Last weekend saw a couple of teams celebrate Christmas by winning holiday tournaments to kick off the second half of the season. Both Hobart (Middlebury Classic) and Trinity (Wisconsin-Superior Invitational) got the trophy parade going, and this weekend will see ample opportunities for teams playing in five tournaments in the East. There are some interesting fields, and all of the host schools should be wary of their invited guests who would like nothing better than to pose with the championship trophy at center ice. While I will pick all the first-round match-ups in my weekly game picks, here is a preview of the tournaments this weekend.
This is the oldest official tournament in the D-II/III ranks and has not always been kind to its hosts from Massachusetts-Boston. This year, the Beacons will play Tufts in the first round. The Jumbos split their last two games with Bowdoin and Colby before the semester break and would like to get a fast start against the nationally ranked host school. The other matchup finds Cortland playing Bryn Athyn. The Red Dragons lost their last two games of the first half at home to Plattsburgh and Potsdam, while the Lions have lost three in a row to Anna Maria, Morrisville, and Wilkes. Both teams will be looking to start win streaks and have a chance to play for a very prestigious trophy. The hosts are the favorites, but based on recent history, shouldn’t take anyone too lightly.
Boston Landing Invitational
Played at Warrior Ice Arena, the practice facility of the Boston Bruins, this tournament features a very entertaining foursome. The UCHC’s Lebanon Valley will face Suffolk in the first game. Lebanon Valley finished December play on a high note with back-to-back wins over Stevenson and Chatham. The Rams also were on a high, having upset Norwich and Hobart before falling by a single goal to Skidmore to close out their first-half schedule. New England College and Nichols play the second game of the tourney. The Pilgrims closed out December with a 2-1 win over Norwich, while Nichols fell, 5-1, to Connecticut College to open their second half last weekend. On paper, Nichols would appear to be the favorite, but they need to bring their A-game to get by NEC in the first round.
Pathfinder Bank/Oswego State Hockey Classic
It is quite the group assembled for this tournament, with two nationally ranked teams matched up in the first round. Salve Regina, which was on the short end of a pair of losses at Adrian to close out December, will face the host team, who split last weekend with a strong Williams team. There is no easy path to the final for either team. Upset winner Canton, who downed Adrian on the road last weekend, will face Concordia from Wisconsin in the other first-round game. Last time out, the visitors from the West downed Marian, 2-1, to earn their first conference win in early December. The host team should be the favorite, but don’t be surprised to see one of the guests claiming hardware this weekend.
WB Mason Winter Classic at Plattsburgh
The Cardinals, who lost at Oswego on Dec. 9, would certainly like to use their own tournament as a springboard to a strong second half. They open with a resurgent Connecticut College team that routed Nichols last weekend, 5-1. The other pairing finds Manhattanville, upset winners over Trinity to close the semester, facing St. Anselm. The Hawks, at 7-8-0, have been inconsistent, but when they are on, they can compete with anyone. Plattsburgh is always tough in their own building, but don’t count out the Camels or Valiants to be surprise winners.
Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament at Norwich
The tournament name is a mouthful, and so too is the field assembled to contend for the trophy. The host Cadets have struggled to find goals in their last four games, going 2-2-0, and have scored two or fewer in three of those contests. They face a Neumann team that is winless in their last six games, with four of the losses by just a single goal. The other game finds Buffalo State from the SUNYAC facing the CCC’s Endicott Gulls. This game finds the Bengals coming in with a three-game win streak, while the Gulls have reeled off five in a row, including a convincing 5-2 win over Amherst last weekend. The Gulls may be the favorites here, even though they are visitors.
There is lots of action around the region, and with championships available, wins are a little more cherished in these holiday tournaments. Enjoy the hockey, and get a good look at which teams are starting out 2019 strong.