Colorado College’s improving freshmen are a good reason why the Tigers enter this weekend’s home series against league-leading St. Cloud State playing better hockey.
Hunter Fejes’ two-goal outburst against Denver two Saturdays ago brought added attention to his steadily improving performance (10 points, five goals) since the holiday break while his classmates, including center Cody Bradley, have contributed in ways big and small all season.
“Both Hunter and Cody are 94s (born in 1994) so they are young freshmen,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said. “Hunter fought through some early growing pains while Cody has shown off his skill in spurts.”
Bradley, when healthy, has centered the third line and done a good job creating opportunities (eight points, six assists). With the addition of senior right wing William Rapuzzi, that line boosts the Tigers’ scoring depth headed into the final three weekends of the regular season.
“In this program, everyone gets a chance to play and contribute,” Rapuzzi said.
Rookie right wing Jared Hanson (five points, three assists) holds his own on the second line and is on the penalty kill. Other rookies have stepped forward in supporting roles.
“I think everyone knows they can do better,” Hanson said. “We definitely have been playing better as a team. If we can keep it up at this rate we will be playing our best hockey at the right time.”
Forward Peter Maric has done well when called upon in nine games, including recording the assist in Feb. 8’s 1-1 tie at Denver. It was his first point as a Tiger.
“(Jared) has been a reliable, gritty player for us,” Owens said. “Peter may not be as high profile as the others but he gives us some jump.”
Injuries to the defensive corps sidelined junior Eamonn McDermott, sophomore Aaron Harstad and freshman Michael King recently and forced Russell Finch into the lineup the past three games. He played solid hockey and logged valuable minutes for a group down to five healthy players.
“When guys get hurt you have to be ready to step in there,” Bradley said. “Finch is a good example of that.”
The bye week helped the Tigers heal with all but Harstad available to play this weekend.
“This is a good time of year to be healthy,” Owens said.
It is also an opportune time to know the freshmen can be relied on to step up their play during this stretch run.
“We did not come in with huge expectations because there is no Jaden Schwartz in our group,” Finch said. “We all know we need to keep working to get better to help the team however we can.”
COLORADO COLLEGE’S HOCKEY WEEKEND
No. 7 St. Cloud State (18-11-1, 15-6-1 WCHA, first) at Colorado College (11-14-5, 8-10-4, tied at eighth), 7:37 p.m. Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: 750 seats remain for Friday with 400 left for Saturday as of Thursday afternoon. The $5 kids tickets are available at World Arena box office from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days.
Video interview: Check out the Gazette Sports Facebook page for a video interview with CC senior defenseman Mike Boivin.
Gazette College Hockey blog: For more on the Tigers, including a look at contributions from the sophomore class, go to http://blogs.gazette.com/collegehockey/
Coaches: SCSU — Bob Motzko (155-120-35, eighth season); CC – Scott Owens (310-199-48, 14th season).
All-time series: Tigers lead 45-34-6
Top players: SCSU — Drew LeBlanc, sr., F (10g, 30a); Nic Dowd, jr., F, 13g, 18a); Kalle Kossila, fr., F (12g, 15a); Jonny Brodzinski, fr. F (14g, 9a); Nick Jensen, jr., D (3g, 20a); Ryan Faragher, soph, G (17-9-1, 2.19 goals-against average, .918 saves percentage); CC — Rylan Schwartz, sr., C (11g, 24a); William Rapuzzi, sr., RW (14g, 19a); Alexander Krushelnyski, jr., LW (11g, 21a); Mike Boivin, sr., D (13g, 11a); Scott Winkler, sr., C (12g, 11a); Joe Howe, sr., G (7-7-4, 3.08 gaa, .906 saves).
Notes: The Huskies, who have never won the regular-season title since joining in 1990, have never led the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this late in the season. … This is already the most league points (31) amassed by the Huskies in a season since 2009-10, when the Huskies placed third with 35 points. … Hobey Baker Award hopeful LeBlanc leads Division I with 30 assists. … LeBlanc can tie the team record of 161 career games played by Ryan Lasch (2006-10) with two games played this weekend. … Senior Ben Hanowski is a top 10 finalist for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award along with Air Force’s Stephen Carew. … Dowd ranks second in the nation among DI players with five game-winners this season, which also ties a team record for GWGs. ... Brodzinski’s 14 goals is third best among DI rookies. ... CC’s offense (3.33) is tied for fifth in Division I but the scoring defense is 56th out of 59 teams (3.50). … The Tigers are seven points out of sixth place and the final home playoff ice berth but have two games in hand and the head-to-head tiebreaker against Wisconsin. ... With eight teams within 11 points of first place, the only playoff certainty entering the weekend is that last-place Alaska-Anchorage will travel to play the MacNaughton Cup champion in the first round.