When Colorado College looks back on one weekend that made a difference in its quest for the MacNaughton Cup and a top seed in the NCAA West Regional, it may look no further than the St. Cloud State series.
The Tigers stretched their lead to 4-1 just 24 seconds into the second period in Friday’s game (Feb. 8) and went on to win 5-3 after the Huskies put the pressure on.
On Feb. 9, CC suffered its first — and so far, only — home loss of the season, falling behind 3-1 after a period and eventually losing 4-2.
That series was sandwiched between two dominating performances: the sweep of Clarkson and the road sweep of Minnesota-Duluth, in which the Tigers shut out Duluth both nights.
Coach Scott Owens hopes CC can become a model of consistency, starting with this weekend’s series against No. 10 Minnesota State-Mankato, a squad that has won seven of its past nine.
“As soon as you think it’s automatic, that’s when you get into trouble,” Owens said after the Tigers’ final skate before the series in which they could clinch the MacNaughton Cup. “We’re on a one-game losing streak at home. We can’t go on autopilot and expect to win.”
Coming off of the defensive corps’ strongest performance of the season last weekend at Duluth, defenseman Jack Hillen said his fellow defensemen have adapted a playoff mentality and hope to cut down on the amount of shots allowed this weekend.
“It was a good lesson after we lost to St. Cloud,” said Hillen, the top-scoring Western Collegiate Hockey Association defenseman with 28 points. “We didn’t play that well. Against Duluth, we got into a roll a little bit. … It was maybe a good reminder to play hard every night, that we’ve got to play well no matter what. But no one’s dwelling on the loss.”
Captain Scott Thauwald, who returns to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 9, said that if anything, CC’s focus and intensity has only increased this week with the knowledge that two wins gives the Tigers a share of the MacNaughton Cup. If North Dakota loses or ties a game at Duluth this weekend, CC will win the Cup outright with two victories over Mankato.
Again, Thauwald pointed to the loss to St. Cloud State as added inspiration in CC’s bid for its first regular-season title since it shared one with Denver in 2004-05.
“It wasn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world,” he said. “It was a good eye-opener. Guys are fired up because we lost the last time we played at home. We’re ready to start a new streak here.”
Because right wing Stephen Schultz (concussion) will not return to the lineup this season and left wing Addison DeBoer (separated shoulder) will be out this weekend, the Tigers will have just 12 forwards plus converted defenseman Brett Wysopal at their disposal.
1,000 tickets remain for Friday’s game against Mankato…400 tickets remain for Saturday’s game…CC’s regular-season finale against Denver on March 8 is sold out.
Anticipated CC lines for Friday:
Bill Sweatt–Chad Rau–Mike Testwuide
Scott McCulloch–Andreas Vlassopoulos–Jimmy Kilpatrick
Scott Thauwald–Tyler Johnson–Eric Walsky
Brett Wysopal or Dan Quilico–Brian McMillin–Matt Overman