In the pros: Bergh scores in debut

Bergh in Black Panther jerseyFormer Colorado College co-captain Mason Bergh scored on the power play 5:33 into his first professional game to stake the Ontario Reign to a 1-0 in an eventual 4-3 shootout loss to the Stockton Heat. The Reign are the AHL affiliate of the LA Kings while the Heat are linked to the Calgary Flames. Neither team will advance to the AHL playoffs in late April.

“It’s always fun to get that first one,” Bergh said in a postgame interview by Reign media relations. “I have to credit my linemates (captain Brett Sutter, assistant Matt Moulson). There’s a lot of experience there.  After that first shift, I got the jitters out and just played my game and tried to play to the best of my ability. Everyone is so good in that locker room, it really helped the transition. It was fun getting to play a lot.”

Bergh signed an amateur tryout with the AHL franchise last week after the Tigers’ season ended in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul, Minn.  on March 23.

He was not the only former Tigers player to enter the pros last week. Trey Bradley signed a 1-year deal with the Toronto Marlies that starts next season. He is on an amateur tryout agreement for the rest of this season. He has yet to appear in his first pro game. The Maple Leafs affiliate are in the AHL playoff hunt.

Trevor Gooch signed with the ECHL’s Reading Royals and was held off the score sheet in his debut. He joins former CC player Alex Roos who has 32 points (16 goals) in 52 games for the Royals, who are in 11th in the 14-team Eastern Conference. The Royals are affiliated with the Flyers.

Bergh pregame photo courtesy Ontario Reign Twitter feed.

Tigers hope dissatisfying end sets stage for future success

cc__m_bergh-1019SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The end of the Colorado College season was hardly satisfying, but the team’s seniors left the Twin Cities knowing they had set a new standard for future hockey seasons.

“It was a big step for the program but getting here isn’t good enough,” senior co-captain Mason Bergh said after No. 5 Denver routed CC 6-1 Saturday. “We need to compete here and move on (to the NCAAs).”

That will have to wait. The 17-20-4 Tigers lost in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference semifinals to No. 1 St. Cloud State 5-2 on Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn.

That ended their hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth after an exhausting run of 15-straight games against Top 20 competition.

Saturday’s third-place game was No. 16. The fatigue showed in the second and third periods.

The Tigers were caught standing around on defense and looked little like a team that swept the 22-11-5 Pioneers two weekends ago to win the Golf Pan Trophy and ended No. 15 Western Michigan’s season five days ago in the playoffs.

Denver dominated the final two periods by bulling their way to the front of the Tigers net while the Pioneers crease was kept mostly devoid of Tigers. As a result, CC was not in position to take advantage of any rebounds while the Pioneers feasted on Grade-A chances down low.

“We were chasing the game for the last 40 (minutes),” CC coach Mike Haviland said. “We stood around and got into penalty trouble. Give (Denver) credit. They got some backdoor goals we haven’t given up recently.”

That left junior goalie Alex Leclerc (23 saves) in a tough position. He allowed six goals (five over the final 40 minutes) after giving up only six (113 saves on 119 shots) in the first four meetings against DU.

“He’s been our backbone all season,” senior Trey Bradley said. “He was our best player all year in my opinion.”

Denver scored twice in 59 seconds midway through the second period to open up a 3-1 lead they would never relinquish.

“There should have been a pushback by us there but there wasn’t,” Bergh said.

Ian Mitchell and Liam Finlay scored in the second and then again early in the third period to make it 5-1 and clinch the victory. Mitchell finished with four points (two assists) in the rout.

Colorado College took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play when Trey Bradley beat Cooley high glove side on the near side to tie the game at 1-1 with 4:59 remaining in the opening period. The Denver took over.

The loss will sting for a while, but the seniors can leave the program knowing they left it in far better shape than when they first arrived.

“All the seniors did a great job setting the standard and pushing this program forward in a very tough conference,” Haviland said. “I am really proud of all of them.”

Tigers playing for pride against Denver after NCHC semifinals loss

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SAINT PAUL. Minn. – Colorado College is playing for pride now after top-ranked St. Cloud State dashed the Tigers’ hopes of a league playoffs title and NCAA tournament berth in a 5-2 Huskies victory on Friday.

There isn’t anything on the line beyond how CC wants its season to end, with a win or loss.

“It’s one last hurrah,” said senior Westin Michaud, who appeared on the verge of tears throughout the postgame media conference. “We have to come out and play our game and hope we come out on top.”

It will be difficult for the Tigers to put Friday’s loss in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff semifinals behind them and prepare for the tournament’s third-place game at 2:30 p.m. Mountain on Saturday (NCHC.TV) at the Xcel Energy Center. Taking on rival Denver, which lost 3-0 in the late semifinal to Minnesota-Duluth,  one more time might help.

Colorado College had its chances against the No. 1 Huskies (30-4-3) but could not capitalize, especially during the second period when SCSU pulled away.

Earlier in the first period, St. Cloud State went ahead 2-1 with two goals in 24 seconds after Patrick Newell scored a power-play goal on a long-range shot through traffic.

SCSU won the next faceoff and kept the puck in the Tigers zone, forcing a turnover that led to Nolan Walker breaking free in front for an even-strength goal with 7:09 left to turn a 1-0 CC lead (first of two Michaud goals) into a 2-1 Huskies advantage in the first period, The Huskies would never trail again.

“We had some chances obviously but we passed up on them, especially in the second period,” CC coach Mike Haviland said. “We had some looks and tried to make an extra play. (The Huskies) are a good hockey team. They can strike with the power-play goal and then again (24) seconds later on their second. It showed the kind of team they are.”

Colorado College’s penalty kill kept the 17-19-4 Tigers in the game after a 5-minute major and ejection for senior Trevor Gooch gave the Huskies an extended power play with the lead.

But that successful penalty kill (one shot allowed) wasn’t enough to shift the momentum back in the Tigers’ favor.

CC found itself with some scoring chances but could not convert by either making an extra pass or getting stopped by SCSU goalie David Hrenak (31 saves).

Tigers junior goalie Alex Leclerc (22 saves) played well throughout the second period, but SCSU would pull away when Robby Jackson batted in a mid-air pass midway through the middle frame for a 3-1 lead.

Jack Ahcan’s goal with 12:39 left in the game put the Huskies comfortably ahead bu the Tigers kept battling.

“Playoff battle playing a team battling for their playoff lives,” SCSU coach Brett Larson said about the Tigers. “A very tough team to play against.”

Then, a 5-minute major on Jon Lizotte gave the Tigers a lengthy power play.

Michaud redirected a hard shot by CC freshman Bryan Yoon to cut the margin to 4-2 with  5:13 left during that man advantage but the Tigers would get no closer. SCSU’s Nick Poehling slammed the door shut with a goal two minutes later.

By then, it was clear the Tigers were not going to hoist the NCHC playoffs championship trophy or garner an automatic NCAA berth. But they do have a say in how their season ends.

“We have to regroup,” Haviland said. “That was the first thing I said to the team (after the loss). We have one more game to play and one more chance for our seniors.”

Mindful of their legacy, CC seniors lead Tigers into program’s first NCHC semifinal

cc__m_bergh-1019Statistics can be a good measure of the affect a senior class has on a program.

And Colorado College’s seniors have made their mark on the stats sheet. They have recorded an impressive 131 of the team’s 307 points this season, which is tied for second-most in Division 1 with Friday league semifinal foe St. Cloud State.

But their imprint on the program goes much deeper, starting with their early trial by fire as freshmen called on to rebuild a program in arguably the toughest league in men’s college hockey.

Now, they reap the opportunity from four years of hard work when they take on the top-ranked Huskies in the opening semifinal (3:05 p.m. Mountain Friday) at the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Frozen Faceoff in Saint Paul, Minn.

“We came in as freshmen kind of wide-eyed and were thrown into it,” senior co-captain Mason Bergh said during a media conference. “The legacy portion has been big for us. We want to leave this program better than we found it. That should be anyone’s goal in college hockey. We’ve had opportunities in the past, and we haven’t gotten it done. To win those trophies against Denver and Air Force was very big for the program and fun for our seniors. But this is one of our biggest goals, to get to the Frozen Faceoff in our time here. Now, with one game deciding your season, anything can happen.”

Much has been made of the Tigers’ 0-3-1 record against the Huskies (29-4-3), especially since CC led late in all four games only to see the lead slip away against the Huskies’ depth and offensive firepower, that includes Hobey Baker Top Ten finalists Patrick Newell (NCHC-best 43 points, 24 assists) and Jimmy Schuldt (33, 23 assists).

In addition, the loaded Huskies have Blake Lizotte has 37 points (14 goals) while goalie David Hrenak is 22-3-2 (2.20 goals against, .902 saves percentage).

But coming that close gives the 17-18-4 Tigers confidence that they can flip the script.

“You’re talking about the best team in the country and they have been most of the year,” Haviland said. “And they deserve it. We have played well against them. That is good for us and our confidence level. We have learned in the last month here with tough games against Denver and Western (Michigan) the details you have follow to close teams out. We are a different team from even a couple weeks ago.”

“We know we didn’t play the full 60 minutes in those losses so we have learned from that,” junior goalie Alex Leclerc said in a radio interview.

“It’s a big goal of ours to get here for the first time (since the NCHC formed), but nobody in that locker room thinks this is as far as we can go,” Bergh said. “There’s a belief in that locker room that there isn’t outside of it. We can play with anybody. We can play with (St. Cloud State).”

Losing two of their best players – forwards Nick Halloran and Chris Wilkie – to injury forced the Tigers to reaffirm their commitment to defense. It has been rewarded with this playoff run that has seen CC lock things down defensively behind the superior play of Leclerc (D1-best, 1095 saves), and pounce on their opportunities in transition.

“Clarky gives you a chance to win every night,” Haviland said. “When you get into win-or-go-home scenarios, a goaltender can win you games. We will make mistakes. Clarky is there to make those saves. He has been outstanding.”

That has shown with the best penalty kill in the nation (95.2 percent) since Feb. 8, a span of 12 games (6-5-1). All season, the Tigers have been very good when playing well defensively, allowing 24 goals in 17 wins and conversely, 79 in the other 22 contests.

Some of the Tigers have responded with career-high points production in their senior seasons — Trey Bradley (32 points, 14 goals) and Westin Michaud (28, 11 goals). Bergh has bounced back from a slow start to his senior season to record 26 points (19 assists).

“When you go through the week-to-week grind of the NCHC, you learn very quickly how hard it is to win,” Haviland said. “Then you have a large group of seniors, they can teach the younger players what it takes to be successful. Our seniors has done a great job of that.”

“These guys went through some lean years their first couple of seasons,” Haviland said. “They really stuck with it and set the standards for what we want to be as a program. I couldn’t be more proud of all of our seniors for what we have accomplished and what we have left to accomplish.”

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Tigers punch ticket to St. Paul with Game 3 victory over No. 15 Western Michigan

yoon imageTwo third-period goals in two minutes and a frantic defensive effort in the closing minutes propelled Colorado College to victory and its first NCHC semifinals berth.

The Tigers held on for a 3-2 win in Game 3 at No. 15 Western Michigan on Monday night, garnering a semifinal berth against No. 1 St. Cloud State at 3:08 p.m. Mountain on Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

“I am just so proud of them,” Tigers coach Mike Haviland said in a radio interview. “They were not going to be denied tonight. They played extremely hard and the right way. Both teams really wanted it.”

CC pulled ahead 3-1 when Alex Berardinelli ended a 13-game scoreless streak with 14:14 left followed by a goal for Trevor Gooch with 12:14 remaining. Gooch tipped in a long-range shot by Bryan Yoon for the eventual game-winner.

“That felt good, especially going to three,” Gooch said. “Clarky has been our rock. Bryan put it in a nice place and I got a good piece of it. Once they got one, there wasn’t any panic in us so we shut them down over the final 21/2 minutes.”

“They played the game plan to a T and stayed with it,” Haviland said. “It was a great goal (by Gooch) off the faceoff.”

WMU pulled goalie Trevor Gorsuch (22 saves) with less than three minutes left and Austin Rueschhoff scored his second of the game. The extra-attacker tally came with 2:24 left, setting up a tense finish at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich.

But CC junior goalie Alex Leclerc continued his strong play of late, recording 32 saves in the win.

“For me, it was about staying as calm as I can.” Leclerc said. “We were able to weather the storm and go on from there. Once Alex scored that goal we rode that wave the rest of the game. They sold out their bodies to stop the puck and make sure we cleared the puck out of our zone.”

The 17-18- 4 Tigers became the first road team to win a NCHC playoff series in four years (SCSU in 2015).

Befitting a win-or-go-home playoff series finale, both teams played with a physical edge with Western Michigan drawing a costly goalie interference penalty as emotions boiled over late in the first period.

CC senior Westin Michaud scored on the subsequent power play to make it 1-0 off assists from Mason Bergh and Yoon. Michaud skated down the left side and cut to the front of the Broncos net from where his shot beat Gorsuch.

“Michaud’s goal really got us going,” Haviland said.

Western Michigan tied the game with 1:11 left in the second period when Rueschhoff stuffed in a rebound after Leclerc made the initial save.

But it wasn’t enough for the Broncos (21-15-1), who were missing standout Wade Allison (unknown reason). The loss ended WMU’s season.

Both NCHC semifinals will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network with CC radio coverage starting 30 minutes before game time on 1240AM and 105.5 FM KRDO.

Western Michigan never trails, forces decisive NCHC playoff series finale on Monday for CC

cc vs wmu2Colorado College was unable to complete its second comeback in a row as No. 12 Western Michigan prevailed 5-2 on Sunday to force a Game 3 that will end one team’s season.

The Broncos scored twice in the third period to pull away in a playoff game in which they never trailed.

CC freshman defenseman Bryan Yoon had scored with 12 seconds remaining in the second period to cut the hosts’ lead to 3-2 in Game 2 of the best-of-three National Collegiate Hockey Conference quarterfinal series. The Tigers won 2-1 Saturday night in the opener.

But the visiting Tigers could not build on that momentum and WMU (21-14-1) clinched the victory to set up Game 3 at 5:05 p.m. Mountain Monday at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“We have to get off to a better start,” Tigers coach Mike Haviland said. “We chased the game the entire night. I have seen this team play harder than they did before. The will to win has to be there right from the drop of the puck. They’ll respond. They have all year. No one wants to be done.”

For the second night in a row, Western Michigan struck first behind a strong start. Dawson DiPietro scored just 116 seconds into Game 2 for a 1-0 lead. Di Pietro scored WMU’s fifth goal as well.

It took a while for the Tigers (16-18-4)  to get their legs under them, but CC would control play over the final five minutes of the opening period, prompting a WMU timeout with 1:40 left.

Troy Conzo batted in the puck less than four minutes into the second period to tie the game at 1-1. It was Conzo’s seventh goal with the assist to Mason Bergh. Conzo’s shot came from behind the Broncos net and went in off Gorsuch’s back.

Leclerc continued to shine with a left leg pad save on a shot by Kolt Conrad from 15 feet away with 8:45 left in the second period to keep it a tied game. He made a similar save moments later on Conrad.

And then the defensive battle changed into a shootout with WMU’s Conrad scoring with 3:09 left followed by both teams scoring in the final 30 seconds of the second period.

WMU’s Corey Schueneman scored off a Conrad assist with 27 seconds left to make it 3-1 before CC ‘s Yoon answered to set up what Tigers fans hoped would be a third -period comeback. Which was not to be.

Tigers win Game 1 at No. 12 Western Michigan behind 29 saves from Leclerc

CC Hockey vs Wisconsin

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

Colorado College leaned on goalie Alex Leclerc once again and the junior delivered with 29 saves, including one with 9.5 seconds left, to down No. 12 Western Michigan, 2-1, in Game 1 of their playoff series.

“It was a great, gritty effort throughout the game,” CC coach Mike Haviland said in a radio interview. “Our goaltending has been outstanding and we are getting timely goals. We understand that you can bend but not break.”

Game 2 of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference best-of-three quarterfinal series is at 5:05 p.m. Mountain at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Leclerc has allowed only six goals in his past six games (4-2 record).

“From the cage on out, we played pretty well,” said senior Mason Bergh, who scored CC’s first goal. “Leclerc stood tall in the net which we have gotten used to. We are playing the right way at the right time.“

Western Michigan’s physical style would eventually catch up to the Broncos when CC freshman Erik Middendorf streaked down the right side and scored a power-play goal with 13:18 left in the third period. Middendorf slipped in behind the WMU defense and was left alone for the one-timer that went in near side. Ben Copeland and Christiano Versich credited with assists.

The third-seeded Broncos responded with some sustained pressure. Leclerc made some big-time saves, including on with 9.5 seconds left, and WMU whiffed on a couple Grade-A scoring chances in the third period.

“We blocked shots and took hits to make plays,” Haviland said.

Sixth-seeded CC survived a slow start that saw the visiting Tigers fall behind 1-0 early on a tally by Drew Worrad. CC would even the score on a nice play in transition by Trey Bradley and Troy Conzo, who set up Bergh for the tying tap-in goal with 8:03 left.

“We did a good job keeping our composure and getting back to work,” Bergh said. “It was a great play by Trey to Troy. He has pretty good speed and made a great pass.”

Bergh’s goal was his 100th career point and made him the 75th Tiger to join the Century Club.

“Mason’s goal really settled us down,” Haviland said. “He’s the one that drives the bus for us. He has been a great leader. He got the hard hat (game MVP award) tonight from Clarky (Leclerc). He thanked the entire team for reaching the 100-point mark.”

Leclerc and WMU’s Trevor Gorsuch (23 saves) each made big-time saves in the scoreless second period with the CC junior stopping Dawson DiPietro from point-blank range midway through the frame. Gorsuch showed off his athleticism with a strong save by moving from post to post on a 2-on-1 breakaway for Trey Bradley and Grant Cruikshank in the final minutes of the period.

The Tigers improved to 16-17-4, one win better than last season (15-17-5) with at least two more games to play and just one win removed from the program’ first trip to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff semifinals.

It will not be easy for the Tigers to reach that milestone. They know that all too well after winning Game 1 in last year’s playoff series at rival Denver and losing the series.

“It’s going to be tough game,” Bergh said. “Every team has a lot of pride and they are playing pretty good hockey right now. They are well coached and well structured. They are going to come out pressing.”