They may not show up in the win-loss column, but exhibition games the Colorado College and Air Force hockey teams are playing against the University of British Columbia on Sunday and Monday are being taken as seriously as any other game.
Colorado College, ranked 20th in the preseason U.S. College Hockey Online poll, hosts the Thunderbirds on Sunday night at 6:07, and Scott Owens’ squad is focused and ready. The game will serve as a measuring stick and a crucial evaluation for Owens and his coaching staff as they work to streamline lineups and learn more about this season’s team.
“We’ll get a better idea (about our team) Sunday night,” said Owens, whose first regular-season win this year will be the 300th of his storied career. “We’re going to try and play all the goalies on Sunday and go from there. Our season is so long that we don’t necessarily have to solve it all the first weekend.”
Coming off an 18-16-2 season that ended with a 3-7-2 finish, the Tigers will be looking to replace 40 percent of their offense. Having a quality one-two punch at goalie in the form of junior Josh Thorimbert (12-4-1) and senior Joe Howe (5-8-1) will definitely help.
“We’ve got two good goaltenders who are experienced guys, and we’re happy with that,” Owens said. “We’ve just got to find a way to score and fill some of the holes on the special teams.”
Sunday’s tilt against British Columbia will be a good test for the Tigers. The Thunderbirds were 13-14-1 in the hockey-heavy Canada West Conference last year. Colorado College owns a 7-3-1 advantage in the series and won the last meeting, in 2003, by a score of 3-0.
Air Force coach Frank Serratore is looking forward to his team’s Monday night matchup against British Columbia as an important part of preparing his talented team for the 2012-13 campaign.
“People say, ‘Oh, exhibition games, they mean nothing,’” said Serratore, the winningest coach in Air Force hockey history. “You know what? This exhibition game is a tryout for all those defensemen.”
The Falcons, who were 21-11-7 last season, won their fifth Atlantic Hockey Association tournament title in six years and made an NCAA Tournament appearance. They need to determine which player combinations will work best for them this season. Monday’s game will go a long way in doing just that.
“We’ve got 10 defensemen in camp right now, and what we need to do is find the right cocktail,” said Serratore, whose Falcons are ranked 19th in the USCHO poll. “Until we figure out things defensively, we’re going to count on our depth and hopefully be able to be on the attack and be able to maintain possession in the offensive zone, because we have all of those older, experienced forwards.
“I’m excited to get going.”