The Vegas Golden Knights will give a nod to the team that inspired them during the 2019-20 season. Jan. 3-4, 2020, they will host the inaugural Fortress Invitational at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Invitational will feature four NCAA Division 1 hockey teams competing over a Friday and Saturday. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights will also be hosting the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Saturday as well.
The 2020 Fortress Invitational is the first time the Golden Knights will be officially hosting the event. In 2018 and 2019, the “Ice Vegas Invitational” was organized by BD Global and MGM Resorts International before the Golden Knights took over and re-dubbed it the “Fortress Invitational.”
Bill Foley drew inspiration from his alma mater when developing the Golden Knights organization, so it is only fitting that one of the teams playing in the Fortress Invitational is Army West Point. Almost every aspect of the Golden Knights, from the name to the color scheme, can be traced back to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The Army West Point Black Knights will open the tournament on Friday, Jan. 3, against Providence University. Rounding out the field, Ohio State and Cornell University will face off after the Black Knights play the Friars. Saturday will feature a triple-header with the Golden Knights and Blues kicking things off, followed by the Invitational championship and consolation games.
The Black Knights lack the credentials of the other three schools competing, as Cornell, Ohio State, and Providence all finished the 2018-19 season ranked. However, it would be in poor taste to exclude Army from a tournament hosted by a team with which they share such a connection.
Do not underestimate the Black Knights. Despite that they aren’t ranked nationally, Army was no slouch in 2018-19. As the 10th seed of 11 teams in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament, the Black Knights swept 7th seed Mercyhurst in two games to advance to the second round.
In the second round, the Black Knights pushed the top seed, and eventual champions, AIC to a full three games before being eliminated in the final game. AIC advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division 1 National Tournament. Bottom line: Army can hang with anyone in the NCAA landscape.
The other three teams in the Fortress Invitational lineup will make for an exciting tournament. The Providence Friars made their sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance in 2019, making the semifinals before falling to the eventual national champions, University of Minnesota-Duluth. The Friars’ lineup also features Golden Knights 2017 draft pick, Jack Dugan.
Ohio State finished the 2018-19 season ranked in the top 10, and appeared in the 2019 NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes’ postseason success was cut short when they were eliminated in the first round by the University of Denver. Cornell also finished the 2018-19 season in the top 10, appearing in their third consecutive NCAA tournament as well. Cornell advanced to the second round before being defeated by the Providence Friars.
Regardless of who is crowned champion of the inaugural Fortress Invitational, fans are in for a treat. Even the Golden Knights front office is excited. When the tournament was announced in August, Golden Knights president Kerry Bubolz said,
We are very excited to host the Fortress Invitational at T-Mobile Arena. The Fortress Invitational provides our fans an opportunity to see some of the best college hockey players in the country with the unique in-game experience they are accustomed to seeing at VGK home games. We look forward to this tournament becoming a college hockey tradition in Las Vegas for years to come.
Hopefully, the Golden Knights will honor their bond with the Army West Point Black Knights by inviting them to future invitationals. This year, fans will have a chance to not only see Dugan, but also Gustaf Westlund (Ohio State), 2019 VGK Development Camp invitee and Layton Ahac (Ohio State), a third-round pick by the Golden Knights in 2019.
Puck drop for Game 1 between Army and Providence will be at 5pm PT on Friday, Jan. 3, with Game 2 between Cornell and Ohio State following at 8:30pm PT. The Golden Knights and Blues will face off at 1pm PT on Saturday, Jan. 4, with the Invitational consolation and championship games following at 5:30pm PT and 9pm PT, respectively. Information on game times, tickets, and more can be found on the Vegas Golden Knights website or at the Fortress Invitational’s website.
Former Army officer and Army ACHA D2 hockey player.
Husband and father of 3.