The message to the Tigers has been reinforced - don’t leave it up to the referees.
A team that prides itself on discipline has found itself on the other side of hockey law often recently, and that’s a major reason Colorado College is below .500 again.
“If you see the numbers don’t even try to body them,” as senior forward Nick Halloran put it, referring to checking from behind.
Freshman forward Patrick Cozzi said being one of the least penalized teams in the country is one of the Tigers’ top goals, and for the most part, they’ve been successful, having drawn the fewest whistles in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference by ten (3.9 per game).
But lately those calls have been deemed dangerous and cost them big. All four of the Tigers’ major penalties and three game misconducts this season have come in the past three games. Minnesota Duluth iced both games during majors to Grant Cruikshank and Zach Berzolla, respectively, scoring two goals on each five-minute power play.
Both penalties came in the third period with CC still within striking distance.
“Recently it’s gotten a little out of hand, so we’re just trying to reel it back in,” Cozzi said.
A little over a third of the way through the season, most of the NCHC is on pace to surpass last season's totals for major penalties and ejections, some by a wide margin. Plays that may have once earned a slap on the wrist are pored over between the penalty boxes.
For now, and perhaps from now on, adjustments must be made. The Tigers' penalty kill (61.7%), last in the league and one of the worst in Division I, has to step up.
But better to never let it get to that point.
“The league is calling it that way. They’re protecting the players,” CC coach Mike Haviland said. “They’re going in and reviewing everything but we have to be smarter. Sometimes the game is so quick and things happen so quick, but we can’t put ourselves in that position to kill a five-minute major every night. It’s just not going to work.”
For now, the stricter officiating has a mixed review from the Tigers coach.
“I don’t like to see a lot of five minute majors called. I’m all about protecting the player along the boards, but unless it’s an excessive hit, I’d like to see them maybe not called all the time, that’s all,” he said.
The positive momentum taken from a road sweep of St. Cloud State was neutralized by the defending national champion Bulldogs going into a Thanksgiving bye week. Heading out on a road trip against Princeton, the message is to play it safe. It’s the identity they’re used to and one they’re proud of.
“We don’t want to change how we’re playing, but for sure we want to be more cautious,” Berzolla said.