March 1, 2012
The 2011 senior class at Colorado College, featuring Tyler Johnson, Ryan Lowery and Stephen Schultz, is remembered as the group that shocked defending national champion Boston College in the NCAA Tournament, the group that almost took the Tigers back to the Frozen Four.
If No. 19 CC doesn’t reverse its fortunes, starting this weekend in a season-ending home series against Michigan Tech, six Tigers seniors will discover the same fate as others who preceded them, known as a hard-working bunch that couldn’t deliver when it mattered.
One win would guarantee CC (16-14-2, 13-12-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) home ice for the March 9-11 best-of-three first round of the WCHA playoffs. With CC at 21st in the PairWise rankings used to decide the 16 NCAA Tournament teams, for it to survive past mid-March, it likely requires at least three points this weekend, a triumph in its WCHA playoff series and one or two wins at the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn.
CC coach Scott Owens said a return appearance to the NCAA Tournament is “doable, but it’s going to be challenging,” with guidance needed now more than ever from seniors Ted Behrend, Arthur Bidwill, David Civitarese, Nick Dineen, Gabe Guentzel and Tim Hall – a group that has combined for 225 points, including 28 goals and 37 assists this season.
Despite a 74-62-18 mark in three-plus seasons, CC’s seniors have only one victory in the NCAA Tournament – an 8-4 smashing of Boston College that was followed by a 2-1 loss against Michigan, the eventual national runner-up. As freshmen and sophomores, CC lost to Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA first round, failing to make the NCAA Tournament.
These seniors reclaimed the Gold Pan from Denver, thanks to a 2-1-1 record in the rivalry series, however, they’re not bashful in stating that they also want to become the first class to hoist the Broadmoor Trophy that goes to the Final Five champion. Plus, as far-fetched as it sounds, as the Tigers wallow on a season-long, three-game losing streak, there’s still silent hope – probably more like prayer – for the school’s first national title since 1957.
“We have the pieces in place to do great things,” said Guentzel, who has appeared in 152 games, including 128 in a row, and needs eight points for 100 in his career. “Right now, we just have to execute better, both offensively and defensively. Once we figure that out, I think we could be a really good team. … I’m not really thinking that we’re out of it.”
Like most teams, Owens said, “You live or die with your seniors.” That’s why the seniors are “trying to lead by example, and we’re trying to push guys,” Guentzel said, adding that “younger guys are looking up to you and seeing how you’re going about your business. We’re just trying to set the tone and work as hard as we can.” Hall said, “This is the time that we want the team to really pick it up. … This is when the leaders should step up.”
As captain, “it’s kind of on my shoulders a little bit,” said Dineen, whose 14 goals (seven on the power play) are the second-most behind the 22 scored by Rylan Schwartz. “I take a lot of responsibility, and I want to leave a good legacy. … It’s playoff time. It’s playoff hockey. It brings out the best or worst in people. We’ve really got to prove ourselves.”
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