Tigers knock off No. 2 Denver, end 17-game winless streak against Pioneers

CC Hockey vs WisconsinColorado College bounced back from an embarrassing home loss to end a 17-game winless streak against No. 2 Denver behind a 40-save shutout by sophomore goalie Alex Leclerc at Magness Arena on Saturday.

“I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Leclerc said on 1240 AM. “We felt we let our fans and teammates down (in a 5-1 Friday loss) and we needed to bounce back. Guys were sacrificing their bodies to block shots (19) and make my life easier even though I am the one with the equipment.”

“We told ourselves that we needed to win against them,” he added. “We only had one thing on our minds and that was to come out of here with a win. We need to savor this moment of success and take that into practice and next weekend (against No. 13 Omaha).”

The win in Denver pushed CC (13-13-4, 7-10-3-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) into sixth place ahead of Omaha (15-14-1, 8-12-0) and only two points behind No. 15 and fifth-place Western Michigan (14-14-2, 9-10-1).

Tonight really helped us put ourselves in position to get home ice,” coach Mike Haviland said.

Colorado College played better as the game went on to put further pressure on the Pioneers as the early 1-0 lead held.

“It was a factor of us not being hard enough offensively,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said in a media release. “Our effort was great. I thought we skated well, we protected pucks well…but I thought they played with more desperation.”

DU pulled goalie Tanner Jaillet with about 80 seconds left but shot blocks by Westin Michaud (:20 left) and Troy Conzo (:08 remaining) helped the Tigers hold for their first win over Denver since Feb. 22, 2014 – a span of 1,424 days —  and the Tigers’ first under Haviland. The victory ended a 17-game winless streak (0-15-2).

“Tonight was a big step for us,” CC junior co-captain Andrew Farny said. “We had guys selling out all game long.”

“These guys don’t like to lose and they take it personal,” Haviland said. “We didn’t play hard enough last night but we certainly did tonight. Going 1-1-2 against the defending national champs shows the progress this program has made.”

Denver kept the puck in the CC end for most of the opening period, but it was the Tigers that entered first intermission with their initial lead of the weekend. Few at the time guessed it would prove to be the game-winner.

Conference-leading scorer Nick Halloran (41 points) scored his 18th goal of the season on the power play with 29 seconds remaining for a 1-0 lead. The power-play tally ended on 0 for 14 skid over three games.

halloran road unisIn other NCHC action, No. 11 Minnesota-Duluth downed last-place Miami 3-0 for its second shutout of the weekend against the reeling RedHawks. It is the first time in program history that Miami has been shut out for three-straight games. The scoring drought is now at 212 minutes, 1 second dating back to the second period on Friday, Feb. 9 (5-2 loss to No. 3 St. Cloud State.

No. 9 North Dakota bounced back for a road split by downing No. 13 Omaha, 3-0, and end the Mavericks’ seven-game home win streak. Cam Johnson returned to action after two games off to make his 11th career shutout (26 saves); second all-time at UND behind 15 for Karl Goehring.

League-leading St. Cloud State, ranked third in the USCHO poll but tops in the Pairwise rankings, defeated No. 15 Western Michigan 4-2 for the road sweep. The Broncos fell into in fifth place.

SCSU, which clinched home playoff ice on Friday, now has 45 standings points to second-place Denver’s 40, setting up a huge weekend series in Minnesota that will determine ownership of the Penrose Cup regular-season championship. UMD and North Dakota are tied for third with 30 points.

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About paisleyhockey
I am a freelance writer specializing in sports with 25-plus years of experience.

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