“Heart-wrenching loss” for Tigers as No. 1 Huskies rally to win in OT

CruickshankCCH_Miami111618_030_webColorado College could not hold off the top-ranked Huskies, who scored three unanswered to rally for a 5-4 overtime win on Saturday night in St. Cloud, Minn.

Patrick Newell scored the tying and game-winning goals after he assisted the first goal in the St. Cloud State comeback.

Newell’s shot with 3:51 left in regulation was redirected by defenseman Nick Perbix to make it 4-3. Newell then rifled a shot that CC goalie Alex Leclerc could not squeeze cleanly. The puck trickled in to tie the National Collegiate Hockey Conference game at 4-4 just 56 seconds later.

SCSU kept coming but Leclerc made huge saves over the next few minutes. CC survived a late penalty in regulation but Newell scored with 1:07 left in overtime off a backhanded pass by Robby Jackson to claim the three standings points and remain comfortably atop the league.

“It’s a heart-wrenching loss,” Tigers coach Mike Haviland said in a radio interview. “We just have to figure out how to finish off games. We looked to pass instead of shoot. We never tested them after we went ahead 4-2.”

The league-leading Huskies (21-4-3, 13-2-3-2 NCHC) improved to 13-0-1 at home this season. CC led SCSU entering the third period in all four regular-season games this season only to finish 0-3-1. CC tied the Huskies on Friday before falling 3-2 in the 3-on-3 overtime to garner a single standings point.

On Saturday, the Tigers were in control after scoring three times despite being out shot by a 14-4 margin by the Huskies during the second period.

Kristian Blumenschein tied the game at 2-2 only 5:42 into the second period before Grant Cruikshank scored his second power-play goal of the night to make it 3-2 just 126 seconds later. Trevor Gooch then made it 4-2 with 9:41 left in the second period to end starter and LA Kings draft pick David Hrenak’s night (five saves, nine shots, .692 saves percentage).

It was the second night in a row that CC held SCSU scoreless in the second period. Senior backup Jeff Smith did not face a shot the rest of the second period with CC (11-14-4, 5-9-3 NCHC) going without a shot until early in the third.

Sixth-place CC is idle next weekend with seven regular-season games left.

CC’s Cruikshank scored his first man-advantage goal with 37 seconds left in the first period to cut the SCSU lead to 2-1 and set the stage for the second.

The Tigers fell to 12-23-8 all-time (8-10-5 on road) vs. a No. 1 team since the first national poll during the 97-98 season.  CC is now 2-3-1 versus the Huskies when SCSU is ranked No. 1.

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Opportunistic Tigers rely on defense to knock off No. 3 Minnesota Duluth

cc full rinkColorado College fans had waited since Dec. 8 to see their Tigers play at home. The Tigers made sure the crowd felt it was worth it.

A strong defensive performance by the hosts led to Minnesota-Duluth turnovers and sparked CC to a 4-1 victory Friday night at The Broadmoor World Arena.

CC extended its win streak to a season-best three games. It was also the highest ranked opponent CC has defeated at home since Feb. 4, 2011, a 3-2 victory over then-No.2 Denver, under former coach Scott Owens.

On Friday, it started with good defense all over the ice. The Tigers (11-12-3, 5-7-2 NCHC) did a good job harassing the Bulldogs, taking away time and space to force turnovers and generate pressure that led to some unforced miscues as well. Not coincidentally, CC has allowed just 17 goals in its 11 wins and 53 in the other 15 games (0-12-3).

“We played a smart, direct, simple hockey game and you have to play that against them,” CC coach Mike Haviland said. “Guys are understanding and buying in that we have to limit their chances. We have limited our mistakes in the past month and a half. You guys haven’t really seen us, but we have played pretty well. It was nice to get rewarded because they are playing well and playing the right way.”

The first two CC goals came almost immediately after UMD turnovers. A misplayed pass off the boards from Scott Perunovich to Nick Wolff led to a scoring opportunity for Christiano Versich, who passed over to a wide-open sophomore Troy Conzo for a 2-0 lead and the eventual game-winner with 12:47 left in the second period.

Earlier, the opportunistic Tigers went ahead 1-0 when Trey Bradley collected a UMD turnover behind the Bulldogs net, skated around front and fired in one smooth motion with 15:34 left in the first.

“He has been outstanding,” Haviland said. “Trey plays with that little edge. He is a competitor. I love his game right now.  He has been a major part why we have it going a little bit here,”

A good performance by UMD goalie Hunter Shepard (24 saves) kept it close early. He stopped two CC breakaways following turnovers and made another desperation save late in the opening period following another miscue behind the Bulldogs net. Shepard’s play offset an otherwise poor first 20 minutes for the Bulldogs (16-7-2, 9-5-1 NCHC).

But Duluth cut the Tigers’ lead in half when Peter Krieger deflected Noah Cates’ shot low and past CC goalie Alex Leclerc (40 saves) to make it 2-1 with 7:41 left in the second. UMD seized the momentum at that point, prompting a CC timeout with 3:36 left in the second.

It paid off.  While on the rush, Bradley found Conzo for a cross-ice pass for a 3-1 lead with 2:41 left, exactly five minutes after UMD’s tally.

“The first one was kind of a lucky bounce but the second one, Trey made a great pass to me and I just tried to get it the back of the net,” Conzo said. “The key for us was getting out to a good start, getting that first goal and playing with the lead. We were really good structure-wise tonight.”

CC sealed the win when freshman Grant Cruikshank fired in a rebound with 14:48 left in the third for his fifth goal this season.

“We played kind of brain dead a little bit,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “It was as bad a hockey game we have played all year.”

Ice chips

The loss dropped UMD into third place while CC (17 standings points) remained in sixth, pulling away a little after losses earlier Friday by Miami (12 points) and Omaha (11). … CC’s program record nine-straight road games ended Friday. … UMD is now 13-2-3 in its last 17 games against CC. The previous Bulldogs loss was 2-1 on Jan. 7, 2017 in Duluth. … CC senior Westin Michaud could play in his 100th NCAA game on Saturday. … UMD is 9-3 on Fridays and 7-3-2 on Saturdays (0-1 Sundays) this season. … Bradley recorded a career-plus-4 since he was on the ice for all four CC goals.  Chris Wilkie (one assist) tied his career-best at plus-3. … It was the second two-goal game of Conzo’s career (Feb. 9, 2018 at North Dakota).

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Minnesota-Duluth, CC’s weekend foe, moves up to No. 3 in national USCHO poll

cc full rinkThe St. Cloud Huskies remained atop the weekly USCHO.com national poll while Minnesota-Duluth’s home sweep of Omaha pushed the defending NCAA champions up to third in the ratings.

The second-place Bulldogs (16-6-2, 9-4-1-0 NCHC) travel to sixth-place Colorado College (10-12-3, 4-7-2-0) this weekend.

Four National Collegiate Hockey Conference team cracked the Top 10 with Denver down to No. 7 ahead of No. 8 Western Michigan, which swept the Pioneers last weekend.

North Dakota fell short of the top 20 for the second-straight week at what would be No. 21 with a now significant gap (70-19) over Yale. Air Force is tied with Boston University at what would be No. 23 (seven points).

CC rallies for first road sweep in almost seven years, first in NCHC play

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Colorado College rallied for its first road sweep since late 2012 with a 3-2 come-from-behind win at Miami on Saturday night in Oxford, Ohio.

Senior defenseman Cole McCaskill scored his second goal of the season only 86 seconds into the third period to tie the National Collegiate Hockey Conference contest at 2-2. The game-winner came off blue-liner Kristian Blumenschein’s stick with 3:22 left during a 5-on-3 power play for the Tigers (10-12-3, 4-7-2 NCHC, 14 points). It was the junior’s first goal this campaign.

“What a cannon that was at the end,” coach Mike Haviland said of Blumenschein’s goal during a radio interview. “Our defensemen aren’t known for our goals but that was big for us tonight. You don’t see (a road sweep) often in this conference. Guys have really stuck with it. It’s nice to see them rewarded for their hard work tonight.”

Thanks to the two third-period goals, it was the first time CC rallied for a win after trailing entering the final period this season. The sweep moved the Tigers into sixth place ahead of Omaha (12 standings points) and Miami (11).

“This gives us a lot of confidence knowing we can do that,” McCaskill said. “(Competing for 120 minutes) is something we have to do. We can skate with anyone in the conference when we do that.”

“We have been looking to chip in for a while now,” McCaskill added. “Blumenschein’s shot was a beautiful one.”

CC had only four goals from their defensemen this season entering Saturday’s game. It was the first time CC had three blue-liners score in the same game in recent memory.

The Tigers swept Wisconsin on Nov. 2-3, 2012 (5-3, 3-0). The Tigers advanced to the WCHA Final Five title game that season before losing to the Badgers under former coach Scott Owens.

Tigers senior Ben Israel scored CC’s opening goal early in the first period before Miami scored twice to give the RedHawks (9-13-4, 3-9-2-1) their first lead in two weekends. Miami will likely be CC’s final unranked foe this regular season.

The Tigers host fifth-ranked and defending NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth next weekend for CC’s first home games in a program record nine games. That stretch was extended by last Friday’s rescheduled home game against rival and fifth-place Denver, which was swept on the road by Western Michigan earlier Saturday.

Tigers rout RedHawks, climb out of last place in NCHC

D-07-11 Goggin Ice w new logoColorado College played a strong road game, especially in the first two periods, to cruise to a 6-1 win at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio on Friday night.

Sophomore Brian Williams scored twice, including the opening tally midway through the first period as CC reeled off three goals in five minutes to take a 3-0 lead.

“It felt really good to get two goals but even better getting the win tonight,” Williams said in a radio interview.

Alex Berardinelli and Troy Conzo both scored during that spurt. It was Williams’ first appearance in 2018-19 after being a healthy scratch all season. Four of his five career goals are against Miami.

“I don’t know why but I am happy to get the goals,” Williams added. “Hopefully I can spread it around a bit more.”

The Tigers did not let up with senior Trey Bradley scoring on an unassisted wraparound only 44 seconds into the second period for a 4-0 edge. Bradley’s 10 goals lead the Tigers (9-12-3, 3-7-2 NCHC), who moved into a tie with Omaha for seventh place and only one point behind the sixth-place RedHawks (9-12-4, 3-8-2-1). Omaha trailed by four goals at Minnesota-Duluth later Friday.

Miami, mired in an 0-7-4 skid, last won on Nov. 17 (3-2 OT) in Colorado Springs.

Bradley’s goal ended MU starter Ryan Larkin’s night at four saves on eight shots. The win snapped a 0-3-1 mark in 2019 for CC.

Williams scored again to make it 5-0 midway through the second against Alabama-Huntsville graduate transfer Jordan Uhelski (two goals allowed, 14 saves).

Miami spoiled Tigers goalie Alex Leclerc’s shutout bid (29 saves) when a shot by Grant Hutton found its way through traffic past the screened goaltender with 9:52 left in the middle frame to make it 5-1.

CC’s Christiano Versich lifted in a loose puck late in the third period for the final margin.

CC-Denver game rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26

cc full rinkThe home game for Colorado College versus rival Denver  that was postponed last Friday, Jan. 18, will be played at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, at The Broadmoor World Arena, the school announced in a media release.

All tickets from the Jan. 18 game remain valid and may be presented at the gate on Feb. 26. No ticket exchange is necessary.

Those unable to attend the Feb. 26 game may exchange their paid tickets for any remaining regular season home game, subject to availability. Exchanges must be made in person at the World Arena or Pikes Peak Center box offices for a ticket of equal or lesser value. No refunds.

Complimentary tickets are not exchangeable and must be used for the Feb. 26 game only. Parking passes from Jan. 18 will be honored for one remaining regular-season home game.

Berzolla’s three assists spark Tigers in comeback road win over Merrimack

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Colorado College shook off an early Merrimack goal to scored five unanswered in a 5-1 road win over struggling Merrimack on New Year’s Eve afternoon.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the 8-9-2 Tigers, who next play at Hockey East’s Maine on Jan. 2.

“We didn’t finish well before Christmas break and we knew we had more to give,” Tigers goalie Alex Leclerc (38 saves) said in a radio interview. “We didn’t start well but after the first 10 minutes we kept getting better and better.”

Zach Berzolla picked up his third assist of the nonconference game on Westin Michaud’s goal in the third period that finished off the scoring at Lawler Rink in North Andover, Mass. The three assists doubled his season total and improved his carer totals to 11 points (10 assists)

Berzolla assisted both first-period goals by the Tigers, including Alex Berardinelli’s eventual game-winner with 6:33 left in the first for a 2-1 lead.

“I just try to get pucks on the net and fortunately some guys buried the puck for me tonight,” Berzolla said. “We felt we left some wins behind in the first half (of the season). We have put that behind us and are looking to build on this in the second half.”

Merrimack’s Tyler Drevitch gave the hosts a 1-0 lead which lasted only two minutes before Troy Conzo tipped in a Berzolla shot to tie the game. Berardinelli scored eight minutes later. on a breakaway sparked by a Berzolla pass.

CC improved to 4-0 all-time versus the Hockey East member Warriors (4-14-1).

The game marked the return of Chris Wilkie from an upper-body injury, who made his presence felt when he made a between-the-legs pass to Trevor Gooch for his seventh goal and a 3-1 Tigers lead with 11:09 left in the second period.

CC’s Grant Cruikshank knocked a power-play shot in off the crossbar about 10 minutes later for a 4-1 lead entering the final period.