Slow start sinks Tigers in loss to rival Denver

CC Hockey vs Wisconsin

Colorado College vs Wisconsin, Broadmoor World Arena, Nov. 25, 2016

Colorado College came out flat and Denver took advantage for an early goal that proved to be the difference in a 1-0 road win for the Pioneers on Tuesday night.

“We struggled as a team to get a grip (on) the game and once we did we had a chance to win,” said junior goalie Alex Leclerc (29 saves). “It was a winnable hockey game. Unfortunately we did not have that extra gear to push more and get on top of things and put the puck the in the back of the net.”

Sixth-ranked Denver went ahead 1-0 on junior Tyson McLelean’s first goal of the season after a perfect tape-to-tape pass from linemate Jake Durflinger. The tally with 12:12 left in the first period came after Denver (18-8-4, 10-8-2-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) was unable to convert two unforced CC turnovers in the Tigers zone.

“In the first half we weren’t timid but we were standing around thinking it would be like the (five-goal) third period the other night (an 8-2 win over Western Michigan),” CC coach Mike Haviland said. “We have to learn that we need to play that hard all the time. When we did, we could not get the equalizer. Hopefully lesson learned there.”

The Pioneers controlled play for most of the second period as well with Tigers goalie Alex Leclerc (29 saves) making 25 stop (13 in first) through the first 40 minutes.

“Our forwards were turning it over nonchalant and Clarky kept us in it,” Haviland said. “I wanted to see some more bite in the second period and not see us wait until the third.”

Denver did a good job forcing the CC puckhandler out along the boards to limit their chances and kept the ice clear in front of the DU net to frustrate the sixth-place Tigers (12-16-4, 6-11-3-0 NCHC).

“We didn’t have that bite to go to the net early on,“ Haviland said. “We did as the game went on. They certainly did a good job and kept us to the outside and did not give us many chances. That’s a will we need to have for the (full) 60 (minutes).”

“You have to want to step up and have the will to show up and play your best,” Leclerc said. “Those games against Denver are circled on our calendar. If you don’t want to win the trophy you shouldn’t play the game of hockey.”

CC’s lackluster first and second periods helped Denver goalie Devin Cooley record a 24-save shutout. CC came closest to ending the shutout in the opening 40 minutes was when senior Mason Bergh rifled a shorthanded breakaway shot off the crossbar midway through the second.

Unfortunately for the Tigers and most of the announced crowd of 4,499 at World Arena, the improved play in the third period was not enough. Denver, current holders of the Gold Plan Trophy, now lead the season series 1-0-1. The series resumes on March 8 at Magness Arena.

Ice chips

Friday’s home game versus No. 20 North Dakota will be televised on CBS Sports Network. CBS SN play-by-play man Dave Starman attended Tuesday’s game. … The contest was held 39 days after the series opener was rescheduled because the Pioneers bus could not make it to Colorado Springs due to a blizzard. The teams skated to a 4-4 tie the next night (Jan. 19) in Denver.

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Late-game woes trip up Tigers in home OT loss to No. 8 Western Michigan

cc vs wmu2Colorado College’s third-period and overtime woes continued as No. 8 Western Michigan rallied for a 5-4 OT victory Friday night.

Hugh McGing scored 18 seconds into overtime to complete the rally after the Broncos trailed 4-2 early in the third period at The Broadmoor World Arena.

“They are the best team in the second half in the country so they have players who can make plays,” CC coach Mike Haviland said. “I guarantee you that Clarky (senior goalie Alex Leclerc, 24 saves) would want two of those back. It happens. It’s a work in progress obviously.”

CC has been outscored by a combined 37-23 margin, including a 5-0 deficit in OT, in the third and overtime periods this season. In contrast, CC has outscored its foes by a 69-51 margin (36-23, first) during the first two periods.

McGing scored his first goal to cut the Tigers lead to 4-3 with 18:14 left in the third before Austin Rueschhoff scored less than five minutes later to tie a game in which CC (11-15-4, 5-10-3-0) did not trail until the very end.

WMU senior goalie Trevor Gorsuch (29 saves, 11 in third) maintained the tie despite a flurry of CC scoring chances over the final seven minutes of regulation.

“We had two breakaways in third?” Haviland said. “We got to finish. We had chances to score and we didn’t score. It’s something we will continue to work on. That’s where we’re at. Close the game out. We’re all in this together.”

CC senior Trey Bradley continued to be the Tigers’ catalyst on offense, assisting the first two goals and scoring the third. Junior Chris Wilkie scored the opening goal and added two assists as well over the first two periods.

“We played a good 40 minutes there,” Wilkie said. “I wish I had answers for what goes in in the third. It’s getting to the point where it’s pretty frustrating. We just have to get back to work (Saturday) and come out with three points.”

Bradley put sixth-place CC ahead 3-1 with 4:34 left in the second period when his shot was stopped on a superb diving save by Gorsuch. But the sprawled netminder could not recover in time. The puck went behind the WMU net, where Bradley tracked it down and then fired a banked shot off a Broncos defenseman on a wraparound attempt.

Late in the first, Bradley skated in through the left faceoff circle and flipped the puck off Gorsuch’s left shoulder from a hard angle.

The goalie was unable to corral the puck and Westin Michaud poked in the rebound for a 2-1 lead with 1:44 remaining. Bradley set up the National Collegiate Hockey Conference game’s opening goal after Zach Berzolla forced a WMU turnover at central ice midway through the first period.

Berzolla chipped the puck ahead to Bradley who started the 2-on-1 rush and then passed over to Wilkie, who ripped a one-timer with 10:11 remaining to make it 1-0 in the first shot on goal for the hosts.

Second-place WMU (18-10-1, 11-7-1-1 NCHC) would answer quickly, with Cam Lee scoring about a minute later on an unassisted goal to tie the game early. Ethen Franks scored Western’s second goal three minutes after Bradley’s tally to make it 3-2 entering the third.

Ben Copeland put CC ahead 4-2 early in the third period when he skated across the slot and lifted the puck past Gorsuch’s glove attempt with 18:14 left.

Ice chips

Friday’s game started a five-game homestand and a stretch of six Tigers home games in seven NCHC contests to close out the regular season. … Mason Bergh now has 95 career points (41 goals) and is 84th all-time in program history. The last Tiger to crack the Century Club (100 points) was Alex Krushelnyski on Feb. 22, 2014. … CC has allowed 17 goals in 11 wins this season while getting touched for 71 in the other 19 games (0-15-4).

“Heart-wrenching loss” for Tigers as No. 1 Huskies rally to win in OT

CruickshankCCH_Miami111618_030_webColorado College could not hold off the top-ranked Huskies, who scored three unanswered to rally for a 5-4 overtime win on Saturday night in St. Cloud, Minn.

Patrick Newell scored the tying and game-winning goals after he assisted the first goal in the St. Cloud State comeback.

Newell’s shot with 3:51 left in regulation was redirected by defenseman Nick Perbix to make it 4-3. Newell then rifled a shot that CC goalie Alex Leclerc could not squeeze cleanly. The puck trickled in to tie the National Collegiate Hockey Conference game at 4-4 just 56 seconds later.

SCSU kept coming but Leclerc made huge saves over the next few minutes. CC survived a late penalty in regulation but Newell scored with 1:07 left in overtime off a backhanded pass by Robby Jackson to claim the three standings points and remain comfortably atop the league.

“It’s a heart-wrenching loss,” Tigers coach Mike Haviland said in a radio interview. “We just have to figure out how to finish off games. We looked to pass instead of shoot. We never tested them after we went ahead 4-2.”

The league-leading Huskies (21-4-3, 13-2-3-2 NCHC) improved to 13-0-1 at home this season. CC led SCSU entering the third period in all four regular-season games this season only to finish 0-3-1. CC tied the Huskies on Friday before falling 3-2 in the 3-on-3 overtime to garner a single standings point.

On Saturday, the Tigers were in control after scoring three times despite being out shot by a 14-4 margin by the Huskies during the second period.

Kristian Blumenschein tied the game at 2-2 only 5:42 into the second period before Grant Cruikshank scored his second power-play goal of the night to make it 3-2 just 126 seconds later. Trevor Gooch then made it 4-2 with 9:41 left in the second period to end starter and LA Kings draft pick David Hrenak’s night (five saves, nine shots, .692 saves percentage).

It was the second night in a row that CC held SCSU scoreless in the second period. Senior backup Jeff Smith did not face a shot the rest of the second period with CC (11-14-4, 5-9-3 NCHC) going without a shot until early in the third.

Sixth-place CC is idle next weekend with seven regular-season games left.

CC’s Cruikshank scored his first man-advantage goal with 37 seconds left in the first period to cut the SCSU lead to 2-1 and set the stage for the second.

The Tigers fell to 12-23-8 all-time (8-10-5 on road) vs. a No. 1 team since the first national poll during the 97-98 season.  CC is now 2-3-1 versus the Huskies when SCSU is ranked No. 1.

Opportunistic Tigers rely on defense to knock off No. 3 Minnesota Duluth

cc full rinkColorado College fans had waited since Dec. 8 to see their Tigers play at home. The Tigers made sure the crowd felt it was worth it.

A strong defensive performance by the hosts led to Minnesota-Duluth turnovers and sparked CC to a 4-1 victory Friday night at The Broadmoor World Arena.

CC extended its win streak to a season-best three games. It was also the highest ranked opponent CC has defeated at home since Feb. 4, 2011, a 3-2 victory over then-No.2 Denver, under former coach Scott Owens.

On Friday, it started with good defense all over the ice. The Tigers (11-12-3, 5-7-2 NCHC) did a good job harassing the Bulldogs, taking away time and space to force turnovers and generate pressure that led to some unforced miscues as well. Not coincidentally, CC has allowed just 17 goals in its 11 wins and 53 in the other 15 games (0-12-3).

“We played a smart, direct, simple hockey game and you have to play that against them,” CC coach Mike Haviland said. “Guys are understanding and buying in that we have to limit their chances. We have limited our mistakes in the past month and a half. You guys haven’t really seen us, but we have played pretty well. It was nice to get rewarded because they are playing well and playing the right way.”

The first two CC goals came almost immediately after UMD turnovers. A misplayed pass off the boards from Scott Perunovich to Nick Wolff led to a scoring opportunity for Christiano Versich, who passed over to a wide-open sophomore Troy Conzo for a 2-0 lead and the eventual game-winner with 12:47 left in the second period.

Earlier, the opportunistic Tigers went ahead 1-0 when Trey Bradley collected a UMD turnover behind the Bulldogs net, skated around front and fired in one smooth motion with 15:34 left in the first.

“He has been outstanding,” Haviland said. “Trey plays with that little edge. He is a competitor. I love his game right now.  He has been a major part why we have it going a little bit here,”

A good performance by UMD goalie Hunter Shepard (24 saves) kept it close early. He stopped two CC breakaways following turnovers and made another desperation save late in the opening period following another miscue behind the Bulldogs net. Shepard’s play offset an otherwise poor first 20 minutes for the Bulldogs (16-7-2, 9-5-1 NCHC).

But Duluth cut the Tigers’ lead in half when Peter Krieger deflected Noah Cates’ shot low and past CC goalie Alex Leclerc (40 saves) to make it 2-1 with 7:41 left in the second. UMD seized the momentum at that point, prompting a CC timeout with 3:36 left in the second.

It paid off.  While on the rush, Bradley found Conzo for a cross-ice pass for a 3-1 lead with 2:41 left, exactly five minutes after UMD’s tally.

“The first one was kind of a lucky bounce but the second one, Trey made a great pass to me and I just tried to get it the back of the net,” Conzo said. “The key for us was getting out to a good start, getting that first goal and playing with the lead. We were really good structure-wise tonight.”

CC sealed the win when freshman Grant Cruikshank fired in a rebound with 14:48 left in the third for his fifth goal this season.

“We played kind of brain dead a little bit,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “It was as bad a hockey game we have played all year.”

Ice chips

The loss dropped UMD into third place while CC (17 standings points) remained in sixth, pulling away a little after losses earlier Friday by Miami (12 points) and Omaha (11). … CC’s program record nine-straight road games ended Friday. … UMD is now 13-2-3 in its last 17 games against CC. The previous Bulldogs loss was 2-1 on Jan. 7, 2017 in Duluth. … CC senior Westin Michaud could play in his 100th NCAA game on Saturday. … UMD is 9-3 on Fridays and 7-3-2 on Saturdays (0-1 Sundays) this season. … Bradley recorded a career-plus-4 since he was on the ice for all four CC goals.  Chris Wilkie (one assist) tied his career-best at plus-3. … It was the second two-goal game of Conzo’s career (Feb. 9, 2018 at North Dakota).

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