CC clinches home playoff ice

COLORADO SPRINGS – Two shorthanded goals by Michigan Tech still weren’t enough for the visiting Huskies to keep momentum and pull out a critical road win.

Instead, No. 19 Colorado College scored two timely goals in response and grabbed fifth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and home playoff ice before an announced crowd of 6.485 fans on Friday night.

Home playoff tickets went on sale immediately after the win and will again be for sale at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Two goals by CC senior Tim Hall in the second period helped the host Tigers take control.

Hall’s first goal snatched back the momentum only 2:23 into the second period after MTU sophomore defenseman Daniel Sova had scored on a shorthanded chance with 3:18 left in the first period.

“We needed to take better care of the puck,” head coach Mel Pearson said. ‘We didn’t play with as much aggression as we usually do until the third period. I liked how we played in the third period until all the penalties.”

Hall scored his second goal, beating a retreating MTU defender one-on-one, and using him for a screen to shoot the puck past MTU goalie Josh Robinson (36 saves) for the eventual game-winner and a 3-1 lead.

“We stayed pretty calm in the locker room (during first intermission),” Hall said. “We have had a rough stretch, going (1-5-1) in our last seven. But now we feel good. I don’t think we’re going to let up. Hopefully we can keep this rolling.”

The eighth-place Huskies (14-17-4, 11-12-4 WCHA) will try to win their first regular-season game in 22 tries at the Colorado Springs World Arena Saturday night. MTU must win and hope both sixth-place Nebraska Omaha and St. Cloud State lose to garner sixth place and home playoff ice next week.

The Huskies will need to approach Saturday night like it’s a playoff game, which was the last time Michigan Tech won in Colorado Springs with a best-of-three series sweep in March 2007.

The Huskies again took advantage of No. 19 Colorado College’s most glaring weaknesses – allowing shorthanded goals — during the third period.

Sophomore defenseman Bradley Stebner’s score was the 11th shorthanded goal allowed by Colorado College this season, second-worst in Division I behind Northeastern (12).

It trimmed CC’s lead to 3-2, but Tigers defenseman Mike Boivin scored 22 seconds later while on the power play to seize the momentum back in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association game. The goal was set up by a fac eoff win by CC captain Nick Dineen in the Huskies’ zone.

“The little things were what hurt us,” Pearson said. “You have to win face offs.”

Jaden Schwartz scored an empty-net, power-play goal with 10 seconds remaining for the final margin.

Michigan Tech had a chance at a third shorty with 9:12 remaining, but CC goalie Josh Thorimbert made the leg pad save on Alex MacLeod.

The Huskies later had two power plays in a row to make it a one-goal game but Thorimbert made four of his 26 saves to preserve the win.

“I thought their goalie was quite good, especially in the third period,” Pearson said.

Even with the sweep Saturday night, the host Tigers (17-14-2, 14-12-1) can finish no higher that fifth place after wins by Denver and North Dakota Friday.

The Huskies have not finished higher than sixth place in the WCHA since 1992-93, when they were fourth. It was also the last time MTU hosted a WCHA playoff series.

Colorado College used a good forecheck to put good pressure on the Husky blue-liners. Junior center Rylan Schwartz collecting a turnover inside the MTU blue line along the near boards, firing a crossing pass to junior right wing William Rapuzzi in front, whose shot ended up behind Robinson. Jaden Schwartz reached in behind Robinson to jam the puck in for the early 1-0 lead.

Wednesday reading: Injury updates, more Rau

The bumps and bruises are becoming more serious as the stretch run continues in the WCHA.

Here’s an update on Minnesota Duluth’s JT Brown, who is out this weekend.

CC’s Tim Hall is out as well but a couple others are expected back this weekend along with updates on long-term injuries. With some injured players coming back, especially Nick Dineen and Josh Thorimbert, the Tigers may have a playoff run in them this season.

The Gophers  juggled their lines on Saturday, but its unclear if the configurations will remain this weekend against Bemidji State, especially with Kyle Rau back. Minnesota coach Don Lucia had no problem with the call and bu not so much on the one-game suspension. Jason Zucker, who was knocked unconscious by Rau’s hit, practiced Tuesday.

Mankato is feeling pretty good after a road sweep at last-place Alaska Anchorage, especially with only five defensemen making the trip.

Here’s details on the North Dakota at Nebraska Omaha outdoor game in February 2013. That will be a great early showcase for two members of The National, which begins play that fall.

Friday reading: Previews, academic honors

Oklahoma City’s Ryan Keller and Abbotsford’s Brian Connelly battle for control of the puck during the first period of Thursday night’s American Hockey League game at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Henrik Karlsson, Calgary Flames No. 2 goalie, was in the nets for the Heat on a conditioning assignment. Photograph by: Gavin Young, Calgary Herald

Denver hopes the return of goalie Sam Brittain gives the Pioneers a chance at making a run and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. They host No. 1/2 Minnesota, which is coming off a bye week. The Pioneers have done well against the Gophers of late, prompting some concern in the Twin Cities.

Here is a CC at Bemidji State preview from the Beavers’ perspective and a preview capsule by the Gazette, which has reported Nick Dineen and Josh Thorimbert did not make the trip to Bemidji this weekend.

Alaska Anchorage hopes to get on a roll at home against MSU Mankato after beating then No, 1/2 Minnesota Duluth last weekend. Here’s an update on the purple Mavs.

All four UMD Hobey Baker winners will be honored during the No. 3 Bulldogs’ home game tonight against No. 16 North Dakota. Here is a profile of all four. North Dakota brought all its healthy players, giving Stephane Pattyn more ice time than expected this season.

This weekend’s series between visiting Nebraska Omaha and Michigan Tech could determine home playoff ice for both teams. Mix in a large Winter Carnival crowd and it’s Hot Times in Houghton, which this time of year means a high of 10 degrees Fahrenheit and a 90 percent chance of snow.

Here are Roman’s fearless WCHA predictions. The Minnesota Mr. Hockey finalists were announced.

Former Tiger Bill Sweatt is profiled by his hometown newspaper. Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz will be a hot commodity in the free agent market this summer if he chooses to eeave a year early.

Altogether a record 96 hockey players were named WCHA scholar-athletes on Thursday.

Here is the list as copied from wcha.com:

2011-12 WCHA Scholar-Athletes
****four-time recipient; ***three-time recipient; **two time recipient

Alaska Anchorage — Matt Bailey (So., F, Winnipeg, MB); Brett Cameron (So., F, Spruce Grove, AB); Chris Crowell** (Jr., F, Williams Lake, BC); Andrew Pickering (So., F, West Vancouver, BC); Jade Portwood (Sr., F, Victoria, BC); Dusan Sidor*** (Jr., G, Poprad, Slovakia).

Bemidji State — Drew Fisher** (Sr., F, International Falls, MN); Jamie MacQueen** (Sr., F, St. Thomas, ON).

Colorado College — David Civitarese*** (Sr., F, Calgary, AB).

Denver — Beau Bennett (So., F, Gardena, CA); Daniel Olszewski (So., F, Janesville, WI); Shawn Ostrow** (Jr., F, Calgary, AB); Paul Phillips** (Jr., D, Darien, IL).

Michigan Tech — Corson Cramer*** (Jr., G, Colorado Springs, CO); Kevin Genoe** (Jr.,G, Qualicum Beach, BC); Patrick McCadden (So., F, Chesterfield, MO); Brad Stebner (So., D, Fort McMurray, AB).

Minnesota — Zach Budish (So., F, Edina); Nate Condon (So. F, Wausau, Wis.); Jake Kremer **(Sr., G, Eden Prairie); Nick Larson (Sr.  F, Stillwater);  Taylor Matson (Sr.  F, Mound); Nico Sacchetti ** (Sr. F, Virginia).

Minnesota Duluth —  Aaron Crandall** (So., G, Lakeville, MN); Luke McManus (So., D, Apple Valley, MN); Kenny Reiter**** (Sr., G, Pittsburgh, PA).

Minnesota State Mankato — Cameron Cooper (Sr., D, Lakeville, MN); Tyler Elbrecht** (Jr., D, Edwardsville, IL); Evan Karambelas (Fr., G, Fort St. John, BC); Austin Lee**** (Sr., G, Bloomington, MN); Evan Mosey (Jr., D, Downers Grove, IL); Joe Schiller*** (Sr., F, Detroit Lakes, MN).

Nebraska Omaha — Bryce Aneloski (Jr., D, Pekin, IL); Fredrik Bergman** (Jr., G, Vienna, VA); Terry Broadhurst (Jr., F, Orland Park, IL); Kyle Ensign (Sr., D, New Richmond, WI); Zahn Raubenheimer (So., F, Smoky Lake, AB); Johnnie Searfoss (So., F, Colleyville, TX); Alex Simonson (So., F, Grand Forks, ND).

North Dakota — Brad Eidsness*** (Sr., G, Chestermere, AB); Dillon Simpson (So., D, Edmonton, AB).

St. Cloud State  — Jordy Christian*** (Sr., F, Moorhead, MN); Nic Dowd (So., F, Huntsville, AL); Kevin Gravel (So., D, Kingsford, MI); Ben Hanowski (Jr., F, Little Falls, MN); Nick Jensen (So., D, Rogers, MN); Drew LeBlanc*** (Sr., F, Hermantown, MN); Mike Lee** (Jr., G, Roseau, MN); Travis Novak*** (Sr., F, Lethbridge, AB).

Thursday reading: Weekend previews, Sioux nickname, GLI

Colorado College junior goaltender Joe Howe makes a save in the second period of an NCAA hockey game against the University of Denver at the DU's Magness Arena on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. (Daniel Petty, The Denver Post)

Colorado College’s defense is much improved of late while junior goalie Joe Howe will be the likely starter this Friday at Bemidji State. Backup Courtney Lockwood is making his first road trip. BSU coach Tom Serratore previews (video) the home series against CC.

Because of injuries, North Dakota does not have the extra players needed for a “healthy scratch” when it travels to No. 3 Minnesota Duluth. The Sioux nickname returns at the University of North Dakota, at least temporarily. The Big Sky Conference, the new league home for the other UND sports, is not amused.

It looks the Big 10 and The National may end up holding its postseason tournaments at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul every other year.

The top line for No.1/2 Minnesota will be a real test for Denver, which hosts the confident Gophers this weekend and needs to do well down the stretch to avoid having to win the Final Five tournament outright for an NCAA bid.

Nebraska-Omaha travels to Michigan Tech in a battle of two teams tied for fifth place. Mankato travels to Anchorage to conclude the Seawolves’ homestand.

St. Cloud State is idle this week. Here’s a profile of goalie Mike Lee in the interim. The Badgers also have the weekend off.

The Great Lakes Invitational will be played outdoors Dec. 28 and 29, 2012 and will included future National Collegiate Hockey Conference member Western Michigan. The NCHC announced Wednesday that it would have a 24-game league schedule when it begins play in October 2013.

Here’s the weekend schedule courtesy of wcha.com …

Games for Friday, February 10: *Nebraska Omaha at Michigan Tech (WCHA), 7:07 pm ET; North Dakota at Minnesota Duluth (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Colorado College at Bemidji State (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; Minnesota at Denver (WCHA), 8:07 pm MT; Minnesota State at Alaska Anchorage (WCHA), 7:07 pm AT. * Winter Carnival

Games for Saturday, February 11: *Nebraska Omaha at Michigan Tech (WCHA), 5:07 pm ET; Colorado College at Bemidji State (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; North Dakota at Minnesota Duluth (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Minnesota at Denver (WCHA), 7:07 pm MT; Minnesota State at Alaska Anchorage (WCHA), 7:07 pm AT. * Winter Carnival

CC battles back to win Gold Pan

The Gold Pan Trophy is back where it belongs after Colorado College deliverable a memorable, gut-check performance against its hated rival.

The 11th-ranked Tigers overcame the biggest adversity they had faced this season, rallying from down 2-0 to forge a 2-2 tie and garner the annual traveling trophy from No. 13 Denver Saturday night at World Arena.

Denver jumped out to a 2-0 lead before injuries started to take a toll on the Tigers (15-9-2, 12-71 WCHA). Senior captain Nick Dineen left the game in the first period with an apparent upper body injury.

But the Tigers dug deep and found a way to win behind the heroics of Jaden Schwartz who sparked a two-goal spurt to tie the game and junior goalie Joe Howe, who later stepped in for sophomore goalie Josh Thorimbert after he was knocked out of the game in the second period after a collision from Denver’s Chris Knowlton of Colorado Springs. Thorimbert also suffered an upper body injury.

“Down 2-0, losing your captain, one of your best players and emotional leader,  tying and later losing your goalie, Josh, who was one of the hottest in the country is a lot to overcome,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said. ““We definitely earned that point and that trophy.”

Schwartz jumpstarted the Tigers and the announced crowd of 7,733 with a highlight-reel goal, weaving around two Denver defenders and beating DU goalie Juho Olkinuora high stick side with a hard-angle wrist shot to make it 2-1.

“I had speed and I caught them flat-footed, I guess,” Jaden said. “We definitely battled through adversity tonight especially after losing our captain and Thorny.”

Jaden didn’t remember when he last scored such a goal.

“You don’t really remember when you have a goal like that. But I’ll remember that for awhile,” Schwartz said.

So will the Pioneers and their fans.

“I’ll be having nightmares about the Jaden Schwartz goal,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “They had absolutely nothing going for them but that’s what great players do.”

CC rode the momentum from that four-on-four goal, tying the game with a Jeff Collett power-play goal a couple minutes later. Collett camped out in front and tipped in a Rylan Schwartz crossing pass.

The score came after senior defenseman Gabe Guentzel, who averaged 32 minutes this weekend, kept the puck in the zone. The goal stood after a short video review.

Howe made sure the two goals stood, making big save after save, including a leg pad stack in overtime to rob Daniel Doremus with 2:46 left.

“He lives for this stuff,” Guentzel said.  “We didn’t have any doubts that Howie could get the job done.”

Tigers win defensive struggle in Denver

It was a classic for Tigers fans and good game for those who love a chippy, defensive struggle.

More importantly, it was a huge road win for the Tigers, who moved one step closer to reclaiming the Gold Pan Trophy with a 2-0 win at Magness Arena Friday night.

With a tie or win at home Saturday, the Tigers (15-9-1, 12-7 WCHA) would hoist the trophy for the first time in two seasons and maintain its hold on third place in the league, which it seized from the Pioneers (15-9-3,  10-6-3) with the victory. Denver is in fourth after fifth-place Nebraska-Omaha tied Bemidji State earlier. Idle North Dakota sits in sixth.

“We want that Gold Pan back; bottom line,” CC captain Nick Dineen said.

The key was a quick start which put the Pioneers on their heels and led to the eventual game-winning goal, a power-play strike by Jaden Schwartz.

“We’re good when we’re playing in their defensive zone,” Dineen said. “It helps our defense too.”

But when the defense broke down, goalie Josh Thorimbert was there to make the big stop. He finished the shutout with 29 saves, none bigger than with 4:08 left in the second period on Denver’s Jason Zucker.

“It’s a carryover from how he has played since Mankato,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said. “He’s seeing the puck well and he’s staying calm.”

A rare college fight late in the first period ended the night for Denver co-captain Dustin Jackson and CC freshman blue-liner Aaron Harstad.

That left CC down to five blue-liners and they all stepped up with solid play in their zone with the forwards doing a strong job back-checking to clear the puck out.

Jaden Schwartz scored on a one-timer high stick side form the low slot to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead with 8:12 left in the first period against rival Denver.

CC’s power play went  1-for-6 on the evening after going 1-for- 16 the previous four games. The Tigers did a better job getting shots on net and creating some opportunities. The power play didn’t take advantage of a five-minute boarding call late in the third that left Denver with only 1:07 to mount a rally.

That rally was squelched when Jeff Collett collected a Jaden Schwartz behind the net, fought off two Denver players and passed in front to senior David Civitarese, who potted the goal with 49.2 seconds remaining to seal the win.

Jaden Schwartz’s goal came off a centering pass from Rylan Schwartz from the left faceoff circle. Gabe Guentzel got the second assist.

CC out shot Denver 14-4 in the first 20 minutes with nine between the dots, including Schwartz’s score.

In the scoreless second period, Denver did a better job keeping CC from getting shots in front (three) while generating seven between the dots. But the Pioneers struggled to hit the net at key moments with Zucker missing the net on a 2-on-1 shorthanded breakaway late in the third.

Friday reading: Gold Pan rivalry news, other WCHA previews and notes

No doubt, this scene will be played out a few times tonight at Magness Arena.

Big news out of Denver: Red-hot freshman Ty Loney has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. The Post also reports coach George Gwozdecky is leaning toward starting goalie Sam Brittain at home Friday.

The Gazette looks at the Gold Pan rivalry from No. 11 CC’s perspective. The Gazette also reports that sophomore Josh Thorimbert has all but sealed up the No. 1 goalie spot ahead of Joe Howe. Here’s the Post’s preview notes. The No. 13 Pioneers are on a roll headed into the series.

No. 1/2 Minnesota-Duluth travels to desperate Alaska-Anchorage this weekend. The desperate Seawolves are mired in a seven-game losing streak. Did I mention they’re desperate for a win?

Come to think of it,  the Bulldogs are plenty motivated too after falling behind No. 1/2 Minnesota, which is idle. The Gophers are losing their longtime, well regarded AD to retirement.

No. 17 North Dakota is resting up too. Here are some excellent observations about the league from the UND beat writer and more news from Grand Forks.

A confident Michigan Tech team hosts 11th-place MSU Mankato. And yes, the Huskies are aware of the dangers of a letdown.

Like CC, Bemidji State is tweaking its power play as it heads to the sixth-place Nebraska-Omaha, which needs home points to keep in the home playoff ice hunt. UNO goalie Ryan Massa is likely to be back in net this weekend. BSU’s Jordan George has emerged from Matt Read‘s shadow.

St. Cloud State has a decision to make in net as they head to Wisconsin, which needs to get on a run if it hopes for home playoff ice.

Here’s USCHO’s WCHA roundup including Jordy Christian’s season being over.

Wednesday reading: DU injury update; Minnesota Cup

CC commit Jaccob Slavin of Erie finished plus-1 in the USHL/NHL Prospects Game Tuesday night. His squad, Team East, won 5-3.

Denver goalie Sam Brittain and defenseman John Ryder of Colorado Springs both practiced Monday for the Pioneers and will travel to Alaska Anchorage this weekend.

A tournament featuring four of the five Division I hockey programs in Minnesota is close to coming to fruition for the 20-1314 season when the five are split into three conferences.

The Minnesota penalty kill stifled a struggling Colorado College power play that continued to struggle with slow passing, giving the Gophers the ability to keep up with the puck movement and block shooting and passing lanes all last weekend. Here’s Don Lucia’s take on the 8-for-8 performance by his PKers.

Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz beat out CC goalie Josh Thorimbert for the weekly WCHA defensive honor.

The ECHL rights to former Tiger Ryan Lowery was traded by Greenville to Stockton. He remains with the Oklahoma City Barons with his AHL only deal.

Saturday reading: UNO goalie tweets he’s OK; Pairwise update; more CC info

UNO goalie Ryan Massa, who was carried off the ice on a stretcher after a collission during overtime, tweeted from his motel room later Friday night that he was OK.

Nebraska Omaha goalie Ryan Massa, pictured at left, is okay after being taken from the ice on a stretcher in Omaha’s 2-1 overtime win Friday. That’s wonderful news.

Think those nonconference games are important? Consider that Minnesota, which is tied for the WCHA lead but played some soft nonleague foes (Sacred Heart, Niagara), would not make the NCAA Tournament if it started this morning according to the Pairwise rankings. No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth, No. 12 CC and No. 13 Denver would. Don’t get too excited, it’s Jan. 21.

Here’s more on Michael Morin’s foot injury and a video interview of Tim Hall, who scores his first career gamewinner Friday night. The Gazette says Charlie Taft will take Morin’s place on Saturday.

Here’s the Gazette’s game story, rightfully giving goalie Josh Thorimbert and the skaters in front of him their due.

Minnesota bemoans its lack of offense in the 2-1 loss while the stink from last weekend’s handshake line scuffle against North Dakota continues. Here’s the GF Herald game story on UND’s road loss at SCSU.

Penn State released the architects’ renderings for their new arena.

CC holds on for 3-1 home win over Huskies

COLORADO SPRINGS  –  One too many mistakes, a hot goalie and a disallowed goal handed St. Cloud State a tough loss, 3-1, at No. 8-ranked Colorado College on Friday night

The Huskies dominated the final 40 minutes, but squandered two big scoring opportunities in the third period before CC junior Scott Winkler’s empty netter with 5.6 seconds remaining sealed the Tigers’ win before 6,736 fans at the Colorado Springs World Arena.

CC goalie Josh Thorimbert’s left leg pad save with 8:38 left on SCSU freshman Nick Oliver during a breakaway kept CC ahead 2-1. It was the biggest of his 32 saves.

“You have to credit their goalie,” said Huskies head coach Bob Motzko. “He may have stolen one for them tonight. That was probably the best we’ve played for two straight periods.”

Earlier, David Eddy’s shot clanged off the post 88 seconds into the third during one of the Huskies’ three power plays that period.  Later, the Huskies (8-11-4, 5-7-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) couldn’t capitalize on a 6-on-4 advantage with a late power play and freshman goalie Ryan Faragher (23 saves, 12 in the first period) pulled with 1:31 left.

It was far too close for Tigers head coach Scott Owens’ comfort.

“We didn’t have that killer instinct,” he said. “We let a good team hang around and it came down to a couple big penalty kills and our goaltending.”

The win pushed the third-place Tigers (13-7-1, 10-5-0) within two points of second-place Minnesota, which lost 2-1 at North Dakota earlier.

The Huskies battled back in the second period behind a power-play goal by sophomore defenseman Nick Jensen, his fifth score of the season. Travis Novak helped screen Thorimbert, who was unable to glove the slap shot by Jensen.

SCSU had appeared to tie the game at 2-2 with 3:18 left in the second period when Andrew Prochno’s stick came to rest on the back of Thorimbert’s helmet as a teammate’s shot caromed in off the right post.

“He hooked my helmet and pulled my head down so I told the referee immediately and they reviewed it,” Thorimbert said.

The goal was waved off after 3:27 of video review by the officials, who ruled that Prochno’s stick didn’t amount to goalie interference, but it was enough to negate the score.

“That was a pretty ticky-tack call,”Motzko said.

St. Cloud State was unable to shake off the rust from another weekend off quickly and the Tigers’ second line, centered by captain Nick Dineen, took advantage to stake CC to a 2-0 lead.

A turnover forced by Winkler and controlled by defenseman Mike Boivin led to a breakaway for Alexander Krushelnyski, who scored his sixth of the season when his hard shot trickled between Faragher’s leg pads for a 1-0 lead with 11:31 left in the opening period.

Dineen scored the eventual game-winner when he banged home a rebound off a shot by Krushelnyski with 4:48 left in the period.

“It shows how fragile we are,” Motzko said. “On that second goal, we made a turnover and it cost us. We were unable to battle back for the win. My Lord, we had three power plays, and a goal disallowed with the score 2-1.”