December 28, 2011

Atlantic Hockey Journal: Huskies embrace home holiday cooking

By Allen Lessels

RIT, Army, Holy Cross and Niagara all hit the road for holiday tournaments to kick off the second half of the season.

Not Connecticut.

Forward Cole Schneider of UConn (photo: UConn Athletics)

Forward Cole Schneider of UConn (photo: UConn Athletics)

The Huskies, too, begin the second half in a festive mode and with a tournament, but they get to do it in the friendly confines of the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum in Storrs in the Toyota UConn Hockey Classic.

“It should be good,” said UConn coach Bruce Marshall. “It’s our 19th year of doing it and it’s been a pretty good thing. I like that we don’t have to travel. We have a Hockey East team coming in, an ECAC team and a great team from our league.”

Marshall, as usual, puts his team up against the other Atlantic team in the first round.

UConn and Army square off on Thursday night at 7:15 p.m. in a game that counts in the league standings and will open with a national anthem sung by Rene Rancourt, the longtime singing voice of the Boston Bruins.

Rensselaer of the ECAC and UMass-Lowell of Hockey East meet in Thursday’s first game at 4. RPI and Lowell are both in the tournament for the first time.

UConn already owns wins over Army (5-0) and Lowell (3-2 in overtime) this season.

The Huskies have won their tournament three times, most recently in 2003 when they knocked off Air Force, 1-0, in the championship game.

The other Atlantic Hockey teams playing in holiday tournaments are fanning out to a few other sites.

Holy Cross will play host Dartmouth in the first round of the Ledyard National Bank Classic on Friday night in Hanover, N.H., and then plays St. Lawrence or Merrimack on Saturday.

RIT meets Ferris State in the first game of the Sheraton/TD Bank Catamount Cup at the University of Vermont on Thursday night. The Tigers already have their assignment for the second night: They will play Lake Superior State.

Niagara competes in the Mariucci Classic at the University of Minnesota on Friday and will play the host Golden Gophers. The Purple Eagles face either Northeastern or Princeton on Saturday.

All teams will try to use the tournaments, or assorted other non-league games this weekend, to kick-start the second half of the season.
After this weekend, it’s pretty much all Atlantic Hockey, all the time, the rest of the way.

UConn, among others, has some ground to make up.

The Huskies were one of the surprises in the league last year, finishing sixth in the regular season and then advancing to the tournament semifinals.

They are ninth in the standings today, three points out of sixth and four out of fifth.

“We’ve been in a lot of one-goal games,” Marshall said. “We need to get a little more consistent. We’re not going to sneak up on teams this year. Teams are playing us a little differently, preparing for us a little differently. We’re still a young team and we’re taking a while to mature, but we’re getting there.”

Game of the Week

Holy Cross at Dartmouth, Friday

The Crusaders are headed to the Ledyard National Bank Classic for the second time in three seasons. Two years ago, Holy Cross knocked off Dartmouth, 4-2, in the consolation game. On Friday, the Crusaders and Big Green will be looking to earn a spot in Saturday’s championship game.

The winner will go up against either St. Lawrence or Merrimack, the two teams who will meet in the other semifinal.

Atlantic Hockey power rankings

1. Air Force (9-4-2, 8-2-1 AHA). . . . Tough tests ahead at Colorado College Friday, home with Denver on Saturday.

2. Robert Morris (9-6-2, 7-2-2). . . . Ohio State brings 13-4-1 record to Consul Energy Center on Friday.

3. Mercyhurst (8-8-2, 7-2-2). . . . Nardo Nagtzaam at 5-8-13 leads four freshmen in top five of scoring.

4. RIT (8-6-2, 7-4-2). . . . With 4-0 loss to Robert Morris, four losses have been by shutout.

5. Holy Cross (8-7-0, 6-4-0) . . . Crusaders play at Dartmouth on Friday night.

6. Niagara (5-5-6, 4-2-5). . . . Takes on Minnesota (14-5-1) and then Northeastern or Princeton.

7. Bentley (5-8-3, 5-3-2). . . . Plays at Yale (6-5-1) on New Year’s Day.

8. UConn (5-9-2, 4-6-1). . . . Sophomores Cole Schneider (5-12-17) and Brant Harris (11-4-15) lead in scoring.

9. Canisius (4-10-3, 4-5-2). . . . Griffs look to snap four-game skid at Colgate on Friday.

10. Army (1-8-6, 1-6-4). . . . Looks for second win at UConn Thursday night.

11. AIC (3-14-2, 2-9-2). . . AIC still idle, plays next at Rensselaer on Jan. 10.

12. Sacred Heart (1-16-1, 0-10-1). . . . Pioneers off until Jan. 6-7 series at Mercyhurst.

Allen Lessels can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.