After a trying few days, the Colorado College hockey team made it to Kalamazoo.
The Tigers are hurriedly preparing for their playoff series against Western Michigan after their arrival was delayed two days and the games had to be pushed back due to travel headaches.
“We have to try to eliminate all excuses," coach Mike Haviland said. "The guys have been outstanding with it, taking everything in stride.”
The Tigers were scheduled to depart after final exams Wednesday, but joined the thousands left without a flight out of Denver on Wednesday when the “bomb cyclone” wreaked havoc on Colorado. They found out early enough and never left the Springs.
With Thursday’s commercial flights booked and time running short before Friday’s scheduled start, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference worked with both teams to figure out another way to get the Tigers out of the state. A charter flight was arranged, and the team even made it to the tarmac at Colorado Springs Airport, but a mechanical issue kept CC in the city another night.
“The thing landed, and on the landing, their hydraulics system broke. The guy couldn’t even drive the plane in,” Haviland said.
The coach said they got on the phone again, but charter planes are hard to come by this time of year with the college basketball postseason also in full swing. They wound up taking the original charter plane after a replacement piece was delivered and installed.
CC finally dropped off its gear at Lawson Arena at about 8 p.m. local time Friday - an hour after the opener’s scheduled start. Then it was time for dinner and rest.
“Gotta have a good morning skate and prepare for tomorrow night, one game at a time,” Haviland said. “We’ve just got to move forward and (not) worry about it.”
The announcement came early Friday morning that the start of the best-of-three series was pushed back a day. It’s set for Saturday and Sunday, with a deciding Monday game if needed, all at 5 p.m.
“In the interest of keeping competitive fairness between the teams, as well as looking out for the student-athletes’ well-being, the decision was made to delay the series.” NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said in a statement.
The winner of the quarterfinals series between the third-seeded Broncos and sixth-seeded Tigers will earn a trip to the Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul, Minn. next weekend.
This is the first time in the conference’s short history that a postseason game has had to be postponed.
It’s been a wild winter, though, and both teams have had to adapt. When Denver couldn’t make it to the Springs through weather-related traffic Jan. 18, the game was rescheduled for Feb. 26. The Pioneers went on to win 1-0.
Western Michigan had a flight to Omaha cancelled, and bussed the nine-hour route instead. The teams split the series.
After sweeping Omaha, St. Cloud State’s bus became trapped between snowdrifts and they had to call 911 for a snowplow to lead them out. The Huskies brought their freshly won Penrose Cup to the Watonwan County (Minn.) sheriff’s department headquarters and dined on food inmates also enjoy.
Last weekend, after a blizzard closed their route home, some of the Omaha Mavericks slept in North Dakota’s Ralph Engelstad Arena, on the bus or scattered around the building.
The “bomb cyclone” affected the playoff series between North Dakota and Denver as well. North Dakota couldn’t land in Denver on Wednesday and rerouted to Albuquerque, N.M. I-25 remained closed north of Colorado Springs on Thursday, so the team got in touch with Air Force head coach Frank Serratore, who fit in some practice time for the Fighting Hawks at Cadet Ice Arena. Denver won Game 1, 2-0.
“Obviously Mother Nature kind of takes over,” Haviland said.
“The timing is not great, but it’s March. It’s playoff time and we’ve just got to focus in on the task at hand.”