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.”

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

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