Tigers playing for pride against Denver after NCHC semifinals loss

cc scsu image

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.”

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

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