No. 1 star: CC left wing Alexander Krushelnyski marked two goals and two assists – the sparkplug on a second line that was the most consistent for the Tigers. He scored CC’s first goal Friday and an extra-attacker goal Saturday with 23 seconds left. He generated nine shots, and he turned in a plus-three rating. He has 15 points, including seven goals.
No. 2 star: CC right wing Scott Winkler recorded two goals and an assist, with a plus-two rating, meshing well alongside Krushelnyski. He tallied an empty-net goal Friday, and he scored CC’s first goal Saturday. He has 21 points, including 15 assists.
No. 3 star: CC left wing Jaden Schwartz collected three assists, setting up his older brother, Rylan, on the power play Saturday for his team-leading 18th goal. He totaled six shots, and he had a plus-one rating, showing he’s back to full strength after a run at the world junior championships in his native Canada. He has 24 points, including 17 assists.
Why CC didn’t sweep: The No. 8 Tigers (13-8-1, 10-6 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) couldn’t put together a complete 60 minutes either game, unable to create momentum from overhauled line combinations and revamped defensive pairings. They were outshot 70-61, and they had one power-play goal on eight chances, even booed Saturday when St. Cloud State almost scored a short-handed goal. With Eamonn McDermott (left knee) sidelined, CC’s defensemen were often caught out of position, and Josh Thorimbert (the winner Friday with 32 saves) and Joe Howe (the loser Saturday, also with 32 saves) were peppered with breakaways. Struggling right wing William Rapuzzi was benched Saturday, and poor passing and too many turnovers negated offensive opportunities. And the Tigers extended their streak to 15 games without a goal from their fourth line – none since Archie Skalbeck scored Nov. 12 at No. 16 Denver.
CC coach Scott Owens: “We haven’t been scoring a ton. … Maybe getting out on the road will help us a little bit, getting away from World Arena for a couple games.”
The impact on CC: It represented a 2-3-1 finish over a season-long six-game homestand, with CC’s only other win against No. 14 Union, as the Tigers lost to Air Force and tied and lost against No. 9 Cornell. CC remained in third place in the WCHA, four points behind No. 1 Minnesota-Duluth and No. 5 Minnesota. But it tumbled to 14th in the PairWise rankings used to predict the 16 NCAA Tournament qualifiers, meaning if the season ended today, the Tigers would be the second-to-last entrant into the field.
Why Air Force got only one point: The Falcons (10-7-4, 8-4-3 Atlantic Hockey Association) couldn’t get moving up and down the ice like they wanted, and they allowed Bentley to dictate the style of play. Plus, they were too loose on defense, and they lacked puck control on offense. Air Force held a 62-45 advantage in shots, and it won 59 percent of its faceoffs, with Stephen Caple (the recipient of the draw Friday with 20 saves) and Jason Torf (the loser Saturday with 21 saves) both sturdy in goal. However, the Falcons were 1 for 12 on the power play, they gave up a 5-on-3 goal for the third time in four games, they took 14 penalties equaling 39 minutes and they had 37 shots blocked.
Air Force coach Frank Serratore: “It is disturbing how little energy and passion we played with. We got what we deserved. We are not a very good team right now.”
The impact on Air Force: Not since 2006 had the Falcons lost to Bentley in Colorado Springs. They haven’t won since a Dec. 30 victory over CC, going 0-3-2 following the triumph that was supposed to enable Air Force to turn the corner. Air Force dropped into a third-place tie in the AHA, a point behind the Rochester Institute of Technology and three points in back of Mercyhurst. No AHA team is included in the 31-team PairWise.
Up next: CC plays at Minnesota (16-8-1, 12-4 WCHA) at 6:07 p.m. Friday and 4:07 p.m. Saturday. Air Force plays at Army (2-13-6, 1-11-4 AHA) at 5:30 p.m. Friday and 5:05 p.m. Saturday. On Friday, CC is on ROOT Sports, while Air Force is on CBS Sports Network. On Saturday, CC is on FSN North, and Air Force’s game isn’t being televised.
The last word: CC defenseman Joe Marciano experienced a rough weekend. He slipped on the blue line Friday as he was attempting to come to a stop during pregame introductions. Then on Saturday, he hammered a wrist shot off the back of Winkler’s leg, and he was on the ice when St. Cloud State scored the game-winning goal.
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