The Tigers aren’t shying away from it. Five straight losing seasons. No seniors. Picked, by a wide margin, to finish last in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
As Colorado College opens its season Friday night on the road, the task is immense, but clear.
“We’re definitely looking to turn this thing around,” co-captain Mason Bergh said on the first day of team practice. “I think we made some strides last year, but it wasn’t good enough. I’m just trying to improve every day and lead this program in the right direction.”
Junior Trey Bradley, who missed most of the past season due to injury, said he’s eager to take ownership of the team.
“We can’t use that excuse that we’re young anymore, especially our class,” Bradley said. “We don’t have any seniors, but it’s time for us to step up. We have to be the captains of the ship.”
Though the players must do their part – and did, working hard in the offseason, according to coach Mike Haviland – a lot of the responsibility falls on the coaching staff.
Haviland, in his fourth year, opens with a goaltender who isn’t a freshman for the first time since he arrived at the school. He has depth – rough, but available – and a junior class that has logged many minutes in all situations.
“I think we’re still in that rebuild, but I think it’s time to take the next step,” Haviland said. “As hard as it may be, we need to move up in those conference standings. We need to show that we are progressing.”
CC scored only 70 goals last year, last in the NCHC. The Tigers aren’t expected to win a bunch of shootouts. But Haviland predicts they'll be faster and more dialed in, thanks to a training tool that has worked their legs hard.
“We were in a lot of close games last year, so I think with our endurance being better, maybe along comes your focus,” he said.
First up is nonconference foe Vermont of the Hockey East conference. The Catamounts went 20-13-5 last season, and though they haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2014, they have seen the kind of consistency CC needs in order to reach that next step.
Westin Michaud, a member of the Tigers’ important junior class, scored twice in CC’s exhibition game. Will he, or someone else, get the Tigers off to a confidence-building start?
Bradley has faith in CC’s leaders.
“With those guys leading the way, I think this season should be a lot better,” Bradley said.
The new guys
There are nine freshmen on coach Mike Haviland’s Colorado College Tigers. Here are three expected to play significant roles during the 2017-18 season:
Troy Conzo, forward
Conzo scored 68 points (19 goals,49 assists) in 55 games for Wenatchee of the British Columbia Hockey League last season. He has impressed early, and Haviland expects to use him on the power play at some point.
“He has speed and skill, plays in the middle, which we’ve been lacking the past few years,” the coach said. “It’s just a learning curve now for him – how quickly can he pick it up and translate his junior career into college.”
Alec Calvaruso, goaltender
A new addition to CC’s shifting series of backup goaltenders, freshman Calvaruso will spell sophomore Alex Leclerc in net. He went 24-7 with the Lone Star Brahmas in 2016-17.
“He has a really good year last year in the North American League, which is a league that is known for producing some really good goaltenders,” Haviland said. “We needed someone who could come here and contend for that No. 1 spot and push Alex.”
Zach Berzolla, defenseman
The large – 6-foot-2, 197 pounds – freshman blue liner scored in the third period of his CC debut, the exhibition game against the University of Lethbridge.
“He’s got some offensive abilities,” Haviland said. “He plays a heavy game. He’ll see some minutes.”