Ramsey: 5 reasons why CC's hockey team can awaken in 2014

By David Ramsey, david.ramsey@gazette.com Updated: December 19, 2013 at 10:08 pm • Published: December 19, 2013 | 10:00 pm 0
photo - Goalie Josh Thorimbert has the type of talent that could carry the Colorado College Tigers during the second half of the season. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Goalie Josh Thorimbert has the type of talent that could carry the Colorado College Tigers during the second half of the season. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

'Tis the season to be jolly.

Well, unless you happen to be associated with the Colorado College hockey team, which stumbled through the late weeks of 2013 in a historically gruesome collapse. The Tigers have won once - count it - in their last 15 games while being outscored 52-25.

Look at this way: The Tigers season can't get much worse.

But there's a brighter view available. CC could revive. I say this largely because of memories from last season, when the Tigers fell into a similar abyss and appeared utterly deceased.

But ...

The players stunned everyone, including most likely themselves, with a late-season ride that nearly carried the team to the NCAA Tournament.

In 2012-2013, the Tigers won two of 14 games before coach Scott Owens performed the finest resurrection job of his career. The Tigers came achingly close to departing the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with a victory in the conference final.

The Tigers can again awaken. And, yes, that means they've been asleep.

Owens talked this week about the reasons he's optimistic about this season's team. He sounded weary and disappointed.

"We've been a little bit unlucky but we've been not very good, too," he said.

Yet, there was clear hope in his voice.

Here are the reasons for his hope:

One - The Tigers should score more frequently.

This is not a radical prediction. The Tigers average 1.65 goals per game with a power play percentage of 9 percent. These statistics puzzle and trouble Owens.

If you're looking for a good sports mystery, be sure to examine the strange fade of Alexander Krushelnyski, Archie Skalbeck and Charlie Taft. Last season, the trio combined for 35 goals and 84 points. So far this season, the trio has crawled to seven goals and 14 points.

"They can't be shutdown the way they were in the first half of this year," Owens said. "They can't be. Logic would dictate that they are not going to be shutdown. ... They are going to pick up."

Two - Owens expects strong and rapid improvement from his nine freshmen.

This is a youthful Tigers team, and three of CC's top five scorers are freshmen.

"Our young players are going to keep getting better," Owens said. "They will keep gaining experience and keep improving."

Three - Overtime could become a happier time. This is not an ultra-bold prediction. The Tigers are winless in overtime, finishing with three losses and three ties.

"Again," Owens said, "logic would dictate. You think that you would catch a break in one or two of those games. We're in games. We're close."

The latest overtime loss came on Saturday at Wisconsin.

"We played really well," Owens said, "and the goal that went in for them, it wasn't a real clean goal. It was kind of a lucky goal. . In some ways it was symbolic of a bunch of a games in the first half of the season. We're there, we battled down the stretch of that game and then we give up kind of an unfortunate, lucky goal in overtime. And you say, 'Come on, come on.'"

Four - Last season's revival could lift this team.

A gloom currently surrounds the Tigers, and it's a thick, depressing gloom. But the same gloom surrounded the team last season, and Owens led his players out of it.

The team that had collected two wins in 14 games went on a last-gasp tear, winning five of six to travel to the WCHA Final.

"Yes, I think that is encouraging," Owens said of last season's awakening. "And that is something we're going to talk about when the kids get back."

Five - Goaltender Josh Thorimbert has the talent to carry this team.

During last season's run, goaltender Joe Howe transformed into a human wall in front of the net. Thorimbert could play the same role this season.

"He's a senior," Owens said. "He's focused. He's mature. He's done so much for us, even though he's been under siege so much this year. I think his focus and maturity has grown so much in the last year. This is his year and his team and his show and his opportunity."

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