Josh Thorimbert dropped to one knee in the crease, his stick propped at his side, his head buried in his hands. As goaltender, he’s the last line of defense for Colorado College, and in the rare instance he let his guard down, the consequences were more severe than ever.
David Johnstone redirected a shot by Daniel Sova in the slot 3 ½ minutes into overtime, and CC saw its season come crashing to a sad end in a 4-3 loss to Michigan Tech, swept out of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs Saturday at World Arena.
It’s the fifth time in as many tries fifth-seeded CC (18-16-2) has been eliminated from the postseason by eighth-seeded Michigan Tech (16-18-4) – and it’s a hard-to-stomach defeat that probably rivals the heartbreaker of CC falling to the Huskies in the final games at the now-demolished Broadmoor World Arena in 1994. CC slipped three spots to 22nd in the PairWise rankings used to select the 16 NCAA Tournament qualifiers, and it’s just about impossible for the Tigers to make up much ground because they’re done playing games.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t have a chance to play that third game,” said CC coach Scott Owens, again denied his 300th career win, with the Tigers dropping to 2-8 vs. Michigan Tech in the WCHA playoffs. He said, “It’s disappointing for our seniors. … In overtime, it can go any way. We got bottled up in our own end, and we couldn’t get it out.”
Following the script of a 3-1 setback Friday in Game 1, CC was largely outhustled when pursuing pucks, as Michigan Tech, in the WCHA Final Five for the first time since it beat CC in the 2007 WCHA playoffs, controlled the walls and won most corner battles. Plus, CC’s defensemen were again way too forgiving, and despite their increased energy level, their countless breakdowns sent Thorimbert (13-8-1) on his heels a majority of the night.
Even with its line combinations back to normal after a drastic overhaul Friday, CC didn’t have much luck in attempting to penetrate into the prime scoring areas, often throttled by Michigan Tech’s aggressive forecheckers. And too many turnovers plagued CC, with the Tigers, saddled with a 41-32 shot deficit a night after they were held to a season-low 17 shots, unable to solve Josh Robinson (15-13-4) and capitalize on their chances. It wasn’t beneficial that CC went 0 for 4 on the power play, despite eight man-advantage shots.
All hope looked gone for CC when Michigan Tech pulled ahead 2-0 in the opening seven minutes on goals by Johnstone and Brett Olson. But Andrew Hamburg scored less than two minutes after Olson to bring the Tigers within 2-1, and his second goal tied it 2-2 less than four minutes into the second. Scott Winkler put CC up 3-2 with 11 minutes left, then the Huskies forced overtime on Steven Seigo’s extra-attacker goal with 65 seconds to go.
Owens wouldn’t pin the blame on Thorimbert, noting that “he made a lot of tough saves.” He dreamed of a game-winner from Jaden or Rylan Schwartz or Alexander Krushelnyski, who had a combined 10 shots. “And I wish they would have had more than one shift” in overtime, he said. “Sometimes, in playoff hockey, it’s different people that step up.”
MICHIGAN TECH 4, COLORADO COLLEGE 3
Michigan Tech 2 0 1 1 – 4
Colorado College 1 1 1 0 – 3
First period – 1. Michigan Tech, D. Johnstone 11 (unassisted), 1:08. 2. Michigan Tech, Olson 10 (Baker, Stebner), 6:46. 3. CC, Hamburg 3 (Skalbeck, Thorimbert), 8:23. Penalties – Krushelnyski, CC (hooking), 5:26. D. Johnstone, Michigan Tech (slashing), 5:55. Nielsen, Michigan Tech (tripping), 10:43. J. Schwartz, CC (hooking), 15:06.
Second – 4. CC, Hamburg 4 (McDermott), 3:50. Penalties – Baker, Michigan Tech (holding the stick), 1:01. Marciano, CC (boarding), 7:16.
Third – 5. CC, Winkler 7 (Krushelnyski, Dineen), 8:52. 6. Michigan Tech, Seigo 5 (B. Pietila, Gordic), 18:55 (ex). Penalties – C. Pietila, Michigan Tech (interference), 2:42. Sweeney, Michigan Tech (tripping), 4:28.
Overtime – 7. Michigan Tech, D. Johnstone 12 (Sova, Fillion), 3:30. Penalties – None.
Shots on goal – Michigan Tech 17-8-15-1-41. CC 7-12-13-0-32. Power-play opportunities – Michigan Tech 0 of 3. CC 0 of 4. Goalies – Michigan Tech, Robinson 6-11-12-0 (32 shots-29 saves). CC, Thorimbert 15-8-14-0 (41-37). Attendance – 5,070. Time – 2:48. Referees – Scott Bokal, Brian Thul. Linesmen – Gary Pedigo, Stephen Stankevich.
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