Colorado College Tigers cannot match Minnesota-Duluth’s play in decisive second, fall in series-clinching rout

cc vs wmu2Fifth-ranked Minnesota-Duluth showed why it’s the two-time defending NCAA champions with a 6-1 rout of last-place Colorado College Saturday night.

The Bulldogs dominated the second period, potting four goals, including the game-winner just 59 seconds into the middle frame.

This weekend’s series sweep mirrored the one in Duluth in November — a close game won by the Bulldogs on Friday (4-3) followed by a rout on Saturday (5-0).

“We talked about that (Saturday) morning,” Tigers coach Mike Haviland said, referring to the team’s morning meetings. “This team across the hall elevates their game. You need to elevate our game and I think we did for the first 20 (minutes). But the game is 60.”

It’s a familiar pattern for the Tigers against the National Collegiate Hockey Conference powerhouse.

“In the last couple years against these guys we are really good against them on Fridays and on Saturdays they go to another level,” Haviland said. “We need to find that level. That’s the reason they’re two-time defending champs. They know how to go to that level and keep pushing you.”

The stats show it. With the win, Minnesota-Duluth improved to 91-2-3 (18-1 this season) since March 13, 2015 when taking a lead into the third period.

One of the few Colorado College highlights was when the Tigers spoiled UMD goalie Hunter Shepard’s shutout bid. A hard shot by Grant Cruikshank forced its way under the senior’s right arm and landed behind him. CC senior Nick Halloran tapped in his 11th of the season to make it 5-1 midway through the third. That excited the home crowd, but UMD scored about a minute later for the final margin.

Vernon stood tall against several quality scoring chances for the Bulldogs, making 11 of his 15 saves and allowing just the opening goal late in the closely-contested first period.

But the second was all Bulldogs (20-10-2, 15-5-2-0 NCHC).

An inauspicious start put UMD ahead 2-0 when Nick Swaney lifted in a wraparound attempt over Vernon’s left leg pad after seemingly surprising the freshman netminder. The tally came just 59 seconds into the middle frame.

That goal deflated the Tigers, who could not match UMD’s intensity and skill the rest of the second.

“The second goal is the one that really took the wind out of our sails,” Haviland said. “Verny (Vernon) needs to make that save. From there, they get all the confidence and we were on our heels. I didn’t see us with much bite there in the second. There were a couple easy goals our guys could have prevented, not meaning our goalie.”

A prime example came less than five minutes later when Luke Lohei split two flat-footed CC defenders and lifted the puck over Vernon’s shoulder by the near post. That ended Vernon’s night as Haviland tried to jump start the Tigers (11-19-2, 4-16-2-1) by putting in Ryan Ruck (23 saves).

But Ruck was rusty, having not played since Jan. 10 and not practiced much either.

UMD added two goals about four minutes apart. Noah Cates scored off a breakaway set up by a long pass by Scott Perunovich (31 assists) with 6:35 left. Quinn Olson and Cates then played back-and-forth with Olson burying the chance with 2:39 left for a 5-0 advantage.

CC almost got the break the Broadmoor World Arena crowd (3,043 announced) desired. When his penalty expired, Jack Gates jumped out of the box, but he over skated the pass and was unable to get off a quality shot during the final seconds of the period.  That summed up the second for CC.

Looking ahead to next weekend, postseason

Miami’s sweep of Omaha (3-0, 4-0) relegated CC to last place in the eight-team NCHC and set up an all-but-assured trip to top-ranked North Dakota for the first round of the playoffs on March 13-15.

CC plays No. 6 Denver in a home-and-home series next weekend with the Tigers needing a sweep to retain the Gold Pan Trophy. DU downed St. Cloud State 5-2 on Saturday to garner a road series split and keep its sights on garnering home playoff ice.

Ruck performed well at times, prompting Haviland to keep the door open on the transfer starting on Friday.

“We’ll reevaluate on Monday, but I certainly will think about it,” Haviland said.

First Leap Day loss

The Tigers are now 3-1-1 on Feb. 29th starting with a 5-5 tie against Michigan State in 1964. CC later won at Denver, 4-2, in 1980, at UMD, 5-1, in 1992 and downed visiting Minnesota State, 5-2, in 2008.


Minnesota-Duluth converts critical power play, holds off CC’s comeback attempt

Colorado College goalie Matt Vernon and his 35 saves put the Tigers in position to knock off No. 5 Minnesota-Duluth on Friday.

But the last-place Tigers could not record the tying goal in an eventual 4-2 home loss to the two-time defending NCAA champions.

“I thought we were coming and we had some chances,” Tigers coach Mike Haviland said. “We had the push that we needed. We just didn’t get the third one. When you are that close against the No. 5 team in the country, you have to find a way to score there.”

vernon new jersey2

Duluth did convert thanks to the third major penalty called against CC versus the Bulldogs (19-10-2, 14-5-2-2-0 NCHC) this season in National Collegiate Hockey Conference play.

UMD defenseman Dylan Samberg put the Bulldogs ahead for good with 2:19 left in the second period during a 5-minute power play. That man advantage was set up by an interference call against CC senior Chris Wilkie, who leveled Tyler Laderoute at center ice. It also drew a game misconduct that ended the NCHC scoring leader’s night.

“I don’t have to agree with it (the penalty call) but we have to be smarter,” Haviland said. “That’s the third time we have taken a major against them and they made us pay. In the game up there on Friday, they had a score to beat us late (4-3, Nov. 22) and tonight it’s the game-winning goal.  It’s 2-2 and we cannot take that penalty.“

Vernon made eight saves during the extended power play to keep the Tigers in the contest.

“He settled down and did a good job,” Haviland said. “We have had a merry-go-round back there with injuries. He has given us a chance over the past 6-8 games.”

Minnesota-Duluth scored two early, but the hosts battled back.

Jack Gates tied the contest at 2-2 with 6:38 left in the second period. Wilkie cut the Bulldogs lead in half, 2-1, when he scored with 4:52 left  in the first period.

Two minutes earlier, UMD took a 2-0 lead with 6:52 left in the opening period when center Justin Richards won the offensive-zone faceoff cleanly, which led to a hard shot by Cole Koepke that resulted in a rebound for an unmarked Laderoute to tuck in past Vernon.

Koepke opened the scoring just 3:38 into the game when he knocked in his own rebound after another faceoff win for Richards.

Looking ahead to the NCHC playoffs

Miami picked up a 3-0 home win over Omaha on Friday, pushing the RedHawks up into seventh place at 4-14-3-2-0 league, 7-19-5 overall after enduring an 11-game winless streak. Last-place CC will play at either UMD or top-ranked North Dakota in the first round March 13-15.

Surging St. Cloud State knocked off No. 6 Denver 5-1 on Friday, moving within a point of the fourth-place  Pioneers in the standings and two behind third-place Western Michigan, which lost 3-1 at North Dakota.

Hockey Fights Cancer Night

As part of Hockey Fights Cancer Night, Janell Price-Smith, wife of former CC professor Andrew Price-Smith, and their children Will and Tori, took part in the pregame puck ceremony.

Last July, Andrew Price-Smith, who served as the team’s faculty advisor, succumbed to cancer at the age of 50. Price-Smith joined the school’s faculty in 2005 and was the founding director of the Global Health Initiative at CC.

Both teams used purple stick tape and wore helmet decals in support of Hockey Fights Cancer.

Ice chips

Omaha’s 24 shots were the second-fewest allowed by CC this season behind 22 by St. Cloud State on Nov. 15. Not coincidentally, both were Tiger victories. … UMD now holds a 105-82-10 advantage in the all-time series including a Bulldog sweep in Duluth earlier this season. … Wilkie entered the weekend leading the NCAA with 153 shots and shots per games (5.10). He recorded five shots on Friday.


Cruikshank hat trick lifts Tigers to outdoor game victory over Air Force

200217_F_XS730_1003Colorado College sophomore Grant Cruikshank will always remember the Faceoff at Falcon Stadium outdoor college hockey game.

He has three good reasons. The Wisconsin native recorded his first NCAA hat trick, including the victory-clinching empty-net goal with about 37 seconds left, to lift the Tigers past Air Force, 4-2, before 7,178 hardy fans on a cold Monday night.

“It was a lot of fun,” Cruikshank said. “The experience of playing outdoors at Air Force was the biggest memory for me. To walk away with a win is icing on the cake. I grew up playing on ponds and lakes my whole life so I knew it wasn’t going to pretty. It would be a greasy game with pucks going over sticks. It was just a very cool experience.”

An experience all the better with a nonconference sweep for the Tigers (10-16-2), who resume National Collegiate Hockey Conference play at Omaha this weekend. Air Force fell to 8-17-5.

Tigers coach Mike Haviland was smiling broadly before and after the game.

“It just doesn’t happen often and may not happen (again) if they play 10, 15 years after,” he said. “I was certainly excited. It brings you back to being a kid. It was cold, it had snow flurries, it had everything. This is something that will last a lifetime.”

The Falcons knew they would eventually look back on the game more fondly.

“I have been on a couple NCAA Final Eight teams and this is definitely up there,” senior Matt Pulver said. “It’s certainly something I will never forget.”

The teams gathered at center ice to salute the fans, who stuck around to the end as the temperature dipped to 22 degrees by game’s end. Many of the former teammates and friends took pictures together.

“They’ll be happy to have those photos someday,” Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. “It was the classy thing to do by both programs. This was a big night for Air Force, for Colorado College and Colorado Springs.”

There was also an entertaining game that wasn’t decided until the moments.

CC pulled ahead early in the third period on Chris Wilkie’s 20th goal of the season, only to see Air Force answer back just 98 seconds later on a goal for defenseman Luke Rowe. That left the game at 3-2 with 15:01 left in the third and set up the exciting finish.

Both second-period goals came off rebounds when Air Force’s Brandon Koch cut the CC lead to 2-1 with 34.5 seconds left in the second period. Koch batted in the loose puck after a hard shot by Trevor Stone bounced out in front during the Falcons’ third power play.

Colorado College had taken a 2-0 lead by Cruikshank batted in his own rebound on a short-side breakaway less than eight minutes earlier for his second goal of the night and 10th this season. Bryan Yoon picked up his second assist of the game.

“We played a real good second period,” Haviland said. “We started to get our groove a little bit, hang onto the puck down low. I think that is when we really started to settle into the game. We found a way to get the empty-netter. It was a good road win for us. Hopefully (the Tigers are) going in the right direction now.”

Colorado College opened the scoring when Cruikshank redirected a pass to the front by Yoon with 6:42 left in the first. The power-play tally came 30 seconds into the man advantage.

“I don’t know if that was just roommate chemistry but he is a great passer,” Cruikshank said.

CC never trailed this holiday weekend, a troublesome problem for the Falcons, who much like CC are trying to play well and become a dangerous playoff opponent.

“It’s been that way all year,” Pulver said. “Whenever we get punched in the gut, we respond. We need to be the ones that punches first.”

“Pulvs is right,” Serratore said. “You can’t chase the scoreboard. That was a key for us this weekend; getting the first goal but CC wouldn’t allow that. CC, and this is no dig at our boys, was the better team this weekend. That’s a well-coached team that will be a team no one wants to face when their playoffs begin. I don’t care where they finish in the standings.”

Both teams played back a bit to start the game, with both getting used to the unusual lighting, different boards and unusually quiet atmosphere with fans so far removed from the ice.

“After the first couple minutes we settled in and started to grind them out, play to our strengths and kind of took over the game,” Wilkie said. “After a while we realized it was just a hockey game. You tune out the rest of the things after you get the Oohs and Aahs out of your system like Havi said to us all week.”

Ice chips

It was the first outdoor college game played at the service academy. It was also the highest outdoor game at 6,621 feet. … The ice held up well, especially as the temperature dropped after sunset. …  In its 10 victories this season, the Tigers have allowed just 19 goals. CC has given up 80 in the other 18 games (0-16-2). … CC now holds a 63-13-2 record against the Falcons. … The Tigers retained the Pikes Peak Trophy on Friday with a 6-2 home win. The two schools established the rivalry hardware in 2013 in honor of John Matchefts, a former head coach at both schools. … About 400 attended the Robson Arena ceremonial groundbreaking on Saturday. … Wilkie’s 20 goals ties him with UMass’ John Leonard for second in Division 1, and behind NCAA leader Griffin Loughran (21) of Northern Michigan.

Tigers ride three-goal spurt past Air Force to retain Pikes Peak Trophy

ccafa imageThe muted trophy celebration suggested that Colorado College took Friday night’s 6-2 win in stride.

That would be wrong.

CC blew the game open with three goals in the opening 2:34 of the second period and then held on to defeat Air Force 6-2 and retain the Pikes Peak Trophy. But that large margin did not make the win any less sweet for the Tigers.

“It’s pretty big,” said freshman defenseman Connor Mayer, who scored twice. “The school takes a lot of pride in that. We were excited but we kept our emotions in check. It’s about a business-like approach and being ready for Monday.”

The series continues at 5 p.m. Monday with the Faceoff at Falcon Stadium outdoor game. Plenty of seats remain available with snow in the forecast that evening. The snow and Air Force’s mostly white uniforms will add a wrinkle to what could be an interesting game.

“You don’t want it to come down (to Monday),” coach Mike Haviland said. “They took care of business tonight. We wanted to play the game the right way and we certainly wanted to keep that trophy in our possession.”

Friday’s victory at the Broadmoor World Arena assured the Tigers of at least a nonconference series tie against the Falcons, assuring the hosts will keep the rivalry hardware for another year. CC won the trophy for the first time last season behind a 6-1 win.

The second period started off with a bang with three goals scored on the first three shots on goal by the Tigers (9-16-2). Senior Nick Halloran, whose older brother Alex was a standout player for the Atlantic Hockey-member Falcons (8-16-5), scored 11 seconds in for a 2-0 lead.

It continued for the surging Tigers, who scored twice in 21 seconds during 4-on-4 play to make it 4-0 with 17:26 remaining. Senior Alex Berardinelli stole the puck from Air Force’s Trevor Stone in neutral ice and then raced in to convert the breakaway. That goal ended Falcons goalie Alex Schilling’s night.

Colorado College did not let up and Connor Mayer (two goals) scored his first of the game 21 seconds later on the first shot faced by netminder Alex LaRocque with 17:26 left.

“Outstanding,” Haviland said. “We came out with a purpose and we finished the chances. I was really happy with their focus coming out strong. We want to keep going up and playing the right way down the stretch.”

Air Force simply made too many errors to win, coach Frank Serratore said.

“When we made mistakes they were huge ones,” he said. “We weren’t very good at anything. We got some things going in spurts but for the most part we didn’t get pucks in, we got beat along the walls, we turned pucks over that resulted in breakaways. The bottom line is CC came to play. They were pitching and we were catching.”

Air Force battled back when the Falcons’ Marshall Bowery tapped in a perfect diagonal pass by Brady Tomlak with 11:03 left. That power-play goal cut the CC lead to 4-1.

Later, Bowery made it 4-2 when he stole an errant CC pass and later fired the puck between Vernon’s leg pads with 3:02 left to make it a two-goal game heading into the third period.

Mayer scored an unassisted goal with 10:44 remaining for the final margin.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference-member Tigers opened the scoring when Josiah Slavin fired a shot that bounced off Berardinelli’s backside to Chris Wilkie, who lifted the bouncing puck past a sprawled Schilling’s glove attempt. The tally came with 12:47 left in the opening period. It was Wilkie’s 19th goal, moving him into a tie for second with Northeastern’s Tyler Madden, a former CC commit.

Ice chips

Ed Robson was on hand for the ceremonial puck drop Friday. The CC alum and former Tigers hockey player is in town for the Robson Arena groundbreaking at 2 p.m. Saturday. The public is welcome. … CC won the season series against St. Cloud State (2-1-1) for the first time since the 2009-10 season. … A second Tigers goal during the opening period was immediately waved off due to goalie interference, denying McKay Flanagan his first college goal. … CC now leads the all-time series 62-13-2. … Bryan Yoon’s plus-5 rating Friday was a career high. … Three unassisted goals were scored, two by CC. Those two were the most by the Tigers since a 7-3 win over St. Lawrence on Dec. 29.