It’s officially go time for Colorado College’s hockey team.
With 12 conference games remaining and six home-ice spots available for the conference tournament, every win is a big one. The Tigers (9-13-2, 6-9-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) stand in ninth place in the conference with 13 points, four behind this weekend’s opponent, Minnesota-Duluth (9-10-3, 7-6-3).
Many around the CC program believe the time is now to make a move, with the Tigers hosting a team with a sub-.500 record this week, a week off next week and then a trip to last-place Alaska-Anchorage to follow. After those four games, it’s back to ranked opponents, with a home-and-home against seventh-ranked Denver, followed by home series against No. 19 St. Cloud State and 14th-ranked Minnesota State.
“It’s definitely crunch time,” said junior forward Alexander Krushelnyski, who is tied for third on the team with 23 points. “It’s part of this culture and part of this team that the guys on the team look forward to this time of year.”
CC is coming off a productive weekend in which the Tigers split a two-game road set with sixth-ranked North Dakota, and the team believes it made a step in the right direction that could propel them forward.
“We had a really good, 60-minute road effort on Friday and, except for about 15 minutes, we were good Saturday, too,” CC coach Scott Owens said. “Nobody’s happy to be in ninth place, and one of our big goals is just to continue to build off some of the little things we did well last weekend. We think that there’s enough good things here for us to climb in the standings.”
Even with the split, CC is mired in a frustrating 2-10-2 stretch in its past 14 games and will need to take advantage of the opportunities the next two series bring if a home conference tournament series is in the cards. Minnesota-Duluth will be a tough task this weekend. The Bulldogs have won four of their past six and are 10-3-2 against the Tigers in their past 15 meetings.
“We’re just trying to get better every weekend, and we took a couple steps last weekend,” said junior forward Archie Skalbeck, who has 18 points. “We want to move up the WCHA standings, so every game from here on out has some much-needed points. We want home ice, and we need to start playing the hockey we know we can play and take some points away.”
A dedicated focus is what the Tigers need to rise up the WCHA ranks, and the players feel they have the tools and desire to do that.
“This weekend will be another step toward trying to put a couple wins together,” Krushelynski said. “Guys know that you can’t take a week off here, so you can’t come to practice and just have an OK week of practice. Obviously, this weekend is a big weekend, and if we can figure it out and put a couple of wins together to build off last weekend, it’ll be even better for us.”