December 27, 2009

Holiday treats in these tourneys

Congratulations. It appears we’ve all been quite well-behaved this year.

How else is it possible to explain the array of holiday tournaments we’ll be treated to during the winter break?

While home teams often position themselves with the easiest road to the finals, mostly to boost interest and ticket sales, a number of teams have been noble this year, facing tougher competition in the early round.

In the Middlebury Holiday Classic, for instance, the Panthers will face Babson early on, instead of either Southern Maine or Salve Regina, while Norwich pitted itself against Curry. I don’t think it’s any surprise that Middlebury and Norwich are annually two of New England’s best. The teams will test themselves against anyone.

The Norwich-Curry game is likely the highlight of the week with the team teams entering unbeaten and near the top of their respective leagues. Norwich is already running away with the ECAC East, while Babson is just behind Wentworth.

Ranking just behind that on our Christmas list is the Middlebury-Babson game, followed by the consolation match-ups in the Times-Argus event. Coming off what is sure to be a hard-fought first game, either Potsdam or New England College will be tough to rebound against for both the winner and the loser. Norwich always does an excellent job drawing a competitive field.

Below is a preview of all the tournament hockey on tap this holiday season.

Assumption Holiday Festival
Where: Assumption College
When: Dec. 28-30
Teams: Becker (5-5-1, 3-2), Manhattanville (8-4, 5-2), Canton (10-8), Assumption (4-5, 4-1)
Outlook: There doesn’t need to be a winner as there’s no consolation/championship round, just two games apiece. The two New England teams don’t face each other, which is too bad since their match-up looks even. Still, both get two cracks at nice out-of-region wins. It will also test the important of seasoning, as the New York teams have been together much longer.

Codfish Bowl
Where: UMass-Boston
When: Dec. 29-30
Teams: Suffolk (3-6-2, 1-2-1) vs. Southern New Hampshire (2-6-2, 0-2-1); Johnson and Wales (2-7, 2-2) vs. UMass-Boston (4-2-1, 2-2-1)
Outlook: Things shape up nicely for the hosts, as they’re the only team entering with a record over .500. The Beacons have improved their record in each of the last three years, and this tournament should only help them on their way to a fourth.

Cardinal Classic

Where: Plattsburgh State
When: Jan 1-2
Teams: Plattsburgh (7-1-2, 6-1-1) vs. Castleton State (1-5-2, 0-4-1); Trinity (4-2-1, 2-1-1) vs. Skidmore (4-4, 3-2)
Outlook: New England has fared well outside the region and Norwich handed Plattsburgh one of the three blemishes on its record, a game that Norwich won in a shootout but went down as a tie. Still, none of these New England teams have Norwich’s talent. A Trinity-Plattsburgh final would be one of the week’s more intriguing games.

Times Argus Invitational
Where: Norwich University
When: Jan 1-2
Teams: Norwich (7-0-1, 5-0-0) vs. Curry (7-0-1, 3-0-1); Potsdam (5-5-1) vs. New
England College (3-3-1, 2-3-1)
Outlook: Two unbeatens face off in the Norwich-Curry semifinal, but the way the Cadets have dominated it’s impossible to pick against them. Still, this is the week’s highlight game and could be one of the best in the second part of the season. Potsdam has been up-and-down but has an impressive tie with Plattsburgh State. We’ll take them to advance, but whomever it faces in the final will be a substantial favorite in a final that will feature an unbeaten team from New England.

Middlebury Holiday Classic
Where: Middlebury College
When: Jan. 2-3
Teams: Southern Maine (3-4-1, 2-2-1) vs. Salve Regina (1-9, 0-4); Middlebury (3-1-2, 2-0-2) vs. Babson (4-3-1, 3-2)
Outlook: The first round game between Middlebury and Babson is one of the week’s top games. A final between Southern Maine and either team would be fun, too. Southern Maine already has a 4-4 tie against the Panthers in the annual battle of the Beaneys, so it’s proven it can rise to a challenge.

Saint Michael’s Holiday Classic
Where: Saint Michael’s College
When: Jan 2-3
Teams: St. Michael’s (2-5, 2-4), Wentworth (7-0-1, 5-0-0), SUNY-Morrisville (3-8, 2-6), Hamilton (1-4-2, 1-3-2)
Outlook: There doesn’t necessarily need to be a champion in this one, as it doesn’t have championship and consolation games. Seeing how Wentworth stacks up against a NESCAC team will be the most interesting game of this event, though Hamilton isn’t exactly the best the conference has to offer. Expect Wentworth to remain unbeaten through the holiday season.

Nichols New Year’s Tournament
Where: Nichols College
When: Jan 2-3
Teams: Saint Mary’s (1-8, 1-3) vs. Nichols (5-4-1, 1-3); Lebanon Valley (0-10, 0-6) vs. Wesleyan (2-4, 1-3)
Outlook: Cover your eyes for the opening round. We feel we can say with pretty good confidence that the final will pit Nichols and Wesleyan considering their first-round opponents have one win combined. I always find the match-ups between the rank-and-file of the NESCAC and the better teams in the ECAC Northeast to be interesting so the final is worth watching.

Chris Carlson can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.