History will be made Oct. 27-28 at the St. Pete Times Forum when it hosts a four-team NCAA Division I tournament, The Lightning College Hockey Classic. Notre Dame, Army, Air Force and the University of Alabama-Huntsville will be competing in the inaugural tournament when the puck drops on Friday evening at 5 p.m.
Tampa has been a growing market for hockey ever since the Tampa Bay Lightning joined the National Hockey League. In 2012, the NCAA Frozen Four will also be held at the St. Pete Times Forum. The Embassy Suites Hotel Tampa-Downtown is serving as the official presenting sponsor of the tournament.
“As we prepare to host the NCAA Frozen Four in 2012, we look forward to establishing a regular college hockey presence in Tampa Bay,” said Ron Campbell, president of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Pete Times Forum. “Ideally we will host the College Hockey Classic each year during the holiday season but I would like to thank Notre Dame, Army, Air Force and Alabama-Huntsville, host institution for our Frozen Four, for joining us this October.”
The first games are set for Friday, Oct. 27 when the University of Alabama-Huntsville will take on Air Force at 5 p.m. That game will be followed by a tilt between Notre Dame and Army at 8 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 28 at 5 p.m., the two losing teams from Friday night will play each other and the two winning teams will compete for the Lightning Hockey Classic championship.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Army Black KnightsFriday, Oct. 27 @ 8 p.m.
Both of these teams exhibit the ability to keep the puck out of their own net with a very good defensive style of play combined with solid goaltending. Last season, the Fighting Irish only allowed 98 goals and their team’s goals-against average was 2.70. However, the Irish had a difficult time finding the back of the net on offense. Notre Dame scored just 89 times last season with 42.6 percent (38) of those goals being scored on the man-advantage. The Fighting Irish had the deadliest power play attack in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association last season, scoring at a clip of 19.5 percent (33 for 169) in that category.
The Army’s goaltending has been a strong point in the early parts of the season. Sophomore goalie Josh Kassel earned Army Athletic Association’s Athlete of the Week for his shutout performance against the Ryerson Rams. In his next start, Kessel recorded his second straight shutout, making 21 saves against American International College. Junior Luke Flicek has been the go-to forward for the Black Knights early in the season. Flicek has already recorded four goals and one assist to lead his team in points after only four games in the 2006-07 season.
The Irish have four of their top-scorers back this year in hopes of improving their scoring woes from last season. Leading the charge is last season’s CCHA All-Rookie Team selection Erik Condra, who netted six goals and 28 assists for a team high 34 points. Senior Josh Sciba, who led the Irish in scoring, returns this season trying to build on his 17 goals from a year ago. Goaltender David Brown, a senior, will be back protecting the net for Notre Dame, and he’s coming off a hot season. Brown posted a solid 2.47 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.
Air Force Falcons vs. Alabama-Huntsville Chargers
Friday, Oct. 27 @ 5 p.m.
This will be the second time that these two teams have met this year. On Oct. 8, the Falcons were able to knock off UAH 4-3 in a game played in Colorado. Air Force junior Eric Ehn led the charge for the Falcons by netting two goals, one tying goal in the impressive win over UAH. Air Force and UAH both have the ability to score. Last season’s team MVP, Eric Ehn and Andrew Ramsey, combined last year to collect 58 points for the Chargers. “Andrew [Ramsey] is undersized but very strong on his skates and is a very good college hockey player,” head coach Frank Serratore said. “Eric is a very clever and crafty player who has the slippery ability to make people miss.”
The Chargers want revenge for the loss earlier this month against the Falcons. Alabama-Huntsville had to kill off 16 minutes worth of penalty minutes against Air Force after scoring the first three goals of the game in just four minutes of action. The key for Alabama-Huntsville when they match-up will be to stay out of the penalty box and play a solid defensive game.
Sophomore goalie Jordan Erickson has been looking good early on in the season, earning College Hockey America Defensive Player of the Week honors earlier this month. Offensively, senior Bret McConnachie leads the Chargers into the 2006-07 season. He is Alabama-Huntsville’s top returning scorer from a season ago with 10 goals and 10 assists.
Any time college sports are involved, excitement is sure to follow. With college hockey coming to Tampa, the St. Pete Times Forum will be the place to be on Oct. 27 and 28.
Tampa Bay hockey fans living in the area will have their first glimpse of what to expect for the Frozen Four that is coming in 2012. Tickets are on sale at the McDonalds Box Office at the St. Pete Times Forum for all four games, including the championship game on Saturday night at 8 p.m.