For Colorado College, the result cannot be reversed. The sting of defeat can’t be erased. At this point, nothing will change. History has been written – and it’s remaining that way.
Tigers coach Scott Owens finds comfort in knowing that his team didn’t go down without a fight, as fifth-seeded CC displayed a ton more passion Saturday in a 4-3 overtime defeat against eighth-seeded Michigan Tech than it did Friday in a 3-1 loss that opened the best-of-three first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. CC still got swept at home, and its season is still over. But the exit wasn’t because of a lack of effort.
“I thought we played with a lot of heart,” Owens said. “I thought we competed.”
Owens tried everything he could in a closeout game that probably will be remembered as much for the opportunities that CC (18-16-2) couldn’t convert as much as it will for the plays that Michigan Tech (16-18-4) made in securing a spot in the WCHA Final Five that begins Thursday in St. Paul, Minn. He shortened CC’s bench late in the game. He juggled the lines in overtime. He even showed some fire, yelling and waving his arms in the first period when Joe Marciano got ripped down before Michigan Tech scored for a 1-0 lead.
Momentum carries so much weight in college hockey, and when Scott Winkler gave CC a 3-2 edge with 11 minutes left, on the heels of a pair of goals by Andrew Hamburg that negated a 2-0 hole, Michigan Tech didn’t panic. An extra-attacker goal by Steven Seigo brought the Huskies even with 65 seconds left, and David Johnstone struck 3 ½ minutes into overtime, untouched in the slot as he tipped Daniel Sova’s shot past Josh Thorimbert.
The Tigers were outshot 70-49 in the series, despite holding a 79-48 faceoff advantage, and while they went 5 for 5 on the penalty kill, they were 1 for 8 on the power play, only receiving the team-best 23rd goal from Rylan Schwartz on Friday. A combined 18 shots from Nick Dineen, Alexander Krushelnyski and Jaden Schwartz weren’t enough to net a goal, and Thorimbert was often hung out to dry by defensemen who blew assignments.
If Krushelnyski and William Rapuzzi had beaten Josh Robinson instead of clanking the crossbar before Winkler tallied in the third, CC assuredly wins. Instead, it’s an agonizing start to what could be a long offseason for the Tigers, who last year came within a game of the Frozen Four, stunning defending national champion Boston College in the process.
“I would have liked to have gotten to St. Paul – at least have that opportunity to get to St. Paul with these guys,” said Owens, who loses six seniors in Dineen, Ted Behrend, Arthur Bidwill, David Civitarese, Gabe Guentzel and Tim Hall. The Schwartz brothers may also depart CC, as a contract for Jaden with the St. Louis Blues is considered imminent, and Rylan’s stock has never been higher. Plus, Owens is awaiting word on the playing future of Dakota Eveland, who has been sidelined since January with an upper-body injury.
Owens admitted “the second half of the year wasn’t kind to us. We had trouble scoring. We couldn’t get out of a scoring funk. Then we got onto a little bit of a roll there with the Denver series, and then we had all the injuries – the four concussions (by Hall, Dineen, Thorimbert and Mike Boivin) and a couple of broken hands,” presumably by Winkler and possibly by Jaden Schwartz. “We lost momentum, and it was tough for us to get it back.”
Nevertheless, Owens said, “There are some guys that are beat up that gave it their all, and that’s all you can ask for. … It just seemed like we had to work so hard for everything.”
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