Colorado College opens National Collegiate Hockey Conference play against No. 4 North Dakota (4-1-1) on Friday night on a hot streak.
A crucial element in Colorado College’s 4-2 start has been its ability to rebound on Saturday nights and salvage series splits. The Tigers are undefeated through three Saturday games, all of which were one-goal wins.
Against Vermont and, more recently, No. 17 New Hampshire, CC was crushed by three goals to open the series, then rallied back the next night. That mental toughness is something that has been emphasized this season, coach Mike Haviland said.
“You can fall into habits pretty quick,” he said. “Winning and losing are habits, and you just have to have that mindset. If we get beat, we need to come back even harder because we don’t want to lose back-to-back.”
After those losses, the coaching staff opened the floor. The coaches met with each line individually and let the players discuss what went right and wrong.
“We did some uncharacteristic things Friday (at New Hampshire), giving up odd-man breaks,” Haviland said. “We needed to tighten up and we talked about it as a staff and a team.
“It’s a big part of coaching, your communication with your players, having them understand what you feel and hearing what they thought of their game.”
One group that came out of those meetings fired up was the line consisting of Kade Kehoe at center with Trevor Gooch and Westin Michaud on the wings. The trio had seen its chances and Gooch is fourth in the NCHC in shots, but it hadn’t connected in two weeks.
Gooch set up Jack Gates for the first goal of Saturday’s 2-1 win and then took a pass from Michaud and scored in overtime.
“Our line, we were just a little off those first few games, but we’re right on the right schedule now,” Michaud said. “We’re feeling awesome. We’re all fired up and ready to go here.”
The Tigers came back for a series split three times last season, and one of those was at home against North Dakota. Before that victory, they were winless in their previous 14 games against North Dakota.
With decorated senior goaltender Cam Johnson in net, North Dakota has allowed three goals in four games. The objective is to not let it get to that point again, but if crunch time hits against any team, the Tigers know they can battle back.
“It’s certainly a great challenge for us, and it would be nice to see our guys step up and show what we can do,” Haviland said.