BURRILLVILLE — Boss Arena’s loss promises to be Levy Arena’s gain next weekend.
After busing down to the University of Rhode Island the past two Christmas vacations to play in the featured eight-team, two-day Holiday Classic, Burrillville coach Steve Daigle found out two months ago that the tournament was not coming back this winter.
Scrambling to find an alternative tournament to keep his players active during the break, Daigle instead decided to create his own, and judging by the early reports, this one looks like it has the makings to be a success.
The inaugural Burrillville High School Winter Classic will take place next week at Levy, with the Broncos, Division I-Eccleston rival Barrington, and two local Division II teams, Cumberland and Lincoln, making up the entries.
“This came up quick once we found out URI wasn’t having its tournament,” Daigle said on Friday afternoon before his team’s practice at Levy. “I decided that it was about time we had one at our own rink because we have one of the nicer facilities in the state. Once we got permission from the (RIIL), we went right to work on this.”
Actually, this isn’t the first time that Burrillville is hosting a hockey tournament. Before Daigle took over as the Broncos’ head coach six years ago, Levy Arena was the home of the Woonsocket Call Classic.
And last January, the program celebrated its 75th anniversary by conducting the two-day Burrillville Education Foundation Tournament, another four-team affair that saw La Salle defeat Burrillville in the title game, 2-0.
“This is kind of a carryover from that,” added Daigle. “We had a lot of success with that tournament and we got good crowds each night, so I thought it would be good to continue that and make it something that we’d like to continue on a yearly basis around Christmas time.”
The first thing Daigle thing was pick up the other three teams, and he’s very happy with the foursome that will be facing off on Sunday, Dec. 30 and Monday, Dec. 31.
“Lincoln and Cumberland were the first (teams) to come into mind because they’re local and they’re two competitive teams,” offered Daigle. “When Lincoln was in our division, they always gave us good battles, and Cumberland beat us earlier this month in an Injury Fund game.
As for Barrington, which participated in the Division I format of the Holiday Classic with the Broncos last year and recently lost to Burrillville, 3-1, in a Dec. 8 regular-season duel, “I feel like they’re very compatible to our program,” offered Daigle. “It’s always a battle every time we play them.
The opening night will pit the Division I teams against the Division II squads. Burrillville will take on Cumberland in the 4:30 p.m. contest, and Lincoln will face Barrington in the 6:30 p.m. nightcap.
The tournament wraps up on Monday with the losing teams from Sunday taking part in a consolation game at 12:30 p.m. and the winners facing off for the tourney crown at 2 p.m. In addition to the winning team receiving a championship trophy, a tournament MVP will also skate away with some hardware.
“We’re not playing the Division II teams in the first round to have a cakewalk,” remarked Daigle. “We’re expecting close games and we’re expecting (the Division II clubs) to play their best because they’re playing Division I teams.”
If you’re looking to pick a favorite in the tournament, then the best of luck. The Broncos already beat Barrington. Cumberland beat Burrillville in their Injury Fund affair. Lincoln shut down Cumberland, 3-0, in their Division II-North showdown last Saturday. And last year in Division I, Barrington won its last meeting with Lincoln by a 6-3 score.
“We expect a battle from Cumberland,” added Daigle. “It’s nothing worth taking lightly, especially after our Injury Fund game, and I think Lincoln and Barrington is going to also be a great game.”
“That was just up-and-down, great hockey,” Cumberland coach Mark Andreozzi said of the Injury Fund contest. “Burrillville’s just a great team, so we’re looking forward to the challenge and having some fun. It’s nice to a play a game once in a while without having it mean anything in the standings.”
Once this tournament is in the books, Daigle plans to get the wheels into motion to make next year’s tourney bigger and better, and one thing he’d like to do is expand the number of teams in the tournament and maybe add one or two nearby Massachusetts teams to the field.
“I have some friends who coach (high school) teams in Mass., and when I called some of them, they told me they were already booked,” said Daigle. “What I want this year is to get the tournament going, and next year, I’ll be able to call them before season’s end and try to get them booked into the tournament.”
But before Daigle looks ahead to the future, he’s fully focused on the present and hoping to get two good games from his Broncos, who have a three-week break in their Division I schedule, from its last game, a 5-3 loss to Smithfield on Dec. 14, to its next contest, a Jan. 4 contest on Friday, Jan. 4 at Levy against Cranston West.
“This tournament works out well for us,” offered Daigle. “We still have a lot to work on. The kids are playing very individual hockey right now and they haven’t yet bought into our system the way we want them to play. But (the tournament) should help us try to get back on track once we return to Division I play.”
Before the Winter Classic gets under way, local high school hockey fans can take in some action this week at Adelard Arena for Mount St. Charles’ 17th annual Holiday Face-Off tournament -- a three-day extravaganza featuring eight of the northeast region’s best high school teams.
The Mounties repeated as tournament champs last year by winning a wild 5-4 showdown against La Salle College High of Wyndmoor, Penn. The Explorers are back in this year’s field, along with last year’s tourney semifinalists, R.I. state champion Bishop Hendricken and St. Dominic Academy of Auburn, Maine.
The rest of the field also returns in Cathedral High of Springfield, Mass., Bishop Guertin High of Nashua, N.H., St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute of Buffalo, N.Y., and Fairfield Prep of Fairfield, Conn.
The tournament gets under way on Thursday with a quadrupleheader that begins at 2 p.m. Mount will play Bishop Guertin in the 8 p.m. finale, and Hendricken will face off with La Salle College Prep at 6.
The winning teams will take part on Friday in the 6 and 8 p.m. semifinal games, while the losing teams will appear in the 2 and 4 p.m. consolation rounds. The tourney then wraps up on Saturday with the championship game at 8 p.m., the third-place game at 6, and two more consolation games at 2 and 4.