bulldogs’ defense and goaltending, although I have a bad feeling about RIT both nights. Picks: FSU 3-2, 4-2
No. 16 LSSU vs. Vermont and RIT. The Lakers and Cats met in 2001, when LSSU came away from Burlington as the Catamount Cup champs. LSSU and RIT have never met. Again, I’m banking on goaltending here and the confidence of the low-key team in front of Kevin Kapalka. Picks: LSSU 4-2, 4-2
Great Lakes Invitational Tournament
The traditional field of Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Tech is graced by Boston College this year in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. I’m glad I’m one of the USCHO crew covering this one, especially since the only game being televised is Thursday night’s match between Michigan and Boston College. You may watch free video stream of the nontelevised games, thanks to the Huskies.
The Wolverines (9-8-3) snapped a seven-game winless streak with a 1-0 win over Alaska Dec. 3, after dropping the opener in that series the night before. They finished the first half with a win and tie against Michigan State Dec. 9-10.
The Spartans (10-6-2) were 2-1-1 in December, having swept Bowling Green the weekend before that loss and tie vs. Michigan.
Michigan Tech (9-9-1), currently tied for sixth in the WCHA standings, went 1-4-0 in December, the lone win coming in overtime against Minnesota Dec. 9. Three Huskies — senior Brett Olson and freshmen Tanner Kero and Blake Pietila — have six goals each, with Olson (6-13–19) leading the team in scoring, but junior Milos Gordic leads the team in goals with seven; senior Josh Robinson (2.72, .914) has played 16 games for MTU this season.
Boston College (12-6-0) tops the Hockey East standings, and the Eagles finished the first half with a 2-2-0 record in December, splitting a series with Boston University Dec. 2-3 before beating Providence Dec. 6 and losing to Massachusetts-Lowell by a goal Dec. 9. The Eagles have three players with double-digit goals: junior Chris Kreider (12-11–23), sophomore Bill Arnold (11-9–20) and senior Barry Almeida (10-5–15).
No. 14 MSU vs. MTU. This is the first game of the tournament, at 4:05 p.m. Dec. 29. The Spartans have won 12 of the last 13 meetings between these teams. While the Huskies are much improved under first-year head coach Mel Pearson, I think the Spartans are more improved under first-year head coach Tom Anastos. Pick: MSU 4-2.
No. 3 BC vs. No. 20 UM. This is the second game of the tournament, at 7:35 p.m. Dec. 29. Not only are the Wolverines struggling this season, but they do not fare well against teams with “Boston” in their names. I would be shocked if Michigan were to win this. Pick: BC 4-2
Consolation and title games. These are at 4:05 p.m. and 7:35 p.m., respectively, Dec. 30. Obviously, I’m predicting that UM and MTU will meet in the first game, MSU and BC in the second. Picks: UM 4-3, BC 3-2
BGSU at BSU. The Falcons (6-11-3) are looking for their first win since Nov. 12, although their current seven-game winless streak includes two ties. The Beavers (9-9-2) are in seventh place in the WCHA. BSU went 4-1-1 in December, finishing on a three-game win streak that included a sweep of Alabama-Huntsville Dec. 16-17. Junior Jordan George (11-6–17) leads the Beavers in goals and is tied with senior Brad Hunt (4-13–17) in scoring. Senior Dan Bakala (.287, .905) and freshmen Andrew Walsh (1.98, .932) have both played this season. This is a Friday-Saturday series, with games beginning at 7:05 p.m. local time. The teams have never met. Picks: BSU 3-2, 3-1
No. 9 BU vs. No. 5 ND. Boston University (10-5-1), currently in second place in Hockey East, went 3-1-0 in December, finishing the first half with one win each against New Hampshire and Maine. The Terriers are led in both scoring and goal production by senior Corey Trivino (13-4–17); senior Kieran Millan (2.68, .917) has played 14 games. After skidding through the first three games of December, the Fighting Irish (11-6-3) won their final game of the first half Dec. 10, during a weekend in which they split a pair of 4-1 games with Ferris State. The Terriers are 3-1-1 all-time vs. ND. This game is Saturday at 7:05 p.m., and it’s carried by Versus. Pick: BU 4-2
No. 4 OSU vs. RMU. The Buckeyes (13-4-1) went 3-1-0 in December, with a split against Miami Dec. 9-10. The Colonials (9-6-2) are currently tied for second place in Atlantic Hockey. RMU rides an eight-game unbeaten streak (6-0-2) into this game at the Console Energy Center in Pittsburgh Friday night; the Colonials ended the first half with a 4-0 win over RIT. Senior Cody Crichton (3-12–15) leads RMU in scoring, but freshman Cody Wydo has the most goals for RMU (8); senior Brooks Ostergard (2.44, .931) has played 11 games this season, but junior Eric Levine (2.52, .923) started as recently as Dec. 3. The Buckeyes lost to the Colonials in Columbus, 4-3, Oct. 15, 2010. This game begins at 7:35 p.m. Pick: OSU 3-2
No. 8 WMU vs. SCSU. The Broncos (9-4-5) have a five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2) dating back to Nov. 22 heading into this two-game series. They finished the first half with a tie and win against Bowling Green. The Huskies (7-9-4), tied for sixth in the WCHA, snapped a six-game winless streak (0-3-3) with a win over Denver Dec. 17. Junior Ben Hanowski (12-10–22) is SCSU’s leading scorer; freshman Ryan Faragher (2.91, .907) has played 15 games for the Huskies. This is a Thursday-Friday series, with games beginning at 7:05 p.m. local time. These teams have never met. Picks: WMU 3-2, 4-2
Russian Red Stars vs. NMU. I’m not picking this one, as I said. However, if you want to read a little more about the Red Stars, read Dave Saunders’ article from last week.