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.

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

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