For the past few weeks I’ve listened to various voices associated with Colorado College hockey who indicated better times were ahead for the hockey team.
Just wait, I was told. The Tigers will snap out their long funk once they return to home ice and once they battle against more middle-of-the-road opponents.
On Friday, the Tigers played at World Arena against the thoroughly mediocre Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
And CC lost, 3-2, deepening a slump that has stretched across three different months. The Tigers have won twice in the past 15 games. CC has finished 2-11-2 during the slump.
CC drops to 9-14-2 and 6-10-1 in conference play. Duluth improves to 10-10-3 and 8-6-2.
“It just seems we can’t get traction,” coach Scott Owens said, clearly frustrated by the missed opportunity. “…It’s disappointing, mostly because this was an opportunity to get this segment started well for us.”
When Owens talks about traction, he’s talking about a stretch of “four or five or six games” when the Tigers would play a full 60 minutes of quality hockey.
He certainly didn’t get one of those games on Friday night. The score was deceptive. The Tigers were fortunate to be in contention in the final minutes. They were outshot, 28-15, going into the third period, and only solid goaltending by Joe Howe kept them close.
At the 17:15 mark in the third period, defenseman Mike Boivin delivered a desperately needed moment of hope for the Tigers.
The puck found Boivin directly in front of the goal, and the senior defenseman did not hesitate.
He launched a high, rapid and accurate shot into the back of the net. It was, no doubt, a sweet shot.
His teammates and the small, quiet crowd shouted and leaped and celebrated. After all the wandering and trouble of the past several weeks, even a home tie would have been a big deal for these Tigers.
The fun did not last. This has been the sad norm during this mega-slump.
A minute later, Minnesota-Duluth answered when Howe could not control a rebound, leaving the puck sitting invitingly in front of the net.
All Caleb Herbert had to do is gently flick it into the goal.
The Tigers had lost.
Owens, a former CC goalie, felt some sympathy for Howe.
“He just kind of lost it,” Owens said of the Bulldogs’ third goal.
Owens description of Howe’s last-minute troubles could describe the current state of his team, only I would remove the words “kind of.”