The clock struck 3 p.m. as Colorado College coach Scott Owens rounded up his players Monday for a team meeting. One by one, they filed out of the World Arena locker room, and with a handful missing, Owens grabbed a piece of paper, a pen and some tape.
Seconds after Owens closed the door to the meeting room, Jaden Schwartz walked into the hallway with a group of teammates. A sign on the door read: “Go home. You’re late.” Schwartz sighed, then asked, “Is this a joke?” He tried to open the door, but it was locked – and when he knocked a few minutes later, CC assistant Joe Bonnett told him to get lost.
Going into the meat of the season, No. 11 CC isn’t playing with intensity, it’s not able to establish consistency and it’s now lacking accountability. So Owens is taking matters into his own hands in hopes of stopping a 2-3-1 slide this weekend at No. 4 Minnesota, with a stern approach off the ice, a louder voice during practice and threats of in-game changes.
Jeff Collett has moved into the right wing spot on a top line that features Rylan Schwartz at center and Jaden Schwartz at left wing, replacing Dakota Eveland, who failed to record a point last weekend in a home split against St. Cloud State. It remains to be seen whether right wing William Rapuzzi and defenseman Aaron Harstad will crack the ice after both were benched, and Owens still won’t commit to Josh Thorimbert over Joe Howe in goal.
The Tigers (13-8-1, 10-6 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) have held a half-dozen team gatherings the past two weeks – no word on how many players were shut out of the rest – due to a block break that concludes Monday. And Owens, boasting 294 victories in his 13th season at CC, has been more verbal in workouts, teaching as much lately as Bonnett, with instructions to become aggressive, to push hard, to buy into the team’s systems.
If the points of the message aren’t implemented, “if they refuse to get better at execution, we’ll go more conservative,” Owens said, “because we’re putting too much pressure on the defensemen and too much pressure on the goaltender.” He added that “the attention to detail has slipped, and we’re sloppy. Is that a mental issue? I’m not sure what it is.”
Captain Nick Dineen conceded, “The message isn’t sticking for more than a game. That’s our problem right now. We’ll have a player meeting or a team meeting, and we play the next game well. But if that’s a Friday night game, the Saturday night game, we’re back to not playing very well. … We’ve been practicing hard, but we need to take it up a notch.”
Like Owens, Dineen said he attempts “to lead by example. But at times like these, I need to be a little bit more vocal and rally the guys a little bit better than I have been in the last couple weeks.” A part of the second line with Dineen, Scott Winkler said, “I think we’ve got all the tools we kind of need. If we can put it all together, it will definitely be good.”
Owens said even winning teams “can have these lulls during the course of a long season. You’ve just got to make sure that you get out of them as quick as you can, and make sure it’s nothing more than a lull.” Above all, Owens said, “It’s more than just the win and the loss. It’s how we’re playing. If we play well and hard, and we just have an off day, and the other team outplays us, and we lose, so be it. But we’re leaving a lot on the table.”
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