UP NEXT: CC hosts Minnesota Duluth at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday and the Broadmoor World Arena.
Two weeks off, two weeks on. One week off, one week on. Now after another 12 days without a game, Colorado College’s schedule and competition intensify as the team wades deeper into conference play.
“I haven’t really been liking the schedule too much,” coach Mike Haviland said. “You try to keep that focus and that compete up.”
Those shouldn’t be a problem from here on out for the Tigers (9-8-3, 3-5-2 National Collegiate Hockey Conference) who face all currently-ranked NCHC teams. Colorado College is the only NCHC team not included in this week’s USCHO.com poll.
The Tigers are pleased with their improvement, but the next few months could derail anyone’s hopes. A look at a few of the things the Tigers need to improve upon as they get further into the second half, starting with No. 15 Minnesota-Duluth this weekend at The Broadmoor World Arena:
1 - The power play
CC has killed off 22 of its past 24 penalties, so no worries there right now.
But since the start of December, the Tigers have scored four times with the man advantage on 31 chances (12.9 percent) and are converting at a 15.32 percent clip on the season, last in the NCHC.
It’s something CC has been working on. Assistant coach R.J. Enga, who helps run the power play, said the Tigers are simplifying, not overhauling, and seeking grittier goals.
“You can’t pass it into the net. You have to shoot it,” Enga said. “Taking the shots when they’re available, as opposed to making that one extra pass to make a real, pretty fancy play.
“And if you don’t score, you want to create a positive momentum swing for your team.”
2 - Several lines contributing
The so-called 13-14-15 line, featuring Mason Bergh, Trey Bradley and defending NCHC player of the month Nick Halloran, tied for 11th in the country in scoring with 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists), has been consistently productive.
They’ll be facing some of the country’s best teams’ best defenders. Air Force coach Frank Serratore observed after his team beat the Tigers 6-3 on Dec. 29 that Colorado College is “top-heavy” - shut down that one line, and there’s a good chance you’ve crippled the Tigers.
The second line consisting of Trevor Gooch, Westin Michaud and Christiano Versich, with 16 points in six games, needs to create distractions.
“Michaud and Gooch have had career years,” Haviland said. “We’ve had a lot of production from that top line, but ... you win as a team.”
3 - Be better on Fridays
Colorado College has displayed repeatedly the ability to rebound from tough Friday night losses, going 7-2-1 on the back end of series. But Bergh likes the sound of a second half where the Tigers don’t have to try and salvage every weekend, and aren’t hovering around .500.
“Saturday we usually kick it into gear, and to play like that both games every weekend would be huge, especially with this calibre of teams,” he said.
4 - Putting games away
The Tigers have thrived in close quarters, going 6-1 in one-goal games. They’ve averaged five goals-against in eight losses. In their nine victories this season, the Tigers have allowed 10 goals.
But a little breathing room never hurt anyone.
“Our struggle here has been putting the knife to the throat,” Bergh said. “We get up 2-1, and then we don’t score that third goal that would kind of put them down.
“Maybe just try to finish up teams a little earlier rather than try to scrape and claw for a win in the last 30 seconds.”