Thursday reading: WCHA column, Winkler, Heil, Rothstein, Enga, Slavvin

I started new irregular features in the weekly WCHA column on USCHO, one focusing on an “unsung hero” for Bemidji State who has a young daughter and wife and still manages to find time to be a league academic honoree and log a lot of quality ice time for the Beavers. The Series Spotlight segment, naturally, deals with CC and Denver this weekend starting the annual battle for the Gold Pan Trophy, pictured.

CC senior Scott Winkler has the best numbers of any NCAA prospect for the Stars, especially in plus/minus.

Chicago Steel forward and CC commit Christian Heil scored two goals in 34 seconds during the third period of Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Indiana.  It gives the 18-year-old five goals over his last four games and pushed him into a tie for third in the USHL with 10 goals this season.

Future Tiger Sam Rothstein scored two goals for the Sioux Falls Stampede Saturday in the team’s USHL-leading eighth home win.

Former Tiger RJ Enga and CC commit Jaccob Slavin played key roles in Team USA’s World Junior A challenge championship. Enga served at an assistant coach while Slavin was an assistant captain.

Former Penn State club coach Joe Battista penned this column praising Air Force coach Frank Serratore and hockey people in general.

Wednesday reading: DU streak, Krushelnyski, Gold Pan previews

Denver Post beat writer Mike Chambers talks about this interesting fact in a new weekly column: The Pioneers have not been swept in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series in nearly four years — since losing 4-2 and 2-1 at St. Cloud State on Nov. 14 and 15, 2008.

It is very likely  a league record, pending confirmation.

Junior Alexander Krushelnyski, pictured at left and forever in CC lore after last year’s OT penalty shot goal, was featured by the Gazette.

Here is the Star-Tribune’s preview of the Gold Pan series and the preview from CCTigers.com.

Northeastern lost a freshman forward who had played in all nine games (two assists) to USHL Muskegon.

Tigers announce tough 2012-13 hockey schedule

Colorado College announced its 2012-13 hockey schedule this morning and it features the usual challenging nonconference and Western Collegiate Hockey Association opponents that have made the 12 straight winning seasons under 14-year head coach Scott Owens (299-185-43, .608) so impressive.

The schedule includes 16 games against seven different teams – including four Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivals – that reached the NCAA playoffs with nine of the games at the Colorado Springs World Arena, where Owens is 196-85-12 (.688).

CC travels to Air Force on Oct. 19 and does home-and-away dates against rival Denver Nov. 16-17 and Feb. 8-9. Under Owens, CC is 30-20-7 against DU including 15-8-3 at Magness Arena to claim the Gold Pan Trophy eight times in 13 seasons.

The 14 home league games also include two against NCAA Tournament entrants Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota. CC also travels to Grand Forks to conclude a challenging road stretch lasting from Dec. 8 through Jan. 18, not including winter break.

Notable nonconference home dates include a single game against Hockey East’s UMass-Lowell, which is coached by former CC assistant Norm Bazin, on Oct. 20 along with contests against Hockey East’s New Hampshire and ECAC member Yale on Thanksgiving weekend. The Tigers open play against ECAC’s Clarkson Oct. 12-13.

The Tigers look ready to play now, judging from this tweet from goalie Joe Howe:

@CCTigers: 2012-13 hockey schedule announced http://fb.me/1SnqOikO7” how many days until October? #itchingtogetbackatitalready

Season-ticket prices start at $149 and include all 20 regular-season home games plus any home playoff dates. Fans ordering prior to May 14 can receive a special discount of up to $20 on each season ticket. Season-ticket holders receive many special benefits, including a choice of the best seat locations. Interest-free payment options – including a five-month plan – are available. Renewal notices will be mailed in April.

Tiger hockey’s average home attendance of 6,754 in 2011-12 was its highest in five years.

Monday reading: Douglas, Prosser, polls, Pairwise, postseason

Minnesota Wild defenseman Nate Prosser (39) and Dallas Stars center Steve Ott (29) tangle during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Dallas, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Former Tiger Nate Prosser, pictured at left, received a two-year contract extension  according to a Monday announcement. The new paperwork changed his two-way deal, meaning he was often sent down to the AHL whenever the Wild needed roster room, to a one-way NHL deal, meaning he cannot be demoted without first going on waivers.

The Gazette looks back on what was a big weekend for Air Force and CC, which moved up to No. 10 from 11 in the Inside College Hockey rankings, the U.S. College Hockey online weekly poll and the USA Today/USA Hockey poll.

CC sits in 16th in the Pairwise rankings, which would mean the Tigers would not be in the NCAA Tournament today with the 16th spot going to the Atlantic Hockey Association playoff champion.

In the USCHO poll, Boston University is the new No. 1, just ahead of Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth, which split at Alaska-Anchorage and is 1-2-1 in its last four league games after a home tie and loss to Michigan Tech. The USA Hockey rankings have Minnesota at No. 1 followed by BU and Duluth.

Here’s an update on the new-look WCHA looking for a 10th member and a side note that the WCHA will not be back at the Xcel Energy Center in 2014. That suggests strongly that the National Collegiate Hockey Conference will hold its postseason tournament there.

Here’s an NHL.com feature on Ed Belfour.

Former CC assistants Norm Bazin and Jason Lammers continue to lead a surging UMass-Lowell team that was won 13 more games than last year.

Joey Crabb talks about the Leafs’ struggling penalty kill.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to acknowledge the passing of News 5 sports director Lee Douglas, who succumbed to kidney problems Sunday morning. I cannot say I knew him well. I wish I had.

He was always positive, pleasant and professional in my interactions with him at the Air Force press conferences and the annual hockey banquet. He was a good example for all us on how to do things right. He is missed already. RIP.

CC battles back to win Gold Pan

The Gold Pan Trophy is back where it belongs after Colorado College deliverable a memorable, gut-check performance against its hated rival.

The 11th-ranked Tigers overcame the biggest adversity they had faced this season, rallying from down 2-0 to forge a 2-2 tie and garner the annual traveling trophy from No. 13 Denver Saturday night at World Arena.

Denver jumped out to a 2-0 lead before injuries started to take a toll on the Tigers (15-9-2, 12-71 WCHA). Senior captain Nick Dineen left the game in the first period with an apparent upper body injury.

But the Tigers dug deep and found a way to win behind the heroics of Jaden Schwartz who sparked a two-goal spurt to tie the game and junior goalie Joe Howe, who later stepped in for sophomore goalie Josh Thorimbert after he was knocked out of the game in the second period after a collision from Denver’s Chris Knowlton of Colorado Springs. Thorimbert also suffered an upper body injury.

“Down 2-0, losing your captain, one of your best players and emotional leader,  tying and later losing your goalie, Josh, who was one of the hottest in the country is a lot to overcome,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said. ““We definitely earned that point and that trophy.”

Schwartz jumpstarted the Tigers and the announced crowd of 7,733 with a highlight-reel goal, weaving around two Denver defenders and beating DU goalie Juho Olkinuora high stick side with a hard-angle wrist shot to make it 2-1.

“I had speed and I caught them flat-footed, I guess,” Jaden said. “We definitely battled through adversity tonight especially after losing our captain and Thorny.”

Jaden didn’t remember when he last scored such a goal.

“You don’t really remember when you have a goal like that. But I’ll remember that for awhile,” Schwartz said.

So will the Pioneers and their fans.

“I’ll be having nightmares about the Jaden Schwartz goal,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “They had absolutely nothing going for them but that’s what great players do.”

CC rode the momentum from that four-on-four goal, tying the game with a Jeff Collett power-play goal a couple minutes later. Collett camped out in front and tipped in a Rylan Schwartz crossing pass.

The score came after senior defenseman Gabe Guentzel, who averaged 32 minutes this weekend, kept the puck in the zone. The goal stood after a short video review.

Howe made sure the two goals stood, making big save after save, including a leg pad stack in overtime to rob Daniel Doremus with 2:46 left.

“He lives for this stuff,” Guentzel said.  “We didn’t have any doubts that Howie could get the job done.”

Friday’s lines

A nagging injury has Scott Winkler scratched for Friday’s game while DU goalie Sam Brittain gets his second start in a row.

Colorado College

LW-C-RW

J. Schwartz/R. Schwartz/Collett

Krushelnyski/Dineen/Rapuzzi

Skalbeck/Civitarese/Hamburg

Wamsganz/Hall/Taft

LD-RD

Guentzel/Marciano

Harstad/Bidwill

Stoykewych/Boivin

Goalies – Thorimbert/Howe

Denver

LW-C-RW

Doremus/D. Shore/Salazar

Zucker/N. Shore/Knowlton

Dewhurst/Ostrow/Jackson

Jacobson/Tabrum/Mermis

LD-RD

Phillips/Mayfield

Ryder/Didier

LaLeggia/Lee

Goalies – Brittain/Murray/Olknuora

Friday reading: Gold Pan rivalry news, other WCHA previews and notes

No doubt, this scene will be played out a few times tonight at Magness Arena.

Big news out of Denver: Red-hot freshman Ty Loney has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. The Post also reports coach George Gwozdecky is leaning toward starting goalie Sam Brittain at home Friday.

The Gazette looks at the Gold Pan rivalry from No. 11 CC’s perspective. The Gazette also reports that sophomore Josh Thorimbert has all but sealed up the No. 1 goalie spot ahead of Joe Howe. Here’s the Post’s preview notes. The No. 13 Pioneers are on a roll headed into the series.

No. 1/2 Minnesota-Duluth travels to desperate Alaska-Anchorage this weekend. The desperate Seawolves are mired in a seven-game losing streak. Did I mention they’re desperate for a win?

Come to think of it,  the Bulldogs are plenty motivated too after falling behind No. 1/2 Minnesota, which is idle. The Gophers are losing their longtime, well regarded AD to retirement.

No. 17 North Dakota is resting up too. Here are some excellent observations about the league from the UND beat writer and more news from Grand Forks.

A confident Michigan Tech team hosts 11th-place MSU Mankato. And yes, the Huskies are aware of the dangers of a letdown.

Like CC, Bemidji State is tweaking its power play as it heads to the sixth-place Nebraska-Omaha, which needs home points to keep in the home playoff ice hunt. UNO goalie Ryan Massa is likely to be back in net this weekend. BSU’s Jordan George has emerged from Matt Read‘s shadow.

St. Cloud State has a decision to make in net as they head to Wisconsin, which needs to get on a run if it hopes for home playoff ice.

Here’s USCHO’s WCHA roundup including Jordy Christian’s season being over.

Tigers focused on power play headed into DU series

CC’s slumping power play may get a much needed jolt by a rejuvenated Jaden Schwartz, who had his first week off in some time, and a simplified approach that may minimize the first unit’s hesitation to pull the trigger.

“We’re going back to basics,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said.

The team has gone 1-for-16 in its last four games. The Tigers ares til No. 8 in Division I and second in the WCHA (23.1 percent , 25-for-108) overall for the season. CC is  first in league play at 23.8 percent (19-for-80).

“We’ve just hit a bit of a rut,” Owens said.

The talent in the loaded first power-play unit actually hurt things, captain Nick Dineen said.

“We just expected to go out there and score,” Dineen said. “We need to work hard and get the puck on net.”

The team worked on its power play Tuesday and Wednesday on the NHL practice sheet at the World Arena Ice Hall in preparation for Friday’s game at No. 13 Denver. The home-and-home series comes to Colorado Springs on Saturday.

Injuries and the flu bug bit into the team during the bye last week and limited their chances at practicing the power play.

Dineen said the team only had eight forwards and six defensemen (he didn’t mention the goalies) available at one point with the flu and some injuries left over from the Minnesota road series.

Any improvements to the power play will be tested with the return of All-WCHA goalie Sam Brittain for Denver from offseason knee surgery. His return will no doubt boost the Pioneers confidence even if the sophomore isn’t at 100 percent game shape yet, Owens said.

“We are in a good frame of mind right now,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said in his weekly press conference. “We are certainly looking forward to renewing this rivalry series with CC this weekend.”

Expect the rested Tigers to be ready.

“We’ve had an edge this week,” Dineen said. “That’s probably because we’re rested and who we’re playing this weekend.”

CC needs to garner three points this weekend to reclaim the rivalry’s Gold Pan Trophy after Denver claimed it during the 2009-10 season and kept it last year.

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