Three Tigers among top western college free agents

CC Rylan Schwartz actionThe Western College Hockey Blog announced its top 15 college free agents from the CCHA and WCHA and that list included three Tigers. Here are the list’s write ups on each with my take on the other seniors at the bottom.

8. Alex Krushelnyski, Junior, Forward, Colorado College

Krushelnyski was a player barely on the radar heading into this season, but has had an incredible year. Krushelnyski has 32 points through 30 games this year, including 28 points at even strength. He’s the nation’s third best scorer at even strength behind Walters and Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau. There’s nothing flashy about his game, but he’s the type of player that wins battles and rarely makes a mistake. He has the type of tools to be an effective bottom line player in the NHL.

11. Rylan Schwartz, Senior, Forward, Colorado College

While never quite as dynamic as younger brother Jaden, Schwartz has always been a dangerous offensive player in his own right. He’s having a very strong final campaign, with 35 points through 30 games this year, and his playmaking abilities could be valuable for some NHL club.

15. Mike Boivin, Senior, Defense, Colorado College

Boivin is an offensive defenseman that has been a rock on the power play for the Tigers this year. Colorado College has a long history of getting offensive defensemen into the NHL including players like Mark Stuart, Jack Hillen, Nate Prosser and Tom Preissing.

The other three senior free agents (Scott Winkler is a Dallas draft pick) are Andrew Hamburg, Joe Marciano and William Rapuzzi. I expect all three to garner some attention as well, especially Rapuzzi (33 points, 19 assists).


Notebook: Winkler shines, line changes pay dividends

forsaleThis weekend’s unsung hero: Scott Winkler

The Colorado College senior may not have registered a point on Saturday’s scoresheet but coach Scott Owens rightly credited the Dallas draft pick for his efforts in the 5-1 home win.

“(Scott Winkler) didn’t register a point but his line was up against the (UMD freshman Tony) Cameranesi line all weekend,” Owens said referring to the Bullddog’s top-scoring line. “His line (including wings Archie Skalbeck, Jared Hanson) did a good job defensively tonight. We had nine blocks in the second period and Winkler made a big one during that span. That was huge”

Winkler and senior captain William Rapuzzi both created screens for defenseman Mike Boivin when he skated over a step and snapped off a wrister that beat UMD goalie Matt McNeely high glove side for the 1-0 lead.

Lines change-up pays dividends

After Friday’s 3-2 loss, the CC coaches shifted around the Tiger lines and, at least for now, looked like a good move.

Charlie Taft added more speed at right wing on the Rylan Schwartz line, which includes left wing Alexander Krushelnyski.  Those three recorded six points with Krushelnyski (two assists) ad Schwartz (three assists) generating three apiece

Moving Rapuzzi to the third line with freshmen Hunter Fejes and center Cody Bradley added more offensive potential with the senior providing some savvy and an ability to create offense off redirects. That gave CC three lines with considerable offensive ability.

It paid off. Rapuzzi’s goal early in the third period off assists from Bradley and Fejes clinched the win.

CC at St. Cloud State preview

CC Alexander Krushelnyski roadHere is part of a preview I wrote earlier this week.

Colorado College (8-8-2, 5-4-1 WCHA) at No. 17 St. Cloud State (9-7-0, 7-5-0) 7:37 p.m. Central Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday

The Tigers’ run of five weekends in a row against ranked opponents continues this Friday through Saturday in Minnesota. The league’s 11th-rated scoring defense (3.50 goals) is balanced out by CC’s potent offense (league-best 3.61 goals), although the Tigers start out slow with 51 of the team’s 65 goals coming in the second and third period.

“We just need to keep getting better,” said Tigers head coach Scott Owens. “Our 5-on-5 scoring has been good which is better than it has been the past three years.”

CC senior Rylan Schwartz is tied for the WCHA scoring lead with 24 points while senior captain William Rapuzzi is tied for third with 22 points (13 assists). Tigers senior Scott Winkler has 20 points and is tied with Schwartz and two others with a league-high 10 goals.  Junior Alexander Krushelnyski now has 19 points (11 assists), good for a tie for eighth on the WCHA point scoring list with two others.

They face a team that is every bit as good as the higher-ranked opponents CC has faced, Owens said.

“And it is at their home which only makes it tougher,” Owens added. “They have two top lines that are as strong as anyone’s. You knew they would be good coming into the season with (Drew) LeBlanc back. Their defensive corps is underrated, led by one of the league’s best in Nick Jensen, and they have had good goaltending. They are going to be good as always.”

SCSU Nick JensenThe Huskies are paced by senior LeBlanc’s 21 points (team-high 16 assists) and 20 points (12 assists) from junior Nic Dowd. Freshman Kalle Kossila has 13 points (eight goals) while junior defenseman Jensen has 12 points, with his first goal of the season last weekend.

Senior Ben Hanowski has 11 points (seven assists) while freshman David Morley has 10 points (four goals, including his first hat trick last Friday). Sophomore goalie Ryan Faragher is 8-6-0 with a 2.44 goals against mark and a .912 saves percentage.

Tigers battle back to tie No. 4 Minnesota (with interview video)

Minnesota was only 20 minutes from reclaiming a spot atop the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings as it headed into its holiday break with a road sweep of Colorado College on Saturday night.

The Tigers would have none of that.

The never-say die Tigers rallied with three unanswered goals to stun No. 4 Minnesota and pick up a huge home point with a 4-4 tie after entering the third period trailing 4-1. CC senior Rylan Schwartz completed the rally when he ripped a one-timer past Minnesota freshman goalie Adam Wilcox with 24.6 seconds left in regulation after CC junior Alexander Krushelnyski, another Tigers hero in the third period, sent a crossing pass from along the near boards to the far post where Schwartz was unmarked.

Schwartz finished with two goals and an assist, including two points in the third period, while Krushelnyski recorded two goals and an assist in the final 16 minutes of regulation.

“Every night, certain guys step up and spark the team,” Krushelnyski said. “It just happened to be my turn. You have to give credit to Rylan for burying that puck to tie it. You also have to give credit to (Thorimbert) for shutting them out over the final 45 minutes.”

The comeback was big for a Tigers squad that has now gone 1-5-2 over its last eight games to drop into seventh place in the WCHA with two fewer league games played than most of the league. CC travels to third-place St. Cloud State, which is tied with Minnesota State, this weekend.

“We took a little step in the right direction,” Schwartz said.

Saturday’s result was comparable to the 4-4 tie against then-No. 5 New Hampshire, which had the Division I’s best scoring defense then. This time the rally came against the WCHA’s best scoring defense (11.88 goals),

Despite Denver’s 6-3 loss at North Dakota, the Pioneers are one point ahead of the Gophers (11-3-3, 6-3-3) as DU heads into its final weekend before the holiday break. UM is idle until it plays Air Force in the Mariucci Classic Dec. 29 while Denver (9-5-2, 7-3-2) travels to Bemidji State Dec. 14-15. DU’s winless streak is now at six games, the program’s longest such stretch since the 1999-2000 season.

“Some ties feel good and others feel like a loss,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. “This feels like a loss. We were up 4-1 and could have made it 5-1 but we didn’t put it away and to their credit they battled back. It is disappointing we let a point slip away.”

Colorado College (8-8-2,-5-4-1)  got back into the game when Krushelnyski scored a shorthanded goal with 15:46 left and scored again 1:47 later to trim the Minnesota lead to 4-3. Krushelnyski’s first goal of the night came after Rylan Schwartz collected a loose puck in the Tigers zone and passed to the junior to  start a 2-on-1 breakaway. Krushelnyski fired the shot past Wilcox’s glove attempt to energize what had been a silent announced crowd of 6,954 fans at World Arena.

They were quiet no longer.

Krushelnyski’s second tally came after CC senior defenseman Mike Boivin fired a hard shot that went off Wilcox’s leg pad and ended up in front where Krushelnyski beat a UM defender to the puck to knock in the rebound.

And suddenly, Minnesota was battling to hold on. CC drew a penalty a couple minutes later but was unable to generate more than one shot (Krushelnyski). The Tigers continued to harass Wilcox but Minnesota weathered the storm.

CC came close to tying the game with 1:23 prompting a video review when Wilcox had to reach back to grab a loose puck in the crease. It was ruled the puck did not cross the line.

The rally continued a pattern of the Tigers falling behind only to battle back, usually falling short during this stretch, which included losing last Saturday against North Dakota after leading in the third period and falling after entering the third tied on Friday against the Gophers. CC has led in only 14 if its 18 games this season.

“It is starting to get kind of embarrassing,” Schwartz said. “We need to start better.”

“We know we can come from behind,” Krushelnyski said. “It’s a good asset to have. If we could add good starts we could be unbeatable.”

“It is a big point for us, especially after last Saturday and last night.” Tigers head coach Scott Owens said. “It reinforced a few things we have been talking about. I am proud of the team’s effort.”

Earlier, Schwartz scored the Tigers’ fourth power-play goal since the Bemidji State series in October. His wrister whizzed over Minnesota freshman goalie Adam Wilcox’s shoulder to make it 3-1 with 11:30 left, coming only 11 seconds into the man advantage.

The Gophers regained control when Mike Reilly scored an unassisted goal after collecting a loose puck in the Tigers zone and beating CC junior goalie Josh Thorimbert on a hard-angle shot inside the far post.

Minnesota seized control early when Tom Serratore, the Colorado Springs native who scored the game-winner on Friday, banged in a rebound after Nate Condon’s shot caromed off Thorimbert’s chest pad into the air and landed to Thorimbert’s left in front of an open net with 15:21 left in the first period.

Only 28 seconds later, a CC penalty set up Kyle Rau’s power-play goal only six seconds into the man advantage. Zach Budish won the faceoff, sending the puck back to Nate Schmidt who passed to the opposite faceoff circle from where Rau wristed a shot over Thorimbert’s shoulder as he slid over. That score made it two Gopher goals in only 34 seconds.

The game was the final WCHA regular-season game between the two programs with Minnesota leaving for the new Big Ten league and CC headed to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with the start of the 2013-14 season.

Seth Ambroz fired a hard shot through traffic from the right point with 5:28 left to make it 3-0.

No. 4 Minnesota 4, No. 19 Colorado College 4

Minnesota          3              1              0              0              –4

Colorado College             0              1              3              0              –4

First period – 1. Minnesota, Serratore (Condon, Ambroz) 4:39; 2. Minnesota, Haula (Schmidt, Budish) 5:13; 3. Minnesota, Ambroz (Schmidt, Boyd) 14:32. Penalties – CC, King, tripping, 5:07; UM, Helgeson, cross checking, 12:21; CC, Skalbeck, slashing, 12:21; CC, Rapuzzi, roughing, 19:22.

Second period – 4. Colorado College, Schwartz (McDermott, Winkler) 8:30 (PP); 5. Minnesota, M. Reilly (unassisted) 15:41. Penalties – UM, Ambroz, holding, 1:32; CC, Schwartz, slashing, 5:59; UM, Haula, tripping, 8:19; CC, Collett, tripping, 10:59; UM, Isackson, hooking, 15:52; CC, Boivin, roughing, 16:15.

Third period – 6. Colorado College, Krushelnyski (Schwartz) 4:14 (SH); 7. Colorado College, Krushelnyski (Boivin, Rapuzzi) 6:01; 8. Colorado College, Schwartz (Krushelnyski, Winkler) 19:36 (EX). Penalties – CC, Bradley, high sticking, 2:30; UM, Isackson, roughing, 8:56.

Overtime – No scoring. Penalties – none.

Power play – Minnesota 1-6, Colorado College 1-4. Shots on goal – Minnesota 11-10-5-3 — 29; Colorado College 11-6-9-1 – 27. Saves-minutes – Minnesota, Wilcox 11-5-6-1- 65:00; Colorado College, Thorimbert 8-9-5-3- — 64:01. Referees – Bokai, Thul. Linesmen – Stankevich, Stodgell. Attendance – 6,954.

Wednesday reading: DU streak, Krushelnyski, Gold Pan previews

Denver Post beat writer Mike Chambers talks about this interesting fact in a new weekly column: The Pioneers have not been swept in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series in nearly four years — since losing 4-2 and 2-1 at St. Cloud State on Nov. 14 and 15, 2008.

It is very likely  a league record, pending confirmation.

Junior Alexander Krushelnyski, pictured at left and forever in CC lore after last year’s OT penalty shot goal, was featured by the Gazette.

Here is the Star-Tribune’s preview of the Gold Pan series and the preview from

Northeastern lost a freshman forward who had played in all nine games (two assists) to USHL Muskegon.

CC battles back for 5-4 road OT victory

Junior Alexander Krushelnyski one-timed a pass from behind the Wisconsin net by Charlie Taft for the game-winner 25 seconds into overtime as Colorado College defeated host Wisconsin 5-4 at the Kohl Center.

Taft knocked down a pass by Wisconsin goalie Joel Rumpel and immediately passed toward the front where Krushelnyski was attacked the net.

The win, CC’s first in OT since Dec. 16, 2011 at Minnesota State (David Civitarese), ended a three-game losing skid.

“This was a good character win,” CC assistant Joe Bonnett said in a radio interview afterward.  “You have to respect our determination tonight. The Kohl Center is not an easy place to play when the students get into it.”

Wisconsin jumped out to a 2-0 lead, scoring only 89 seconds into the game after the puck deflected in off a CC defenseman’s skate.  The Tigers (4-3, 1-0 WCHA) did not look sharp but shook off their slow start by dominating the second period.

CC freshman Hunter Fejes scored his first goal as a Tiger and CC added a power-play goal by defenseman Mike Boivin, his first of the season, to tie it at 2-2 headed into the third period. CC, which out shot the host Badgers 17-7.

Wisconsin (1-3-1, 1-1-1) scored a power-play goal less than a minute into the period before CC responded and took its first lead of the contest. Scott Winkler one-timed a pass from the corner by Krushelnyski to tie the game at 3-3 and senior captain William Rapuzzi added a power-play goal with nine minutes left for a 4-3 edge.

Rauzzi hauled in a long pass from defenseman Eammon McDermott from inside the CC zone and got behind the Badgers defensemen for a one-on-one chance against Rumpel.

“Eammon McDermott continues to dazzle with his long passes,” Bonnett said. “Winkler is a big guy with a strong stick in the paint.”

It was Rapuzzi’s third goal, matching his total from his junior season, which included two empty-netters.

Wisconsin would answer when Keegan Meuer batted in his own rebound with about four minutes left to force overtime.

More Thursday reading: Enga, WCHA notebook, NHL family links, CC-UMass Lowell connections, Denver, Air Force preview video

Former Tiger R.J. Enga, an assistant with the USHL’s Chicago Steel where CC commits Christian Heil, Jaccob Slavin and Alex Roos play, will serve as an assistant for the U.S. team at the World Junior A Challenge next month.

Here is my first USCHO notebook on the WCHA. I wrote the portions dealing with Alabama-Huntsville, the arrested ref, senior Joe Howe, Denver and part of the Omaha arena blurb.

Three Tigers’ fathers all played in the NHL. The Gazette looks into how that affected the sons, Cody Bradley, Alexander Krushelnyski and Charlie Taft.

Here are the weekly CC preview notes.

Former Pikes Peak Miner and Colorado Springs native Josh Holmstrom said he is excited to get to play in Colorado for the first time in his college career at No. 10 UMass Lowell. I plan to write a feature on him and his older brother Ben Holmstrom, now in the Flyers organization with Jeff Dimmen and Mike Testwuide, for next week’s Woodmen Edition.

Lowell head coach Norm Bazin and associate head coach Jason Lammers both served as assistants under CC coach Scott Owens, which is partly why this series became possible.

Denver’s Nolan Zajac chose DU despite his older brothers going to North Dakota. Their father Tom was a Pioneer in the 1970s.

Air Force coach Frank Serratore talks about last weekend and the upcoming CC and Denver games in this video: