Nearing the end of a grueling regular season, Tim Hall and Jaden Schwartz are really sick of traveling. So they ensured Colorado College is staying home for a must-win series.
Hall and Schwartz each marked twice, and No. 19 CC overcame two short-handed goals Friday in a 5-2 win against Michigan Tech at World Arena, snapping a three-game losing streak and clinching home ice for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
The eighth win in nine games against Michigan Tech – CC is 21-0 vs. the Huskies in the regular season at World Arena – guarantees the Tigers home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs for the 17th time in 19 years. CC will stage a best-of-three series March 9-11 vs. Michigan Tech, Nebraska-Omaha or St. Cloud State – entering Saturday’s finale knowing it will finish fifth in the WCHA, unable to catch fourth-place North Dakota and unable to be overtaken by Nebraska-Omaha or St. Cloud State, who are tied for sixth.
Of course, by playing the WCHA first round at home, CC (17-14-2, 14-12-1 WCHA) is much better positioned to make the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn. And the Tigers may require one or two victories at the Final Five to reach the NCAA Tournament, since they climbed only one spot to 20th in the PairWise rankings that select the 16-team field.
“It was a good win. It wasn’t necessarily a thing of beauty,” said CC coach Scott Owens, whose team enjoyed a 41-28 advantage in shots, including a 13-7 edge in the first period and a 15-7 margin in the second. “There were some erratic parts, some sloppy play. For a game of this magnitude, I’ll take it. I thought enough people played well to earn the win.”
Remaining in contention to host the WCHA playoffs, Michigan Tech (14-17-4, 11-12-4) was 3-4 on Olympic-sized ice sheets, however, the eighth-place Huskies didn’t have an answer for CC’s fast-paced transition game, and Josh Robinson (13-13-4) didn’t look like an All-WCHA candidate in goal. The Tigers routinely pushed Michigan Tech’s forwards to the perimeter, keeping the Huskies from utilizing their speed, and they controlled the blue line, preventing Josh Thorimbert (12-6-1) from having to squash odd-man rushes.
Perhaps just as important, CC’s penalty killers displayed a much-needed combination of aggressiveness in open space, hustle in the corners and shot blocking against Ryan Furne, David Johnstone and Steven Seigo in disrupting Michigan Tech’s diamond-shaped power play. The Huskies didn’t score on any of their three opportunities with the man advantage – quite a feat for CC, which possesses the nation’s 11th-worst penalty kill at 77.7 percent.
Credit CC for sustaining momentum from period to period for the first time in a long time – the goal by Schwartz that gave CC a 1-0 lead in the first followed by two goals by Hall in the second to put CC ahead 3-1 and a power-play goal by Mike Boivin in the third to make it 4-2. Plus, CC never trailed, tied 1-1 after Daniel Sova’s short-handed goal in the first and in front 3-2 after Bradley Stebner scored on a short-hander in the third – the 11 short-handers that the Tigers have relinquished are tied for the most in the country.
“Home ice is something that we definitely wanted, and it’s big,” said Schwartz, who had an empty-net goal on the power play with 10 seconds left. He added, “You want to build momentum going into the playoffs, and it’s a good win for us. But we haven’t won back-to-back games in a while, so we want to make sure we finish the job.”
“We need to stop giving up so many short-handed goals – that definitely hurts us,” Hall said. “We stayed pretty calm in the locker room and just said, ‘If we keep working hard, we’re going to keep scoring some goals.’ … It’s a good team win, and we feel good. But I don’t think we’re done. We want to come back and have the same, strong effort.”
COLORADO COLLEGE 5, MICHIGAN TECH 2
Michigan Tech 1 0 1 – 2
Colorado College 1 2 2 – 5
First period – 1. CC, J. Schwartz 13 (Rapuzzi, R. Schwartz), 11:28. 2. Michigan Tech, Sova 3 (unassisted), 16:42 (sh). Penalties – Sova, Michigan Tech (slashing), 14:33. Michigan Tech, too many players on the ice, 15:43. Marciano, CC (checking from behind), 18:07.
Second – 3. CC, Hall 4 (Skalbeck, Hamburg), 2:43. 4. CC, Hall 5 (Hamburg), 11:08. Penalties – None.
Third – 5. Michigan Tech, Stebner 3 (J. Johnstone), 5:51 (sh). 6. CC, Boivin 8 (R. Schwartz), 6:13 (pp). 7. CC, J. Schwartz 14 (Dineen), 19:50 (pp, en). Penalties – B. Pietila, Michigan Tech (slashing), 4:15. Baker, Michigan Tech (tripping), 9:28. Krushelnyski, CC (cross-checking), 11:53. Dineen, CC (roughing), 13:47. Olson, Michigan Tech (contact to the head and game misconduct), 17:10. Boivin, CC (roughing), 17:10. B. Pietila, Michigan Tech (10-minute misconduct), 17:10. Skalbeck, CC (10-minute misconduct), 17:10.
Shots on goal – Michigan Tech 7-7-14-28. CC 13-15-13-41. Power-play opportunities – Michigan Tech 0 of 3. CC 2 of 6. Goalies – Michigan Tech, Robinson 12-13-11 (40 shots-36 saves). CC, Thorimbert 6-7-13 (28-26). Attendance – 6,485. Time – 2:27. Referees – Todd Anderson, Brad Shepherd. Linesmen – Gary Pedigo, Tim Swiader.
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