To say the Colorado College hockey team finished last season with a bad taste in its mouth would be a vast understatement.
After building a 16-9-2 record through Feb. 4, the Tigers were bitten by the injury bug and went into a tailspin, finishing the season 3-7 mired in disappointment. CC had six players suffer concussions down the stretch and was swept by Michigan Tech in a two- game series in the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
It was a frustrating end to a promising season for the Tigers.
“The end of last season was disappointing,” CC coach Scott Owens said. “Not playing well and being a little banged up down the stretch, it probably does make the entire season disappointing. I think, to a certain extent, a lot of the guys have a chip on their shoulders about that, which hopefully will bode well for this year.”
The team enters the 2012-13 campaign — its 54th and final season in the WCHA before moving to the Colorado Springs-based National Collegiate Hockey Conference next season — hungry and amped, looking to show their fans that CC hockey is still a national power. The Tigers host Clarkson on Friday and Saturday.
“Guys have been dying to get back for this season to prove to a lot of people that we’re for real and we’re not just going to sit there and get swept away,” captain William Rapuzzi said. “We’re going to be a hungry team that’s getting after it. We’re going to play in-your-face hockey all season.”
The Tigers — who were ranked 20th in the U.S. College Hockey Online preseason poll — will have to rebuild 40 percent of their offense from last season. All-American Jaden Schwartz left early for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, and graduation took Nick Dineen’s 14 goals and 12 assists, as well as David Civitarese and Tim Hall, who combined for 13 goals and five assists.
Jaden’s older brother, Rylan, will be looked to carry a lot of the scoring load, as he enters his senior season with 39 goals and 67 assists in his career. The Tigers will also look to Andrew Hamburg, Scott Winkler and Rapuzzi, among others, for offensive production.
“It’s about who’s going to fill those holes, and I think we have some really good candidates for it,” Owens said.
One of the team’s strengths, Owens believes, is its depth at goalie. Junior Josh Thorimbert, a third-team all-WCHA selection last year, has the nod over senior Joe Howe after an impressive 13-8-1 season.
Howe began the season 4-0 before finishing with a 5-8-1 record and is a great No. 2 option for Owens. He has 40 career wins under his belt. The Tigers are also a bit bigger than usual this year, averaging 193 pounds.
“I know they had a great spring and summer, so we’ll see if that translates,” Owens said. “We need to work extremely hard and utilize our size and our quickness a little bit, and I think it’s a team that feels it has something to prove. The guys want to prove we’re a top-half team in the league.”
Upcoming series: Friday and Saturday vs. Clarkson University, World Arena
Coach: Scott Owens (299-185-43, 14th season) 2011-12 record: 18-16-2
Top returnees: Rylan Schwartz, sr., F (23g, 17a); Josh Thorimbert, jr., G (13-8-1, 2.35 gaa); William Rapuzzi, sr., F (3g, 12a); Scott Winkler, sr., F (7g, 17a); Alexander Krushelnyski, jr., F (10g, 10a), Mike Boivin, sr., DEF (8g, 17a).
Key losses: Jaden Schwartz (15g, 26a); Nick Dineen (14g, 12a); David Civitarese (8g, 2a); Gabe Guentzel (4g, 22a.
Top Clarkson players: Ben Sexton, jr., F (8g, 21a); Allan McPherson, jr., F (11g, 12a); Sam Labrecque, soph., DEF (8g, 15a).
Outlook: The Tigers were disappointed by their 3-7 finish last season and enter the 2012-13 campaign with something to prove. Ranked 20th in the U.S. College Hockey Online preseason poll, CC will be bigger (193-pound average) and strong in net and on defense, but will need to replace 40 percent of its offense.
Ticket deal: At the World Arena box office, fans can purchase $5 tickets to the CC vs. Clarkson games when they purchase tickets to the CC vs. Denver, North Dakota or Minnesota games at the same time. For example, a fan can purchase four full-price tickets to the CC vs. DU game and then be able to purchase four CC vs. Clarkson tickets for $5 each.