The 2011-12 college hockey season start off this weekend with the 15th annual Ice Breaker Tournament in Grand Forks, N.D. The North Dakota Fighting Sioux host this four-team tournament that drops the puck at 3:00 p.m. MT. In addition to North Dakota, Air Force, Boston College and Michigan State are the other participants. Air Force and North Dakota play the second game at 6:37 p.m. MT on Friday.
Air Force is the outsider in this tournament as they have yet to win an NCAA hockey championship, but the Falcons program is one the rise. They made the tournament last year as the automatic qualifier from Atlantic Hockey and took the No. 1 overall seed Yale Bulldogs to overtime before losing.
The Falcons might lack a ton of offensive firepower, but this is a defensive-team first, as USCHO's preview of the Falcons points out. Senior defensemen Scott Mathis and Tim Kirby are the expected leaders for this year. Sophomore goalie Jason Torf will be counted on to step up his game even more for the Falcons. Jacques Lamoreux's 24 goals are gone and will need to be replaced. Paul Weisgarber is the leading returning scorer with 13 goals.
The Fighting Sioux, meanwhile, are also dealing with its own absence of offense, losing 72 percent of its scoring. North Dakota, which made it to the Frozen Four in April, lost Matt Frattin's 36 goals and 60 points to graduation and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Junior Corban Knight returns after a 44-point season and will need to be the key offensive player for the Fighting Sioux.
Air Force will play either Boston College or Michigan State on Saturday afternoon at 3:05 p.m. MT.