COLLEGE HOCKEY PREVIEW | Circle the dates of these can’t-miss games

Ice hockey under the lights

We’ve put together games and dates to circle on your calendar along with players and teams to watch this season. Check it out every day this week. Today, Dave Dondoneau looks at can’t-miss games:

No matter who you cheer for, these are the dates of games that any hockey fan — college or otherwise — should circle on the calendar.

These are in addition to conference rivals, such as Miami (Ohio) vs. Western Michigan, Boston vs. Boston College, Yale vs. Harvard. Those are the gimmes of the hockey schedules.

These are games with universal appeal for various reasons, including potential Pairwise implications.

OCT. 14-15 | BOSTON UNIVERSITY AT DENVER

So much talent is going to be on the ice it is ridiculous. The early-season matchup could go a long way in the Pairwise rankings as both figure to contend for the national title. Check out Denver’s Will Butcher, along with BU’s Charlie McAvoy, two seasoned defensemen among the best in college hockey.


OCT. 14-15 | MINNESOTA DULUTH AT NOTRE DAME

Two teams picked at the top of their conferences. The Fighting Irish are in their final season of Hockey East play and will join the Big Ten next season. The winner will give themselves Pairwise boost. The loser will need a strong conference run. Keep an eye on Dominic Toninato, a 2012 fifth-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he is one of a handful of standouts who opted to return to college instead of join the pros.


Gage Ausmus (Courtesy UND Athletics)NOV. 4-5 | NORTH DAKOTA at MINNESOTA

One of college hockey’s best and most bitter rivalries renews for the first time since Minnesota left for the Big Ten four years ago and North Dakota joined the NCHC. In 2018, the teams meet in Las Vegas. UND senior Gage Ausmus (right) is the first two-time captain in more than two decades. The Gophers have one of toughest non-conference schedules in the country, facing St. Cloud State Oct. 21-22 and traveling to ECAC powers Clarkson and St. Lawrence the Oct. 28-29.

» Watch on ASN: TBD


NOV. 25-26 | 2016 FRIENDSHIP FOUR TOURNAMENT

Quinnipiac, St. Lawrence, UMass and Vermont will compete for the Belpot Trophy in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The tournament was a raved-about success in its first season not only for Northern Ireland, which became the first country to host an NCAA game in Europe, but also for the teams involved. Northeastern was 1-10-2 entering the tournament last season, but came together after a 3-2 overtime loss to UMass Lowell in the semifinals for a 7-1 win over Colgate that sparked a 13-game winning streak and a 22-3-3 second-half finish that ended with an NCAA quarterfinal loss to eventual national champion North Dakota. Can’t wait to see what it does for these teams. Keep an eye on Tim Clifton of Quinnipiac, who had 19 goals and 24 assists for last season’s Frozen Four runner-up team.

» Watch on ASN: Nov. 25: UMass vs. Vermont and Quinnipiac vs. St. Lawrence; Nov. 26: Consolation game TBD and championship game TBD


DEC. 3BOSTON COLLEGE vs. NORTH DAKOTA

The College Hockey Showdown game at Madison Square Garden pits two of the most successful programs in college hockey against each other. UND has won eight national titles and is the defending national champion. BC has won five. Both were in the Frozen Four last season. A bigger stage you cannot find.


JAN. 7, 14 | FROZEN FENWAY TOURNAMENT

Nothing like a little outdoor hockey in New England. The Green Monster may be turning blue with the temps, but you’ve gotta love it when old time hockey is broken out on Saturday afternoons. Boston University plays UMass, BC plays Providence, Maine takes on UConn and New Hampshire plays Northeastern. Bundle up and enjoy.


JAN. 27-28 | NORTH STAR COLLEGE CUP

A knockoff of the Beanpot, the North Star is becoming a very cool in-state battle. Minnesota Duluth squares off against Minnesota and Bemidji State takes on St. Cloud State with the winners meeting on the 28th for state bragging rights. Minnesota State sits out this season. Check on SCSU defensemen Jimmy Schuldt and Will Borgen. Schultdt is the second oldest of four brothers who play defense and Borgen is a 2015 fourth-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres.


FEB. 1, 8 | 64th ANNUAL BEANPOT TOURNAMENT

Speaking of the Beanpot, anyone looking for a hockey bucket-list item? Here it is. Games played at the historic Boston Garden on the first two Mondays of every February. Boston College takes on Harvard in one semifinal on the Feb. 1 and Boston University gets Northeastern in the nightcap. All are conference title contenders. Talk about great prep for the playoffs.


ASN’S COLLEGE HOCKEY PREVIEW

Monday: The team to beat? It might be Boston University
Tuesday: Who’s gonna fill their skates? Scorers to watch
Wednesday: Who’s gonna fill their nets? Goalies to watch
Friday: Who’s No. 1? ASN’s Elite Eight

Photo credits: Greg Ausmus courtesy North Dakota Athletics;

Dave Dondoneau

Dave Dondoneau is a freelance writer based in Honolulu. Follow him on Twitter @DakotaHI. Email him with story suggestions and comments at writingbydd@gmail.com