This time of the season, 60 minutes is needed for success, and when a team has a lead, it can’t afford to squander it. Another lesson learned the hard way by Colorado College.
The No. 15 Tigers haven’t won back-to-back games in more than two months, their latest attempt for sustained momentum doomed Saturday in a 5-3 loss against Nebraska-Omaha at World Arena, a game in which CC was puzzlingly sloppy in blowing a two-goal edge.
At least a split next weekend at No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth might be enough to get CC (16-12-2, 13-10-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) back into the NCAA Tournament picture – if not, the Tigers are faced with the prospect of having to win the WCHA Final Five for the first time. CC fell one place to 19th in the PairWise rankings used to decide the 16 NCAA Tournament qualifiers, and it remained fourth in the WCHA – seven points out of first, now down to a three-point cushion for home ice for the WCHA playoffs.
“It’s very disappointing,” said CC coach Scott Owens, whose team got defenseman Mike Boivin (concussion) back but was still without four injured players. “It’s a tough loss for us at this juncture. I think we could have really helped ourselves.” He noted, “That game needs to be locked up. … We should have come away with a win or at least a tie.”
An energetic second period that saw the Tigers forge ahead 3-1 on goals from Alexander Krushelnyski, Jaden Schwartz (on the power play) and David Civitarese couldn’t offset a lackluster first, when CC was outshot 16-3, and a demoralizing third, when CC displayed more clumsy puck handling and had way too many turnovers and defensive breakdowns.
The Tigers were fortunate to have trailed only 1-0 in the first after Dominic Zombo’s first career point, and Nebraska-Omaha (14-12-6, 11-8-5) got within 3-2 on Bryce Aneloski’s goal against Josh Thorimbert (11-5-1) with five seconds left in the second after William Rapuzzi misfired on an open net. Then in the third, with Ryan Massa (7-5-2) in goal for the hapless John Faulkner, Nebraska-Omaha tied it 3-3 on a short-handed goal by Ryan Walters, went up 4-3 when Walters scored again and got Jayson Megna’s empty-net goal.
Down the stretch, CC simply couldn’t penetrate Nebraska-Omaha’s hefty defensive unit, and Massa stopped all 15 shots he faced. The Tigers lost most battles for loose pucks, and since Thorimbert wasn’t tidy in preventing rebounds, Nebraska-Omaha enjoyed a 34-29 shot margin to negate a 4-for-4 effort by CC on a penalty kill better than in Friday’s win.
“To give up a goal with five seconds left in the second period with a lead is going to hurt any team,” Civitarese said, adding that “if you want to be a championship team, you can’t be doing that stuff.” He said, “We have the pieces, and we see those glimpses, but they’re not always consistent. You need that consistency, and that’s the reason why we got beat.”
NEBRASKA-OMAHA 5, COLORADO COLLEGE 3
Nebraska-Omaha 1 1 3 – 5
Colorado College 0 3 0 – 3
First period – 1. Nebraska-Omaha, Zombo 1 (Sustr, Broadhurst), 11:43. Penalties – Montpetit, Nebraska-Omaha (holding), 14:18.
Second – 2. CC, Krushelnyski 9 (Guentzel, Dineen), 0:32. 3. CC, J. Schwartz 12 (Guentzel, R. Schwartz), 1:42 (pp). 4. CC, Civitarese 8 (Winkler), 18:41. 5. Nebraska-Omaha, Aneloski 6 (Megna, Ensign), 19:54. Penalties – White, Nebraska-Omaha (holding), 1:02. Boivin, CC (slashing), 6:04. Ensign, Nebraska-Omaha (tripping), 8:32. Boivin, CC (tripping), 9:25. J. Schwartz, CC (tripping), 14:49. Guentzel, CC (tripping), 19:54.
Third – 6. Nebraska-Omaha, Walters 9 (unassisted), 2:48 (sh). 7. Nebraska-Omaha, Walters 10 (Sustr), 7:19. 8. Nebraska-Omaha, Megna 11 (Sustr), 19:20 (en). Penalties – Ensign, Nebraska-Omaha (tripping), 2:22. Young, Nebraska-Omaha (holding), 8:04. Sustr, Nebraska-Omaha (roughing), 19:54. R. Schwartz, CC (roughing), 19:54.
Shots on goal – Nebraska-Omaha 16-5-13-34. CC 3-11-15-29. Power-play opportunities – Nebraska-Omaha 0 of 4. CC 1 of 5. Goalies – Nebraska-Omaha, Faulkner 3-8-0 (14 shots-11 saves), Massa 0-0-15 (15-15). CC, Thorimbert 15-4-10 (33-29). Attendance – 7,321. Time – 2:21. Referees – Don Adam, Timm Walsh. Linesmen – Gary Pedigo, Stephen Stankevich.
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