Round 1 was dominated by Colorado College. The rematch is what matters, though, and with Michigan Tech going down swinging the first time, CC could have its hands full.
Josh Thorimbert stopped 34 shots for only CC’s second shutout of the season, and Gabe Guentzel and Jaden Schwartz each scored, as the No. 19 Tigers topped Michigan Tech 2-0 on Saturday at World Arena for their first back-to-back wins in more than two months.
Since CC (18-14-2, 15-12-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) finished fifth in the WCHA and Michigan Tech (14-18-4, 11-13-4) ended eighth, the Tigers and Huskies will meet in a best-of-three, first-round playoff series next weekend at World Arena, with the winner advancing to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn. It’s a series that CC has to win to maintain its NCAA Tournament hopes, as a sweep of Michigan Tech crawled the Tigers up only one place to 19th in the PairWise rankings that decide the 16-team field.
Even though CC’s players and coaches won’t admit it, drawing Michigan Tech is a much better matchup for the Tigers than if they had been pitted against Nebraska-Omaha or St. Cloud State, which split a combined six games against CC. After all, the Tigers are 9-0-1 in the past 10 games against Michigan Tech, having not lost to the Huskies in 22 regular-season meetings at World Arena. Michigan Tech last beat CC in 2007, when the Huskies upset the Tigers in the WCHA playoffs, and it’s 3-6 this season on Olympic-sized sheets.
“It wasn’t easy, so we had to battle through things, and I think that will help us,” said CC coach Scott Owens, who recorded his 299th career victory, with his team guaranteeing its 12th straight winning season. He added, “I like the fact we’re at home. I like the fact we took fifth and not sixth. I like the fact that we keep our PairWise chance somewhat alive.”
Everything was a challenge for CC on a night when six seniors – Guentzel, Ted Behrend, Arthur Bidwill, David Civitarese, Nick Dineen and Tim Hall – were recognized pregame with their parents, and all six seniors dressed, with Behrend again at left wing instead of playing defense. CC’s forecheck wasn’t nearly as strong as it was Friday in a 5-2 victory, and instead of forcing a lot of turnovers, the Tigers committed a ton of them, in bunches.
Despite a 34-22 shot deficit, including a 15-4 margin in a scoreless first period that saw CC take three penalties, the Tigers gutted through it after a 5-on-3 goal by Guentzel and a 4-on-4 goal by Schwartz off Kevin Genoe (1-5) put CC ahead in the second. The Tigers again killed all three of Michigan Tech’s power plays, most notably a 5-on-3 edge for the Huskies in the first, when Thorimbert (13-6-1) twice thwarted Steven Seigo. And when a near-brawl in the second resulted in four penalties on both teams, CC kept its composure.
“We wanted to get that win and build some momentum,” said Thorimbert, who escaped a shot by Blake Pietila off the post in the third and withstood an extra attacker by Michigan Tech over most of the final three minutes. Handling Michigan Tech “proves we can beat them twice,” Thorimbert noted, “and we know how to play against them. … You’ve got to learn to win the greasy ones. The playoffs, it’s a grind, and they’re not pretty games.”
“It sets us up big for the playoffs,” Guentzel said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence we can get two wins. They’re a good team, and we just kind of scratched and clawed that one out, but two points is two points.” Above all, he said, “This is the right time to get hot.”
COLORADO COLLEGE 2, MICHIGAN TECH 0
Michigan Tech 0 0 0 – 0
Colorado College 0 2 0 – 2
First period – None. Penalties – Dineen, CC (slashing), 5:00. Guentzel, CC (holding), 15:32. Marciano, CC (cross-checking), 15:32.
Second – 1. CC, Guentzel 4 (Rapuzzi, J. Schwartz), 11:50 (pp). 2. CC, J. Schwartz 15 (unassisted), 19:07. Penalties – MacLeod, Michigan Tech (holding), 10:55. Sweeney, Michigan Tech (high-sticking), 11:37. Fillion, Michigan Tech (roughing and face wash), 16:54. Rapuzzi, CC (roughing and elbowing), 16:54. Stebner, Michigan Tech (roughing), 16:54. Skalbeck, CC (roughing), 16:54. MacLeod, Michigan Tech (roughing), 16:54. Guentzel, CC (roughing), 16:54. Furne, Michigan Tech (cross-checking), 18:40. Hamburg, CC (goaltender interference), 18:40.
Third – None. Penalties – Dineen, CC (charging), 4:25. Kero, Michigan Tech (hooking), 13:52.
Shots on goal – Michigan Tech 15-5-14-34. CC 4-12-6-22. Power-play opportunities – Michigan Tech 0 of 3. CC 1 of 3. Goalies – Michigan Tech, Genoe 4-10-6 (22 shots-20 saves). CC, Thorimbert 15-5-14 (34-34). Attendance – 6,877. Time – 2:18. Referees – Todd Anderson, Brad Shepherd. Linesmen – Gary Pedigo, Tim Swiader.
WCHA PLAYOFFS, FIRST ROUND
No. 8 Michigan Tech at No. 5 Colorado College
Game 1: March 9 at 7:37 p.m.
Game 2: March 10 at 7:07 p.m.
Game 3: March 11 at 7:07 p.m. (if necessary)
Contact Brian Gomez: 719-636-0256 or email@example.com. Facebook: Brian Gomez. Twitter: @gazettehockey. Google+: Brian Gomez. YouTube: Colorado College Hockey, Covered by The Gazette. For the CC homepage, visit www.gazette.com/sections/sports/cchockey. For the CC blog, visit http://cchockey.freedomblogging.com.