Mired in a tough two-week stretch, the Colorado College Tigers spent this week refocusing and regrouping as they prepare to host yet another top-10 team at the World Arena.
With No. 7 North Dakota (6-4-2, 3-1-2 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) coming in fresh off a split against sixth-ranked Notre Dame and the 18th-ranked Tigers having completed their nonconference play, both WCHA teams will be ready to get down to business. The two-game series will be CC’s seventh and eighth games against top-10 teams this season.
“It continues to be a difficult stretch for us schedule-wise,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said. “(North Dakota) is a team that has a good mix. They’ve got size, toughness, some scoring and some defensive prowess.
“They’re a good team, and we’re going to have to tighten things up.”
Colorado College (7-6-1, 4-2) is in the grips of a 0-3-1 slump in which it allowed 22 goals (5.5 per game), and the Tigers gave up 97 shots in last weekend’s games against New Hampshire and Yale. CC spent ample practice time this week working on improvements on the defensive end, and the team is ready to get back to its winning ways.
“It’s pretty much been a team effort in a bad way,” said senior forward Scott Winkler, who leads the team with eight goals. “We definitely haven’t played to the potential we know we can, so this weekend will show a lot about our team. It seems like everyone on our team is starting to get a chip on their shoulders, so I’m excited to see what will happen this weekend.”
The Tigers have failed to score first in each of their past five games, and those slow starts have also been a concern for Owens and his team. CC is averaging 3.7 goals, but has been forced to dig out of some deep deficits in recent weeks.
“It seems like we’ve given up goals early in games that have put us in holes, but we’ve been able to come back from them,” Owens said. “But you’re playing with fire if you do that all season long.”
The good news for Tigers fans is the team’s mental state of being more motivated than frustrated and focused rather than frazzled. CC is a hungry squad that will be playing with a singular motivation after two fruitless weekends in which it earned one of eight points.
“I think everybody’s ready to bear down and get two wins this weekend,” said sophomore defenseman Ian Young, who scored his first career goal Friday against New Hampshire. “There was a lot of disappointment from being swept by Denver and only coming out of last weekend with a tie. No one is down, but everyone definitely has a little anger and hunger in them to have some success this weekend.”
Owens said that all defensive aspects need to improve and that a successful weekend could be just the shot in the arm his team needs.
“I don’t think they feel they’ve been playing that poorly, because they’ve been doing some things well,” Owens said. “It’s not doom and gloom, and I don’t think mentally there’s anyone who’s down and out. A win this weekend would do wonders for our confidence.”
CC’S HOCKEY WEEKEND
No. 7 North Dakota (6-4-2, 3-1-2 WCHA) at No. 18 Colorado College (7-6-1, 4-2 WCHA)
7:37 p.m. Friday and 7:07 p.m. Saturday, World Arena
Tickets: CCTigers.com; 576-2626 (more than 600 available for each game)
Coaches: North Dakota — Dave Hakstol (219-110-32, ninth season); Colorado College — Scott Owens (306-191-44, 14th season)
All-time series: North Dakota leads 137-76-10
Top players: North Dakota — Danny Kristo, sr., F (5g, 9a); Corban Knight, sr., F (2g, 9a); Mark MacMillan, soph., F (6g, 4a); Clarke Saunders, jr., G (4-2-2, 2.09 gaa). Colorado College — Rylan Schwartz, sr., F (7g, 10a); William Rapuzzi, sr., F (7g, 10a); Scott Winkler, sr., F (8g, 6a); Mike Boivin, sr., D (6g, 6a); Archie Skalbeck, jr., F (5g, 7a); Alexander Krushelnyski, jr., F (5g, 7a); Eamonn McDermott, jr., D (2g, 10a).
Outlook: Colorado College is 0-3-1 in its past four games and has the same mark in its past four meetings with North Dakota, so the Tigers will be looking to end that winless drought. CC allowed 97 shots in two games last weekend, so defense will be the focus for a squad searching for consistency. North Dakota is the fifth top-10 team CC has played this season and will bring a confident group that includes a whopping 12 NHL draft picks.
NEAL REID, THE GAZETTE