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.

Another Slavin set to enter Colorado College fold

slavin lincolnLincoln Stars forward Josiah Slavin has committed to Colorado College, where his older brother and NHL defenseman Jaccob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes) played for two seasons, the U.S. Hockey League franchise announced on Thursday.

He is scheduled to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference program starting with the 2019-20 season.

“The coaching staff there is awesome,” Slavin said in a media release. “When I went to visit there this summer, it just felt right. It wasn’t the time to commit then, but we stayed in touch. Now, it felt like the perfect time to do it. It’s a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m just excited to start the next part of my life.”

The Erie, Colo. native, 19, has played 53 games with the Stars in his second USHL season, tallying 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 points with 23 penalty minutes and a +26 rating.

The 6-foot-2, 182-pounder recorded his first career hat-trick on Dec. 16, 2017 against Des Moines. Through 102 games, he has 24 goals and 26 assists for 50 points with four game-winning goals and three shorthanded goals.

The NCHC is regarded as one of the best conferences in college hockey, and the competition every night provides a unique challenge, according to Slavin.

“Family played a huge part [in my decision],” he said. “I always loved Colorado growing up in the state. I’m a homebody, so when I’m out of Colorado I miss it. I just love it there.”

Nick Halloran, Mike Haviland and Alex Leclerc up for annual league awards

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Nick Halloran scored twice in the opening period for his 12th and 13th goals this season.

Colorado College sophomore Nick Halloran is one of three finalists for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Forward of the Year award and one of three for the league Three Stars Award, while coach Mike Haviland received his first nomination as bench boss.

Tigers sophomore goalie Alex Leclerc is also up for the Three Stars award.

The finalists and nominees for 11 league awards were announced on Thursday.

The winners will be announced and honores on March 15 at the annual NCHC Awards Celebration at the Science Museum of Minnesota in Saint Paul on the eve of the fifth annual NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and first at Xcel Energy Center.

For most of the awards, finalists were determined based on voting by the conference’s eight head coaches with the top three vote-getters for each award (plus ties) being finalists. The Senior Scholar-Athlete Award nominees were submitted by and then voted upon by the conference’s Faculty Athletics Representatives (FARs). Athletic Directors at each NCHC institution had a vote on Herb Brooks Coach of the Year, as well, along with the coaches.

Full list of finalists and nominees follows:

CC Hockey vs Wisconsin

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

Player of the Year Finalists Henrik Borgström, So., F, Denver; David Pope, Sr., F, Omaha; Jimmy Schuldt, Jr., D, SCSU

Herb Brooks Coach of the Year Finalists — Mike Haviland, CC; Bob Motzko, SCSU; Scott Sandelin, UMD

Senior Scholar-Athlete Award Nominees — Scott Moldenhauer, D, WMU; Johnny Simonson, F, UND; Tyler Vesel, F, Omaha

Rookie of the Year Finalists — Dávid Hrenák, G, SCSU; Ian Mitchell, D, Denver; Scott Perunovich, D, UMD

Goaltender of the Year Finalists — Dávid Hrenák, Fr., SCSU; Tanner Jaillet, Sr., Denver; Hunter Shepard, So., UMD

Forward of the Year Finalists —Henrik Borgström, So., Denver; Nick Halloran, So., CC; David Pope, Sr., Omaha

Defensive Defenseman of the Year Finalists — Will Borgen, Jr., SCSU; Joel Messner, Sr., Omaha; Colton Poolman, So., UND; Nick Wolff, So., UMD

Offensive Defenseman of the Year Finalists —Scott Perunovich, Fr., UMD; Jimmy Schuldt, Jr., SCSU; Christian Wolanin, Jr., UND

Defensive Forward of the Year Finalists — Rhett Gardner, Jr., UND; Karson Kuhlman, Sr., UMD; Tyler Vesel, Sr., Omaha

NCHC Three Stars Award Finalists — Dylan Gambrell, Jr., F, Denver; Nick Halloran, So., F, CC; Alex Leclerc, So., G, CC; David Pope, Sr., F, Omaha

Sportsmanship Award Nominees — Karson Kuhlman, Sr., F, UMD; Judd Peterson, Sr., F, SCSU; Austin Poganski, Sr., F, UND; Tyler Vesel, Sr., F, Omaha

Rookie of the Year Finalists — Dávid Hrenák, G, SCSU; Ian Mitchell, D, Denver; Scott Perunovich, D, UMD

Goaltender of the Year Finalists — Dávid Hrenák, Fr., SCSU; Tanner Jaillet, Sr., Denver; Hunter Shepard, So., UMD

Forward of the Year Finalists —Henrik Borgström, So., Denver; Nick Halloran, So., CC; David Pope, Sr., Omaha

Defensive Defenseman of the Year Finalists — Will Borgen, Jr., SCSU; Joel Messner, Sr., Omaha; Colton Poolman, So., UND; Nick Wolff, So., UMD

Offensive Defenseman of the Year Finalists —Scott Perunovich, Fr., UMD; Jimmy Schuldt, Jr., SCSU; Christian Wolanin, Jr., UND

Defensive Forward of the Year Finalists — Rhett Gardner, Jr., UND; Karson Kuhlman, Sr., UMD; Tyler Vesel, Sr., Omaha

NCHC Three Stars Award Finalists — Dylan Gambrell, Jr., F, Denver; Nick Halloran, So., F, CC; Alex Leclerc, So., G, CC; David Pope, Sr., F, Omaha

Sportsmanship Award Nominees — Karson Kuhlman, Sr., F, UMD; Judd Peterson, Sr., F, SCSU; Austin Poganski, Sr., F, UND; Tyler Vesel, Sr., F, Omaha

haviland

 

Tigers knock off No. 2 Denver, end 17-game winless streak against Pioneers

CC Hockey vs WisconsinColorado College bounced back from an embarrassing home loss to end a 17-game winless streak against No. 2 Denver behind a 40-save shutout by sophomore goalie Alex Leclerc at Magness Arena on Saturday.

“I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Leclerc said on 1240 AM. “We felt we let our fans and teammates down (in a 5-1 Friday loss) and we needed to bounce back. Guys were sacrificing their bodies to block shots (19) and make my life easier even though I am the one with the equipment.”

“We told ourselves that we needed to win against them,” he added. “We only had one thing on our minds and that was to come out of here with a win. We need to savor this moment of success and take that into practice and next weekend (against No. 13 Omaha).”

The win in Denver pushed CC (13-13-4, 7-10-3-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) into sixth place ahead of Omaha (15-14-1, 8-12-0) and only two points behind No. 15 and fifth-place Western Michigan (14-14-2, 9-10-1).

Tonight really helped us put ourselves in position to get home ice,” coach Mike Haviland said.

Colorado College played better as the game went on to put further pressure on the Pioneers as the early 1-0 lead held.

“It was a factor of us not being hard enough offensively,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said in a media release. “Our effort was great. I thought we skated well, we protected pucks well…but I thought they played with more desperation.”

DU pulled goalie Tanner Jaillet with about 80 seconds left but shot blocks by Westin Michaud (:20 left) and Troy Conzo (:08 remaining) helped the Tigers hold for their first win over Denver since Feb. 22, 2014 – a span of 1,424 days —  and the Tigers’ first under Haviland. The victory ended a 17-game winless streak (0-15-2).

“Tonight was a big step for us,” CC junior co-captain Andrew Farny said. “We had guys selling out all game long.”

“These guys don’t like to lose and they take it personal,” Haviland said. “We didn’t play hard enough last night but we certainly did tonight. Going 1-1-2 against the defending national champs shows the progress this program has made.”

Denver kept the puck in the CC end for most of the opening period, but it was the Tigers that entered first intermission with their initial lead of the weekend. Few at the time guessed it would prove to be the game-winner.

Conference-leading scorer Nick Halloran (41 points) scored his 18th goal of the season on the power play with 29 seconds remaining for a 1-0 lead. The power-play tally ended on 0 for 14 skid over three games.

halloran road unisIn other NCHC action, No. 11 Minnesota-Duluth downed last-place Miami 3-0 for its second shutout of the weekend against the reeling RedHawks. It is the first time in program history that Miami has been shut out for three-straight games. The scoring drought is now at 212 minutes, 1 second dating back to the second period on Friday, Feb. 9 (5-2 loss to No. 3 St. Cloud State.

No. 9 North Dakota bounced back for a road split by downing No. 13 Omaha, 3-0, and end the Mavericks’ seven-game home win streak. Cam Johnson returned to action after two games off to make his 11th career shutout (26 saves); second all-time at UND behind 15 for Karl Goehring.

League-leading St. Cloud State, ranked third in the USCHO poll but tops in the Pairwise rankings, defeated No. 15 Western Michigan 4-2 for the road sweep. The Broncos fell into in fifth place.

SCSU, which clinched home playoff ice on Friday, now has 45 standings points to second-place Denver’s 40, setting up a huge weekend series in Minnesota that will determine ownership of the Penrose Cup regular-season championship. UMD and North Dakota are tied for third with 30 points.