Colorado College was poised to show the National Collegiate Hockey Conference how much it has changed, with playoff home-ice advantage still up for grabs in its final regular-season game, but instead harkened back to the play of recent years. The Tigers gave up six goals in nine minutes during the second period and skidded into the postseason with an 8-2 loss to Western Michigan.
“After the second period, you could tell. The whole rink could tell. It’s game over,” Tigers co-captain Tanner Ockey said Saturday.
“They outworked us. They cared, and we didn’t. That’s the biggest thing.”
At least they’ll save money on travel.
CC finished tied for fifth in the NCHC but with tiebreakers landed the seven seed. It will play the defending national champion Pioneers in the first round for the second year in a row.
“You’ve got to move on,” coach Mike Haviland reiterated. “You’ve got to move forward.”
The Tigers came out with confidence and Christiano Versich got the Tigers on the board first. He took the puck from Trevor Gooch along the boards and skated across, sending a wrister past WMU goaltender Austin Cain.
Before the end of the period, Western Michigan had taken a 2-1 lead. Corey Schueneman scored during a 5-on-3 and Brett Van Os added another six seconds after the second penalty expired.
Trey Bradley scored his sixth of the season on the power play 2:59 into the second period. He took a pass right in front of the crease and tucked it under Cain.
But the Broncos continued to respond in pairs. Josh Passolt scored a soft one, then Paul Stoykewych’s deflection survived a review to make it 4-2 in a span of 50 seconds.
Then the floodgates opened. Cam Orchard scored, Van Os added his second of the night and Ethen Frank scored twice, the second on a short-handed breakaway. All of this came in a span of 5:03.
“I think that was the first game where we gave up after they made it 4-2 all season,” Ockey said. “It’s a flashback to the last two years.”
Alex Calvaruso (10 saves) relieved Alex Leclerc (23 saves) after the fifth goal.
The Tigers had a chance to finish the regular season over .500 for the first time since the 2011-12 season, but fell to 14-15-5 overall, 8-12-4-3 in the NCHC. The way it shook out, if they had won Saturday, they would have launched into fourth place and hosted their first-round series.
Magness Arena may not be friendly, but it’s familiar. CC was swept out of the first round of the NCHC playoffs last season by Denver, but won its most recent game there, 1-0 on Feb. 17.
“They’re obviously a good team, but we played good there,” Ockey said. “We need to go in there and steal some games.”
CC sophomore Nick Halloran didn’t register a point Saturday, but tied with Denver’s Henrik Borgstrom for the regular-season NCHC scoring lead.