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Colorado College players watch as Vermont scores on them during the hockey game at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner/The Gazette)

What’s eating the Tigers?

Colorado College has, at times, been the fast, dangerous team it wanted to be, the one building on a resurgent season. But after a 4-2 defeat against a Maine team that had lost 5 of 7, coach Mike Haviland made it sound like they were searching for an identity.

“We’re a talented team when we skate and play hard. We’re 20 games in and we don’t know who we want to be right now,” he told KRDO. “Who do we really want to be?”

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The Tigers recently passed the halfway mark of its season, sitting 8-10-2 overall and 2-5-1 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Here’s a look at some of the issues they’ve faced as they head into conference play.

Top line slowed

Before the season, the Tigers talked a lot about improved depth scoring. They were right, and it’s a good thing, because the 13-14-15 line that chipped in 44 percent of the team’s goals last year — leading to numerous accolades and “top-heavy” observations from opposing coaches — has seen its production dip. This wasn’t unexpected, but the drop off was steep. Haviland kept them together the first half of the season, counting on chemistry, but Nick Halloran was moved to another line last weekend, at least temporarily.

Halloran tied for the regular-season conference lead in points last season and was a nearly unanimous preseason all-conference selection. His coach said he was talking to NHL teams toward the end of the 2017-18 campaign. He and Mason Bergh were shortlisted for the Hobey Baker. Halloran still led the team in scoring before Westin Michaud took over last week, but he accumulated 13 points within the first month of last season. He leads the team in power-play goals.

For his part, Bergh broke through for a four-game goal streak after scoring his first Nov. 16, but has been quiet since.

Bradley has been the most consistent of the three. He’s shown an ability to take over games, the way the whole line used to with regularity.

Trevor Gooch and Alex Berardinelli are tied for the team lead with seven goals, and Michaud has 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists).

Senior mistakes

The battle-tested senior class has taken bad penalties late in games and made a series of disastrous mistakes. Against Maine, the go-ahead goal was scored after a senior turned the puck over in front of the CC net, and Haviland offered hard truths in the postgame.

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“(These are) guys that shouldn’t be doing that maybe at this stage in their career at CC,” he said. “We have to get guys that are going to play hard all the time.

“Sometimes it’s hard love and you’ve gotta sit people down and take away their ice time if they’re not understanding it.”

Closing teams out

The Tigers set an unspecified goal for their six nonconference games surrounding the holiday break. A 2-4 run likely wasn’t what they were looking for.

The Vermont finale stung, as the Catamounts took a one-goal lead midway through the second period but the Tigers could never catch up, even on 49 shots.

Taking their foot off the gas has been an issue. Against Alaska-Anchorage — in one of two wins on the season for the 2-17-1 Seawolves — and No. 15 Arizona State, the Tigers took a second-period lead, let it go and couldn’t find the net in the third period. Those three winnable nonconference games would have had them above .500.

Special teams

The Tigers are one of the least penalized teams in the country, but having trouble killing off what they get at 78.1 percent, in the bottom third of Div. 1. The power play is converting at the worst rate in the NCHC.

Bye, backup

CC had a promising goaltender waiting in the wings, but it wasn’t the place he wanted to be.

Alec Calvaruso’s rare performances were spotty, and Alex Leclerc has spent 91 percent of the time in net. With NHL ambitions, Calvaruso left the program to return to juniors. He’s 6-1 with the Sioux Falls Stampede and earned USHL goaltender of the week.

Good signs

After the calendar flipped last season, the Tigers won as many games (5) in that time period as the previous two seasons combined. The freshman class has settled in quickly, and recent games against Merrimack and the series opener against Vermont showed what happens when the group gets its feet going, clamps down on defense, builds momentum and keeps it. There’s plenty of time and opportunity for CC to pull out of last place in the NCHC, if the team can figure out, as Haviland put it, who it wants to be.

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