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The desert freezes over this weekend as the puck drops on the newly named Fortress Invitational in Las Vegas.
Introduced in 2018 as the Ice Vegas Invitational, the tournament was renamed after the Vegas Golden Knights’ T-Mobile Arena, which is more commonly known as “The Fortress” to the hockey world.
The third annual outing is a four-game tournament scheduled for Jan. 3-4; the two-game preliminary round will take place on Jan. 3, followed by the consolation and championship games on Jan. 4.
Don’t miss any of the action when you can catch it all live, right here on FloHockey come first puck drop.
With four new programs highlighting the action for the third time in as many years, neither inaugural champion Arizona State nor defending champion Western Michigan will be participating in the New Year.
Friday, Jan. 3
Army West Point vs Providence | 6pm EST
The surprising play of Army has led the Black Knights to a 13-5-1 record and second place in Atlantic Hockey. The Knights are averaging 3.37 goals per game over the past eight games with 27 total goals for. Having surrendered just 18 in that span, it’s clear why they’ve suffered just one loss over their past eight contests.
While the key for any team is to play their game, the Knights will be up against a powerhouse offense and will likely be heavily reliant on netminder Trevin Kozlowski. The junior sports a .916 SV%, 2.09 GAA, one shutout, and a 13-5-1 record. Kozlowski is about to face some of the best players of the season and will be the Knights’ key to an upset on Day 1.
Despite a worse record on paper, the 10-5-4 Providence Friars have faced a much tougher schedule and have just three regulation losses through 19 games. Coming off a tie for the annual Catamount Cup title, the No. 13-ranked Friars are certain to be hungry for another shot at an in-season tournament this weekend.
Backed by the nation’s leading scorer Jack Dugan (6-29–35) and league-leading goal scorer Tyce Thompson (14-14–28) — who sits third in national scoring — the Friars pack an offensive punch the Knights haven’t seen this season.
The duo’s separation in the lineup offers to dynamic scoring lines and a collective “players to watch” and is a huge reason only four teams hold a higher goal total.
Ohio State vs Cornell | 11:30pm EST
A dangerous two-way team at Ohio State has carried the No. 6-ranked Buckeyes to a 12-4-2 record this season. The Buckeyes hold a seven-game unbeaten streak, which started with a win over No. 6 Penn State on Nov. 23.
Ohio State has been all about the defense this season, allowing the fourth-fewest goals per game at 1.78. Tommy Nappier sits among league leaders with a .937 SV%, 1.78 GAA, and .688 Win%. The junior is about to find himself in a goalie battle on Day 1 of the tournament as he faces Cornell and Matthew Galajda.
Sitting at 10-1, Cornell holds the nation’s best winning percentage at .909 percent and sits ranked at No. 4. The Big Red haven’t surrendered more than two goals in a game this season and lead the nation with an average of 1.36 goals-against per game. The Red also average the fourth most goals for per-game (3.82 goals per game).
Cornell’s impressive two-way stats point to a well-rounded team, but the aforementioned goaltender Galajda is the team’s MVP through 11 games. The junior is first with a .909 Win%, second in the nation with a 1.37 GAA, and tied for third with a .941 SV%. He’s been a machine in the crease, paving the way for the offense to take over.
Saturday, Jan. 4
Consolation Game | 8:30pm EST
Loser of Army West Point vs Providence vs. Loser of Ohio State v. Cornell
Championship Game | 12:00am EST
Winner of West Point vs Providence vs. Winner of Ohio State v. Cornell
Catch all four games of the Fortress Invitational this weekend live, right here on FloHockey as a new champion for the third time in as many years claims the title.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.