Colorado College hockey fans can hope this first National Collegiate Hockey Conference game is a sign of things to come.
A new era in Colorado College hockey began with a solid team defensive performance as the host Tigers knocked off No.?20 Minnesota-Duluth 3-1 before a sellout crowd of 7,456 in 7,380-capacity World Arena.
The second half of the CBS Sports Network doubleheader on Friday, the official opening night for the new NCHC, did not disappoint the Tigers faithful who saw a fast CC squad play with grit for much of the season-opener. The hard-nosed Bulldogs did their part as well, pulling sophomore goalie Matt McNeely for the final 2:18 to attempt a comeback while down 3-1.
"That's the way we have to play this year," said Tigers coach Scott Owens. "It wasn't a thing of beauty but that is what most of the NCHC games will be."
Less than six minutes in, Tigers junior Charlie Taft scored off a pass from senior Jeff Collett for a 1-0 lead. It will go down as the first NCHC goal scored in World Arena.
Collett played a key role in the game-winner as well.
A nice feed from behind the net by the Calgary senior ended up on sophomore wing Peter Maric's stick and he made it 2-0 over Duluth (1-1-1, 0-1) with 6:07 left in second.
"Collett just made a great play," Maric said. "He saw me coming off the bench and made the pass."
McNeely made a number of strong saves (20), as did senior goalie Josh Thorimbert, who kicked away a hard shot by Joe Basaraba early.
It set the tone for a strong performance by the Saskatoon senior. Thorimbert made a point-blank save on Austin Farley with 11:37 left in the second. He made the big saves later as well and a good team defensive performance in front of him sparked the win.
"The guys battled and blocked shots and got in the passing lanes," said Thorimbert, who finished with 30 saves.
Thorimbert's shutout bid ended less than two minutes into the third period when Farley scored from short range to make it 2-1.
"It's tough to play a period or just over a period and try to win a game," Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. "In the third period obviously we did what we had to do, put a lot of pucks on net and got one back, but we couldn't find the equalizer. Overall, we need to be better."
The Tigers (1-0, 1-0) cashed in its fifth power-play chance when freshman Alex Roos beat McNeely with 9:04 left for a 3-1 lead. Freshman Jaccob Slavin made the pass for his first assist at CC.
"That was huge for us," Collett said of the team's defensive performance, which included nine blocks. "Everyone has bought in and that is critical for us this season."