So you’ve reached your first Frozen Faceoff. Now what?
Among other things, buck a trend against St. Cloud State. In order to play for the conference tournament title and an automatic NCAA Tournament bid, Colorado College will have to hand the top-ranked Huskies their first loss in 13 games.
The teams face off at 3:08 p.m. Friday. Fans can watch on CBS-SN or listen on either 105.5 FM or 1240 AM.
The Tigers have come painfully close to beating SCSU, but no dice so far this season.
Colorado College led 7:38 into the third period or later in all four regular-season games against St. Cloud State, but the Huskies roared back and won two in regulation, one in overtime, and scored once in 3-on-3 overtime.
The last one — a 5-4 overtime loss in St. Cloud in which CC led 4-2 going into the third period — was a turning point for the Tigers. It led to meetings and adjustments.
“We go to a different mindset in the third period now,” senior Westin Michaud said. “Instead of sitting back like we used to, we got rewarded.”
Instead of trying to make a risky play come together, they bounce it off the glass. Instead of trusting goaltender Alex Leclerc has it handled, they buckle down in their own zone and do everything they can to make sure he never sees the puck.
Once the Tigers worked out how to protect leads, the current run began, and the season arguably turned around.
“I live by the motto that everything happens for a reason,” Leclerc said Monday. “... Maybe we weren’t exactly on the top of our games for the full 60 minutes, but we learned from that.”
CC (17-18-4) protected leads for the greater part of the third period in the two wins in Western Michigan that made it the first National Collegiate Hockey Conference road team since 2015 to advance out of the quarterfinals.
“We know what they’ve done the last few games,” St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson said. “We know how tight the games have been when we’ve played them. Like any challenge, hopefully it brings out your best.”
The winner will advance to play either Denver or Minnesota Duluth on Saturday night. The losers will play in the third-place game earlier Saturday.
What St. Cloud State (29-4-3) has accomplished this season has been well documented. The Huskies averaged more than four goals and won the most games in the short history of the NCHC.
They defended the Penrose Cup and placed four on the all-conference first team, two of which — forward Patrick Newell and defenseman Jimmy Schuldt — are Hobey Baker finalists.
CC coach Mike Haviland called them the best team the Tigers faced all year.
“They can beat you in so many different ways,” senior Mason Bergh said.
But in every attempt so far, the Tigers have stayed with them for at least two periods and 7:38.
The Tigers had a standard, but lively Wednesday practice at the Chicago Blackhawks’ practice arena before heading up to St. Paul, Minn.
Michaud said there’s energy in the room he hasn’t seen since he was 10 or so.
“We’re having a lot of fun with it,” he said. “It’s fantastic for this group of guys.”