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WCHA playoffs preview: No. 8 Michigan Tech at No. 5 CC

By: BRIAN GOMEZ
March 7, 2012
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photo - Colorado College right wing William Rapuzzi (in the middle) has gone 17 games without scoring, although he has five assists in the past six games. The Tigers host Michigan Tech this weekend in the best-of-three first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs, with the winner going to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn. Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE
Colorado College right wing William Rapuzzi (in the middle) has gone 17 games without scoring, although he has five assists in the past six games. The Tigers host Michigan Tech this weekend in the best-of-three first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs, with the winner going to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Minn. Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE 

When: 7:37 p.m. Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday, 7:07 p.m. Sunday (if necessary)

Where: World Arena (7,380 capacity)

Radio: The Alternative 103.9 FM RXP, play-by-play by Ken Landau

Live updates: Visit www.gazette.com/tigersblog for a chat with CC beat writer Brian Gomez

If you go: A sellout isn’t expected for any game, as more than 1,000 seats, ranging from $9 to $35, remain for Friday and Saturday. Tickets are available at the World Arena box office starting at 10 a.m., through TicketsWest or by calling 719-576-2626. If a third game is necessary, tickets will go on sale immediately after the conclusion of the second game.

What’s at stake: The winner advances to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five next week in St. Paul, Minn. With fifth-seeded CC (18-14-2, 15-12-1 WCHA) at 19th in the PairWise rankings, it probably needs one or two victories in St. Paul to make the NCAA Tournament. With eighth-seeded Michigan Tech (14-18-4, 11-13-4) not in the 31-team PairWise, it must win the Final Five to reach the NCAA Tournament.

The series: CC holds a 93-71-12 edge in the series that dates to 1947. The Tigers are 9-0-1 in the past 10 games, sweeping Michigan Tech last weekend, with a 5-2 win followed by a 2-0 victory. Michigan Tech is 2-23 at World Arena, its only wins in a 2007 WCHA first-round playoff series – that was the last time the Huskies beat CC. In the WCHA playoffs, Michigan Tech is 6-2, also upsetting the Tigers in 1994 in the final games at the old Broadmoor World Arena and winning single-elimination games in 1968 and 1996.

You can’t stop them: LW Jaden Schwartz and C Rylan Schwartz have combined for 79 points for CC, with 40, including a team-high 25 assists, from the younger Jaden, and 39, including a team-high 22 goals, from Rylan. Jaden has recorded 12 multiple-point performances, and he has a point in 25 of 28 games, while Rylan has marked a point in 10 of the past 11 games, and he’s tied for third nationally with 10 power-play goals. Neither has had a full week of practice, Jaden sidelined because of the flu and Rylan hampered by lingering soreness, yet they should be recovered in time for the weekend.

No need for motivation: Michigan Tech’s leading scorers, C Brett Olson and RW Jordan Baker, were each held without a point last weekend, only the second time that has happened this season. Olson leads the Huskies with 29 points, including a team-high 20 assists, and Baker has 26 points, with 10 goals, second to the 11 by LW Ryan Furne.

Talking numbers: CC averages 3.24 goals, and it allows 2.85 goals. The Tigers possess the seventh-best power play in the country at 23.5 percent, having scored with the man advantage the past six games, but they’ve relinquished a nation-leading 11 short-handed goals for the second season in a row. They’re at 78.4 percent on the penalty kill, holding their opponent without a power-play goal in 17 of 34 games. Michigan Tech is averaging 2.83 goals, and it’s giving up 3.03 goals. Its power play dropped to 19.2 percent coming off an 0-for-6 weekend, and the Huskies convert at 81.2 percent on the penalty kill.

Just note it: Michigan Tech lists G Josh Robinson as probable after he suffered a rotator cuff injury last weekend. … Of the nine goals LW David Johnstone has tallied for Michigan Tech, a team-high seven have come on the power play. … RW William Rapuzzi has gone 17 games without scoring, although he has five assists in CC’s past six games. … Four of the five goals C Tim Hall has scored for CC have come in the past 12 games. … D Gabe Guentzel has skated in 130 straight games, the longest active streak of any CC player. … The Schwartz brothers are expected to be named All-WCHA selections Thursday, and Guentzel, D Mike Boivin and G Josh Thorimbert are among other Tigers with a strong chance of being recognized. … The next victory will be No. 300 for CC coach Scott Owens, who owns a 27-4-4 record against Michigan Tech.

Contact Brian Gomez: 719-636-0256 or brian.gomez@gazette.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.

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