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.”

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: