It was the season of holiday tournaments, which produced some interesting inter-conference match-ups and some pretty strange results. I doubled my annual holiday tournament intake, making it to the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit and the Shillelagh Tournament in not-really-that-close-to-Chicago.
Michigan won a pretty wild 6-5 championship game over Colorado College in the GLI final. The Tigers held a 5-4 lead deep into the third period, before the officials missed a pretty blatant infraction by Michigan on one end of the ice, and called a pretty soft penalty on Colorado College on the other end of the ice. Michigan tied the game on the resulting power play, and scored a weird goal for the game-winner.
Prior to the tournament, I would have guessed Colorado College losing Jaden Schwartz to the World Juniors would be the biggest loss of the tournament, but the Tigers offense, especially on the power play looked pretty solid even without him, which is good since he broke his ankle at the World Juniors and will miss a significant amount of time. Stephen Schultz really stepped up in his absence and had a great tournament. He's quietly developed into one of the WCHA's best pure scorers.
The loss that seemed to hurt the most was Michigan having to play without Jon Merrill. For all the talent on the Michigan blue line, they had surprisingly few options that inspired any sort of confidence out on the ice late in a one-goal game. The positive for Michigan was that their forward depth really shined through in the tournament with players like Lindsay Sparks, Jeff Rohrkemper, and Luke Glendening--who is a line-up regular, but not a big scorer--chipping in some big goals on the weekend.
Meanwhile, Michigan Tech extended their nightmarish losing streak to 13 games with losses to Michigan and Michigan State. About the only positive for Michigan Tech right now is that they've actually got a really great group of freshman right now that could some day transform this program. But right now, with some very good, experienced players in Brett Olson, Jordan Baker, and Bennett Royer out of the lineup for the Huskies, there's just not enough firepower to be competitive.
To give you some idea of the terrain near the Sears Centre in technically-still-the-same-state-as-Chicago, on the quarter mile stretch of road between the Panda Express and the 5000-space parking lot of the arena, I saw two deer on the side of the road, standing underneath the glowing light of a Cabela's billboard advertising 50% off guns. In the battle for the habitat, I think it's safe to say humanity has won by a landslide.
Looking at the Shillelagh Tournament beforehand, I think most people expected a Notre Dame-Boston University match-up on Sunday night, which is what they got, although by that point, the championship trophy had already been handed out to Minnesota State. It was kind of strange seeing an All-tournament team named when 25% of the tournament had yet to be played.
I didn't necessarily subscribe to the comparisons earlier this year between this year's Minnesota State team, and the very good team three years ago that was screwed out of an NCAA tournament appearance. Both teams went on crazy road trips in the first half of the season and struggled early in WCHA play. But after winning six of their last eight games, this year's Minnesota State team looks like they're building off their tough start in much the same way they did in 2008.
Discussion of the other midseason tournaments comes after the jump.
Ohio State picked up a pair of wins in Vermont while head coach Mark Osiecki was helping out with the US World Junior team. The Buckeyes have now won five of their last six games.
After winning just one of their last nine games, St. Cloud State rallied from a 3-0 deficit against Cornell to win 4-3 in overtime, and then defeating Miami 4-3 the next night, despite being outshot by a pretty wide margin.
Bemidji State was the big winner at the Dodge Holiday in Minneapolis, picking up victories over Ferris State and Union. Minnesota, meanwhile, lost to Union in the first game, and tied Ferris State in the second game. Technically, both Union and Ferris State are ranked higher than Minnesota, so it's not terrible to go without a win, but I'm sure telling Gopher fans that schools like Union and Ferris State have surpassed their program is little consolation.
Minnesota-Duluth played their first game at AmSoil Arena and were destroyed 5-0 by North Dakota. They had to play the new goal horn at the arena after the game was over, just so everyone could hear what it sounded like, which is kind of depressing. The Bulldogs won at Clarkson last night, and will play there again tonight.
Wisconsin abandoned their holiday tournament format, and just beat Massachusetts twice in a pair of games at home.
Bowling Green traveled to Connecticut for a tournament and after losing to Princeton in the first game, came back with an overtime win over Holy Cross.
Despite missing a couple key contributors to the World Juniors, Denver managed a win and a tie at home against Northern Michigan.
Lake Superior is apparently playing in the wrong country, as they won two exhibition games against Canadian college Nipissing, and defeated Ottawa 11-1.They'll play two more exhibitions against CIS teams later this week.
Nebraska-Omaha has hit a rough patch after their great start. They were swept at home by Quinnipiac.