Hockey East holiday schedule: Tournaments, rivalries, and a record so close

With Christmas complete, the Hockey East season is back in full swing! In addition to the usual slew of holiday tournaments that several teams travel to participate in, fans can also enjoy a pair of contests in the Boston area as well as two more big ones on television.

Most important on the schedule is the Jerry York record watch as his top-ranked Boston College Eagles head to Minneapolis for the prestigious 22nd annual Mariucci Classic at the University of Minnesota. He tied the record with his 924th win on Dec. 1 against Boston University, but the Eagles drew at Providence the following week to set up the historical scenario this weekend for dates with Alabama-Huntsville and Minnesota.

UAH (3-14-1) will be meeting BC for the first time ever as it looks to top a No. 1 opponent for the second straight this season. The Chargers have won three of the last eight, after an 0-9-1 start, including a weekend sweep at the hands of Northeastern at Matthews Arena in November.

On the other hand, No. 4 Minnesota has lost just once since Nov. 9 (6-1-3), including a road weekend sweep of Vermont, and is led by Finland native and junior whiz Eric Haula (14 assists, 22 points).

A pair of Hockey East teams take to the annual Sheraton/TD Bank Catamount Cup in Burlington, Vt. as well as the Ledyard National Bank Classic in Hanover, N.H. - both annual destinations for Vermont and Dartmouth's fellow local squads.

Originally known as the Auld Lang Syne, Dartmouth's tournament has been quite successful for Hockey East teams as the league has won six titles since its inception in 1978, including Northeastern and Boston College in two of the last three. This year, the Big Green welcome No. 2 New Hampshire, UMass, and Bemidji State to Thompson Arena.

UNH has lost just twice since the start of November as it enters the weekend with a stellar 11-2-2 record, nearly doubling their up-to-date win total from last season. For the first time since 2000, the Wildcats and Big Green will be moving their rivalry away from the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester and to a campus site. UMass, which is led by junior Branden Gracel and his 13 points, have skated just once against the Beavers in 2008.

UVM welcomes Hockey East foe Merrimack, along with old ECAC friends Princeton and Union, to Gutterson Fieldhouse for this weekend's annual clash. The Green and Gold have captured their own title twice in the last four years and four times in its 17-year history.

Led by junior Mike Collins, who runs away with the team lead with 19 points, the Warriors can ensure a winning December with a victory over the Tigers on Saturday afternoon. The Warriors will face the No. 14 Dutchmen for the second time this season, after beating them in Schenectady, N.Y. to open the season Oct. 6.

Reigning Hockey East Player of the Week junior Chris McCarthy and the 4-8-4 Cats have a tough test in the opening game as they take on Union before the opponents switch. UVM is coming off a 4-4 tie at Providence last Thursday, Dec. 20, which saw McCarthy tie the game late.

For the 13th year in a row, Maine brings its sandals and skates south to Estero to take on a field of Minnesota-Duluth, co-host Cornell, and Ferris State in the Florida College Classic, which begins in primetime Friday night.

With just a 2-11-2 record and no player having scored more than seven points on the entire season, the Black Bears - led by rookie Devin Shore, a Dallas Stars draft pick - have struggled mightily but will look to upset and capture their fifth tournament title.

No. 6 Boston University heads west to No. 11 Denver for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game on Saturday at Magness Arena in a return trip from last October's 4-3 Terrier win in Agganis Arena. Freshman Matt O'Connor makes the start as he looks to help BU extend its narrow two-game edge in the all-time series. The Terriers have won four of the last five games, including two against the nation's No. 1 team and via shutout from Sean Maguire.

It is not the Beanpot, but that will not stop rivals Northeastern and No. 20 Harvard from hooking up on Saturday night as the Huskies head across the riverside to take on the Crimson at Bright Hockey Center, searching for their fourth win in the last five meetings in a series that has never seen a tie. Thanks to Luke Grenier's third-period goal last Feb. 13, the Crimson captured third place in the 60th-annual tournament, but Jim Madigan's Huskies look to keep the strong recent history going.

In its first action since Dec. 10 in a 5-0 win at Harvard, UMass-Lowell welcomes Bentley to the Tsongas Center for a Sunday afternoon affair. Falcon junior Brett Gensler is the national leader in point production with 1.73 per-game, while River Hawk rookie keeper Connor Hellebuyck has pitched two shutouts in a row.

Friday, December 28
Florida College Classic - Estero, Fla.
Maine vs. Minnesota-Duluth (7:30 p.m.)

Saturday, December 29
Northeastern at Harvard (7 p.m.)
Boston University at Denver (9 p.m., Root Sports Colorado/NESN)
Gutterson Fieldhouse Catamount Cup - Burlington, Vermont
Merrimack vs. Princeton (4 p.m.)
Vermont vs. Union (7 p.m., WCAX)
Mariucci Classic - Minneapolis, Minn.
Boston College vs. Alabama-Huntsville (5 p.m.)
Florida College Classic - Estero, Fla.
Maine vs. Cornell/Ferris State (4 or 7:30 p.m.)

Sunday, December 30
Bentley at UMass-Lowell (4 p.m.)
Ledyard National Bank Classic - Hanover, N.H.
Bemidji State vs. Massachusetts (4 p.m.)
New Hampshire at Dartmouth (7 p.m.)
Mariucci Classic - Minneapolis, Minn.
Boston College at Minnesota (8 p.m., Fox Sports North/NESN)
Gutterson Fieldhouse Catamount Cup - Burlington, Vermont
Merrimack vs. Union (4 p.m.)
Vermont vs. Princeton (7 p.m., WCAX)

Monday, December 31
Ledyard National Bank Classic - Hanover, N.H.
New Hampshire vs. Bemidji State/Massachusetts (4 p.m.)
Massachusetts at Dartmouth/vs. New Hampshire (4 or 7 p.m.)

Joshua Kummins is the Hockey East beat writer for SB Nation Boston. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKummins.

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