Colorado College hockey team has hope headed into the stretch run

January 9, 2014 Updated: January 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm
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Colorado College left wing Scott Wamsganz, left, battles Minnesota Duluth right wing Austyn Young for the puck during the first period Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

It is unusual for a team with two wins to be in the hunt for home playoff ice.

But that is the situation fifth-place Colorado College finds itself in headed into a National Collegiate Hockey Conference road series at North Dakota.

Ultimately, whether CC has success this weekend starts with the Tigers.

"It is a great opportunity to play a great team in a great atmosphere," senior Eamonn McDermott said. "It is very important we play 60 minutes of consistent hockey."

Knowing that can be done gives the Tigers hope headed into the final 14 league games of the regular season.

"That is something we talked about in our meeting after the break," Tigers assistant Joe Bonnett said. "Every game is an opportunity to right the ship and build some momentum toward the end of the season."

North Dakota's approach on offense may provide the Tigers (2-13-3, 2-5-3) with a blueprint to jump-start its offense (1.67 goals average). UND's defensemen fire the puck on net to create rebounds and spark the offense (2.78 goals). It also proves beneficial on the power play (20.5 percent).

"They are playing with intensity and effort as North Dakota always does," Bonnett said. "They scored two power-play goals against Northern Michigan only 10 seconds in both times. They are very aggressive."

Like CC, North Dakota (9-7-2, 5-5) is hoping to put together a strong second half.

"Everything is up for grabs," UND coach Dave Hakstol said. "Everyone's schedule in the second half is very tough so whichever team stays healthy and gets on a roll should contend."

Expect North Dakota to do so.

"The bad news for rest of the NCHC is that (Mark) MacMillan at center on a line with (Brendan) O'Donnell and Michael Parks are all healthy and reunited for the first time since the season opener at Miami when they were the best line on the ice," said CBS Sports network analyst Dave Starman.

North Dakota is on a five-game win streak, not counting a 1-1 exhibition weekend, after a disappointing home loss to St. Lawrence.

"Guys have been coming to the rink with their work hats and lunch pails," UND goalie Zane Gothberg said.

Raucous Ralph Engelstad Arena may provide a spark for the Tigers, who sowed the seeds of last season's strong finish in Grand Forks.

"The smaller sheet in Grand Forks may be the perfect stage to put things into high gear," Starman said.

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