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Gazette Premium Content Tigers try to extend season at North Dakota

By Joe Paisley Updated: March 13, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Colorado College goalie Josh Thorimbert shouldered the workload for the Tigers this season.

He has done so, even at the expense of his own statistics.

"You can't really worry about that as a goalie," the senior from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, said. "I came into the season focused on playing to the best of my abilities and helping the team, not statistics."

He has. The No. 7 seed Tigers will need him to play well when they take on league runner-up and No. 10-ranked North Dakota in the first round of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs this weekend.

"Josh has matured throughout the year as a player," CC coach Scott Owens said pointing out his ability to bounce back from tough losses. "He has delivered for us all season."

After 230 previous games, this will be the first best-of-three playoff series between CC and host North Dakota. The teams have played 11 postseason games with CC winning the last meeting in the 2013 WCHA Final Five tournament.

The Tigers (6-22-6, 6-13-5-1 NCHC) were peaking at that point. That could be said about UND (20-11-3, 15-9) this season, which went 16-4-1 since Nov. 29 after a 4-7-2 start.

North Dakota's surge can be linked to improved play by junior forward Mark MacMillan (20 points, 11 assists), who has 15 points in the past 16 games, and defensive partners Paul LaDue, a freshman, and junior Nick Mattson, who combined for 11 points and a minus-11 rating before Nov. 29 and have 22 points and a plus-32 rating since. Sophomore goalie Zane Gothberg leads the NCHC with a 2.02 goals-against average.

Thorimbert's numbers (6-21-6, 3.16 goals. .895 saves) do not compare well. But his teammates know those stats do not reflect his performance.

"Everyone in the (locker) room respects him," senior Jeff Collett said. "He has held up very well considering all that has been asked of him (33 consecutive starts). His play has been unbelievable for us this year. He may be the most mentally strong player I have known,"

That strength developed during three seasons of competition with former Tiger Joe Howe, now with ECHL Cincinnati.

"As a goalie you don't want it to be easy," Thorimbert said. "You cannot take it easy knowing you are going to get the start. The uncertainty keeps you mentally sharp."

That has continued with pressure from junior backup Courtney Lockwood during another learning experience, Thorimbert said.

"I think I learned a lot about what it takes to play that many games in a row," he said. "You learn how you need to prepare mentally."

That preparation was tested during a challenging season that includes close losses (1-8-6 in one-goal games) and some lopsided losses when letdowns in front of Thorimbert led to several scores in a short span.

That inflates a goalie's statistics but he refuses to worry about that headed into this weekend.

"We played North Dakota tough earlier this season with a bad bounce here and there making the difference," Thorimbert said, referring to January's 5-3 and 3-2 losses. "I think if we go in there, play our systems, then we will see if good things happen."

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