December 18, 2013 Updated: December 18, 2013 at 7:10 pm
At the halfway point, the potential remains for the Colorado College hockey team to turn this season around.
But after a 2-12-3 start, the Tigers need to start winning. To do that, their most inexperienced players must start making big plays at key moments.
Through 17 games, CC has been outscored 22-6 in the third period, either falling in a close contest or watching their foes pull away. The Tigers are 0-3-3 in overtime.
Much of that can be traced to a lineup leaning heavily on its freshmen and younger sophomores, which is also evident Saturdays (0-7-1) with a 29-11 goal-scoring deficit.
"Some of it is the youthfulness of our guys in key spots," Tigers coach Scott Owens said. "As an 18-19-year-old, the second night is tough because (the intensity) Saturday is amped up pretty good. Adapting to that is part of the maturation process needed to improve during the second half of the season."
That maturation and an expected offensive uptick from upperclassmen has Owens thinking the team should improve on its 1.65 goals average.
The will to do so must come from the players.
"It is time for everyone, including myself, to go into this break and grow as a person and come back ready to work and get better," senior Archie Skalbeck said. "The only way we can do that is to stick together as a team."
The players remember last season's finish when the Tigers went 9-5-3 and finished one win shy of the NCAA Tournament. They know they can reel off a run if the offense develops more consistency.
"A lot of the guys in the locker room believe," Skalbeck said. "The coaches have faith and are working hard."
The improved defense from last March carried over to this season. It remains a positive along with solid goaltending from senior Josh Thorimbert.
The defense, along with the penalty kill, has slipped a little bit with the goals allowed creeping up to 3.12 after staying under three through the first two months.
That may be because of the offenses CC faced over the past month: No.?4 St. Cloud State and No.?14 Wisconsin (tied 10th, 3.5); No.?19 Nebraska-Omaha (18th, 3.19); and New Hampshire (20th, 3.16).
While a winning record may be unlikely this season, CC is in fifth place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (2-5-3).
That and hopes of a strong finish have the Tigers thinking they can be a factor in the playoffs.
"We want to be playing our best hockey from mid-February on and see if we can put together a run," Owens said.