In the biggest game of the season, Colorado College showed little energy, little effort and little enthusiasm. Its hopes are now increasingly slim, with the Tigers shoved to the brink.
On a night in which CC had the capability of turning the corner, the Tigers took a step in the wrong direction, roundly battered Friday in a demoralizing 3-1 loss against Michigan Tech in Game 1 of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs at World Arena.
Going down to Michigan Tech (15-18-4) for the first time since 2007 puts CC (18-15-2) one defeat from elimination, as the fifth-seeded Tigers need a victory Saturday in Game 2 of the best-of-three, first-round series to force Game 3 on Sunday – the winner advances to the WCHA Final Five next week in St. Paul, Minn. The only silver lining for CC: Even though eighth-seeded Michigan Tech isn’t in the 32-team PairWise rankings, CC is still 19th in the statistical rating system – four places out of the 16-team NCAA Tournament.
“I was disappointed with our ability to win some puck battles and to get to the net,” said CC coach Scott Owens, who was denied his 300th career victory, with his team suffering only its third loss in 26 games vs. Michigan Tech at World Arena. He added, “I mean, 17 shots against any team is not acceptable. … They were forechecking aggressively. They were taking away the walls. We were turning the puck over on the wall a little bit.”
Unlike last weekend in a momentum-building sweep of Michigan Tech to end the regular season, CC struggled to dictate the tempo from end to end. Michigan Tech kept constant pressure on the Tigers by remaining active and staying relentless in its chase of the puck. Plus, the Huskies penetrated past the perimeter and were better on breakouts, benefiting from a week of practice on the Olympic-sized sheet inside the Ice Hall at World Arena.
Major alterations to its line combinations backfired on CC, and Josh Robinson (14-13-4) stood strong in a scoreless first period for Michigan Tech, showing no signs of the injured rotator cuff that he suffered last weekend. The Tigers, who lost Jeff Collett for the series to an upper-body injury, faced a 29-17 shot deficit, including a combined 22-9 margin in the second and third, and lackluster defense put Josh Thorimbert (13-7-1) in tough spots.
After David Johnstone gave Michigan Tech a 1-0 lead with less than three minutes left in the second, Rylan Schwartz drew CC even with a 5-on-3 goal 39 seconds into the third. It fell apart from there for CC, with Dennis Rix making it 2-1 when he scored three minutes later, and Alex MacLeod’s goal with 9 ½ minutes left sealed the deal for Michigan Tech.
Marking his WCHA-leading 23rd goal, Schwartz bemoaned a boatload of missed chances for CC in the first, when his younger brother, Jaden, was stuffed by Robinson at the left post and Eamonn McDermott ricocheted a shot off the left post and the crossbar. “They were the better team,” Rylan Schwartz said. “They were in our end most of the game. … We just need more jump off the start, and we have to finish on our opportunities.”
The 17 shots by CC were a season low, its offensive ineptitude underscored by the 40-18 cushion it enjoyed on faceoffs. Perhaps the biggest problems were “the shots in general,” said Alexander Krushelnyski, who had three shots. “A lack of shots. A lack of hitting the net. A lack of getting them through. And a lack of capitalizing on opportunities. … There were opportunities to take advantage, and we just didn’t take advantage of them.”
CC also dropped the first game of the WCHA playoffs last season, at home to Wisconsin, then the Tigers won the next two games, so “the guys have been in that situation,” Owens said, admitting that “it’s going to take a heck of a team effort. Everybody is going to have to pull together.” Rylan Schwartz said, “We’ve got to win every game from here on out.”
MICHIGAN TECH 3, COLORADO COLLEGE 1
Michigan Tech 0 1 2 – 3
Colorado College 0 0 1 – 1
First period – None. Penalties – Reddick, Michigan Tech (hooking), 18:09.
Second – 1. Michigan Tech, D. Johnstone 10 (unassisted), 17:12. Penalties – Rapuzzi, CC (hooking), 2:16. Fillion, Michigan Tech (interference), 19:09. Sova, Michigan Tech (holding), 19:54.
Third – 2. CC, R. Schwartz 23 (Guentzel, J. Schwartz), 0:39 (pp). 3. Michigan Tech, Rix 4 (Reddick, C. Pietila), 3:41. 4. Michigan Tech, MacLeod 7 (D. Johnstone, J. Johnstone), 10:21. Penalties – Boivin, CC (cross-checking), 7:24. Baker, Michigan Tech (four-minute roughing and 10-minute misconduct), 19:17. Dineen, CC (four-minute roughing and 10-minute misconduct), 19:17. B. Pietila, Michigan Tech (four-minute roughing and 10-minute misconduct), 19:17. R. Schwartz, CC (four-minute roughing and 10-minute misconduct), 19:17. Seigo, Michigan Tech (slashing), 19:17. Rapuzzi, CC (cross-checking), 20:00.
Shots on goal – Michigan Tech 7-11-11-29. CC 8-4-5-17. Power-play opportunities – Michigan Tech 0 of 2. CC 1 of 4. Goalies – Michigan Tech, Robinson 8-4-4 (17 shots-16 saves). CC, Thorimbert 7-10-9 (29-26). Attendance – 5,244. Time – 2:15. Referees – Scott Bokal, Brian Thul. Linesmen – Gary Pedigo, Stephen Stankevich.
WCHA PLAYOFFS, FIRST ROUND
No. 8 Michigan Tech at No. 5 Colorado College
Game 1: Michigan Tech 3, Colorado College 1
Game 3: Sunday, 7:07 p.m. (if necessary)
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