The UMass hockey blog Fear The Triangle recently learned that the men's ice hockey team will be playing in the 2013 UConn Hockey Classic with Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac and host UConn. But forgive Fear The Triangle if they aren't completely blown away at the prospects of playing a holiday tournament against two AHA opponents and a ECAC program.
"I can't say I'm exactly blown away at the prospect. After going to this tourney twice, I do not look forward to it. I've never understood why UConn even has a tournament. Their facility is awful. Atmosphere is non-existent. And as a college town Storrs is pretty boring and lacks decent beer bars (though Willimantic has a good one within driving distance). And the matchups are never compelling. But UMass seems to be there every three to four years. It's almost like [UMass coach] Toot [Cahoon] feels sorry for UConn and their crappy hockey program."
FTT isn't thrilled and with good reason. There's really no benefit to playing Atlantic Hockey programs during the season. Nine times out of 10 any non-Air Force AHA program isn't under consideration for the NCAA's PairWise rankings and the program's PWR and TUC records take a hit. It's a missed opportunity, especially for Hockey East programs who wind up with precious few non-conference dates.
Jerry York knows this and does his best to fill the non-conference schedule with marquee programs that have the Eagles battle tested come March and April. Just look at this year's non-conference schedule -- the Ice Breaker, Great Lakes Invitational and Beanpot Tournaments, Denver (WCHA), at Notre Dame (CCHA) and at Yale (ECAC).
This is a big reason why BC rarely faces an Atlantic Hockey opponent in non-conference play. Of the 12 current AHA members, the Eagles have never faced five in the program's all-time history -- Bentley, Canisius, Connecticut, Robert Morris and Sacred Heart.
This whole UConn Hockey Classic got me thinking. Why should a crappy New England hockey program -- that doesn't even offer scholarships -- host a crappy holiday tournament when a program could host a better holiday tournament right in the heart of the greatest college hockey city on the planet?
There are a few mainstays on the college hockey holiday tournament scene, but the nation's premier holiday tournament is the Great Lakes Invitational co-hosted by Michigan Tech and Michigan. The GLI has been played annually since 1965.
Other holiday tournaments and host schools:
-- Ledyard National Bank Classic f.k.a Auld Lang Syne Tournament (Dartmouth)
-- Catamount Cup (Vermont), played since 1990
-- Mariucci Classic (Minnesota), played annually since 1991
-- UConn Hockey Classic (UConn), played annually since 1993
-- Florida College Classic (Maine and Cornell), played annually since 2000
Notre Dame took over hosting duties for the Lightning College Hockey Classic for the 2008-09 season, but the rebranded Shillelagh Tournament only lasted three seasons.
With six holiday tournaments on the 2011 schedule, a total of 24 of the 59 Division I-A programs participated in a holiday tournament over the Winter Break. Seems like there is room for BC to host another three programs in an annual Boston-based holiday tournament.
There will also likely be an opportunity to schedule more non-conference games after Hockey East moves back to a 22-game schedule with the additions of Notre Dame and a 12th program. Why travel to Detroit, Hanover or Minneapolis when the Eagles can host three marquee opponents over the holiday break right in their own backyard?
The trick, of course, will be to make the tournament significantly different than the annual Beanpot Tournament. But I can't imagine it would be difficult for Boston College to bring in some big-time programs to Conte Forum (or the Garden) over the Holiday break. In the new college hockey world (2013-), BC could invite an NCHC, WCHA and Big Ten Hockey Conference / ECAC program to the Heights for the holidays.
The best part? We'd never invite the drop-kick dogs from down the B Line.