This season has been a challenging learning experience for Colorado College senior Eamonn McDermott.
To his credit, the captain plays a significant role in keeping the 6-20-6 Tigers positive and playing hard entering the final weekend of the regular season, which includes Senior Night recognition starting at 6:45 p.m. Saturday.
The final National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular-season series is against No. 4 St. Cloud State (19-8-5, 13-6-3), a possible first-round preview.
Tigers coach Scott Owens pointed to McDermott's improved play since the holiday break that helped the team leaders keep the Tigers (6-11-5-1 NCHC) working together during the kind of season when most squads splinter apart.
"I am proud of him for the effort he puts forth every week," Owens said. "He has grown as a leader and done what he needed to do for the betterment of the team. I am proud of him for that."
But then effort is not an issue for the 5-foot-10, 186-pound defenseman from Shaker Heights, Ohio. It showed during a memorable Gold Pan weekend that earned him league defenseman of the week honors.
"He played with a great will against Denver," CC assistant Joe Bonnett said. "To be in the crease and knocked on top of (Denver goalie Sam) Brittain while getting the game-winning assist shows how much he was willing to commit for the team. He brings everything he has to practice, preparation and game play."
It was McDermott's eighth game-winning assist out of 52 career points (45 assists).
Not surprisingly, he pointed to his teammates' efforts for keeping the Tigers moving forward. He learned how to better delegate leadership tasks over the course of the season. Most importantly he stayed positive and teammates responded.
"The guys have been pretty good," McDermott said. "I know this isn't the year we expected to have but every challenge is a learning experience."
"Being a captain at Colorado College is not something everyone is ready for," senior goalie Josh Thorimbert said. "It is a growing experience. He has really worked hard as the captain to lead us. He does that by putting the team first in everything he does which is what he has done all four years."
The league scholar-athlete is a cerebral leader who becomes vocal at key moments, which has served him well during the past 10 games when the Tigers are 4-4-2.
That gives McDermott and his teammates hope their slow improvement culminates in a postseason run like last season.
"Every day we need to work hard because we cannot take anything for granted," he said. "We have played everyone in this league tough. We need to remember that. I feel good about where we are at this point of the season."