The general consensus coming into this season was that Massachusetts would take a step backwards. But in this year's wide-open Hockey East -- and with goaltender Paul Dainton performing admirably -- the Minutemen have not lost a beat. This week, the Minutemen took home some hardware, defeating Notre Dame and Colorado College by one goal each to win the Lightning College Classic, a tournament in Tampa Bay. UMass is now 9-3-5 and up to No. 8 in The Pairwise, the objective system that picks the NCAA field.
Eight different players scored in the wins including Cory Quirk, who had one goal in each game and leads the team with six. Matt Burto -- a senior who didn't even play in Friday's game -- scored the overtime game-winner in the championship. Freshman James Marcou scored his fourth of the season and leads the team with 18 points.
The trend for Don Cahoon-led teams has been poor starts and strong finishes, but this year, the Minutemen have been remarkably consistent. It's all Hockey East games from here on for UMass, and they'll get another test right away with a home-and-home against New Hampshire next week.
Michigan goalie Billy Sauer went 142 minutes without giving up a goal last weekend, as the Wolverines won the Great Lakes Invitational. The junior is a seventh-round draft pick of Colorado (2006), but was inconsistent his first two seasons with the Wolverines. This year, he is 16-2 with a 1.80 goals against average and .930 save percentage.
Also, with Miami's Nathan Davis still out of the lineup, Jarod Palmer scored twice, including the OT game winner in the opener of the Ohio Hockey Classic, and a shorthanded goal in Sunday's championship game.
In addition to Massachusetts' impressive run in Tampa, the other holiday tournaments provided some interesting results. At the Great Lakes Invitational, an upstart Michigan Tech -- looking for its first GLI win since 1980 --battled Michigan into double-overtime of the Finals before the Wolverines' Travis Turnbull scored the only goal of the game. Michigan was missing four players to the World Junior tournament, but got a boost from returning freshman Louie Caporusso, who missed six weeks with a knee injury.
Massachusetts-Lowell is coming on these days, and after a tumultuous off-season that nearly included the end of the hockey program -- is just one point out of first in Hockey East. This past weekend, the River Hawks won the Florida College Classic, beating Cornell and Maine.
Let's also give a big thumbs up to Team USA for its play so far in the World Junior championships in the Czech Republic. Led by six goals from Boston University freshman Colin Wilson, the Americans swept four games in pool play and will face Canada in the semifinals on Friday.
The U.S. lost some high-end talent in recent years -- some of whom are still eligible for this tournament but are playing in the NHL -- such as but this team is functioning strongly as a TEAM.
The big question mark --the team's goaltending -- has been answered by 18-year old Jeremy Smith, who plays in the major junior Ontario Hockey League.
This weekend, after New Hampshire defeated North Dakota 7-4 in a non-league game, UNH forward Mike Radja (who scored a career-high five points in the game) and North Dakota junior T.J. Oshie were arrested for disorderly conduct. The incident occurred in the elevator of Oshie's apartment building, though no further details were released. Oshie, a first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, was already on unsupervised probation for being a "minor in a bar" in Grand Forks last year (for which he was suspended one game). Radja was suspended indefinitely by UNH coach Dick Umile.
Then there's Colorado College, which was missing three key players for the Lightning College Classic opener (along with Billy Sweatt, who is playing for Team USA at the World Juniors). Forward Cody Lampl will miss at least the rest of the season (for undisclosed reasons), forward Derek Patrosso will sit until the WCHA playoffs under school-imposed suspensions for "student conduct," and junior center Chad Rau, the Tigers' leading scorer with 10 goals and 19 points, was given a one-game suspension by coach Scott Owens for violating a team rule. He returned Sunday for the loss to UMass.
Northeastern, coming off a win in the Badger Showdown, returns to division play in first place, but will have to win a road game against Maine this weekend to keep the top spot as the top five teams in Hockey East are separated by one point.
Also, keep an eye on Minnesota as it hosts Wayne State. This might not seem like a big deal, but the way the Gophers seem to be free-falling, it's going to be a story no matter what happens.
Adam Wodon is the Managing Editor for College Hockey News. He has covered college hockey as a writer and broadcaster for 19 years.