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Colorado College's Kristian Blumenschein controls the puck during a game at the World Arena on Sunday, December 17, 2017. The game was sent into overtime, but still officially ended in a 4-4 tie. During an exhibition shoot out, Colorado College scored one more goal. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

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You can usually find sophomore Kristian Blumenschein near the blue line, running the power play, or down low, taking away shooting lanes on the penalty kill.

It’s a role coach Mike Haviland envisioned him in, and after arriving at Colorado College a year earlier than planned, it’s all coming together.

“I think I was a little rushed, but I adapted well to my situation,” Blumenschein, the Tigers’ top-scoring defenseman, said. “Now I’ve got my confidence and I’m playing much better.”

After what he considered a slow start, his watershed moment came in the series against Denver in early December, when he had a goal and two assists.

“It was a highlight and also a turnaround for my year, I think,” Blumenschein said. “Since Denver I’ve really improved my game. That weekend was huge for me.”

Blumenschein has seven points (1 goal, 6 assists) in six games, all but one on the power play, which is last in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with an 18.4 percent conversion rate but has been better of late. The Tigers scored a trio of power play goals Jan. 26 in their last series against Miami, and Blumenschein had helpers on all three.

“I usually hand the puck off to Trey (Bradley), Mason (Bergh) or Nick (Halloran) and something good happens,” Blumenschein said.

The penalty kill, however, has allowed an average of two goals per game in 2018 and is last in Division I, killing off just 72.97 percent. Blumenschein said the Tigers need to work on speeding up the process - “Tracking pucks quicker and pressuring quicker.”

“I think (a sweep Jan. 12-13 against) Duluth got it pretty good against us, and that got us spiraling the other way,” Haviland said. “We’ve got to come out of that now. That’s what it’s going to come down to, discipline and special teams play.”

There will be no more breaks for Colorado College, which heads to Grand Forks this week to take on No. 11 North Dakota. The Tigers split a home series in October.

The Fighting Hawks are also coming off a bye week, and before that tied visiting Denver twice. They sit fifth in the eight-team NCHC, but seven standings point separate CC in seventh and Western Michigan in third.

“You’re in the playoffs now,” Haviland said. “There’s eight games left, and there’s four points separating us and a lot of teams.”

This is the first trip to North Dakota for Blumenschein and all the underclassmen.

“I’ve heard it’s crazy, and I’m looking forward to it,” Blumenschein said.

Note: Haviland expects junior defenseman Cole McCaskill (six games missed) and sophomore forward Kade Kehoe (three) back in the lineup against North Dakota. Tanner Ockey (two) is day-to-day, but on the trip.

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