Three of the teams in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff — Denver, Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State — studied hard all year. They got consistent As and will easily pass, moving on to the NCAA Tournament unless something crazy happens.
Colorado College, however, is spending its spring break cramming.
“We’re asking the teacher for extra homework, to redo a test,” joked senior Westin Michaud, whose Tigers play St. Cloud State in the semifinals at 3:08 p.m. Friday.
“Step by step, we can make it.”
The Pioneers, Bulldogs and Huskies are all in the top five in the national rankings, and happily ensconced in the Pairwise, a ranking system based on the method used by the NCAA Selection Committee.
The Tigers (17-18-4) caught fire too late for an at-large bid.
Two wins this weekend is the only way.
“We’re the only ones where we lose, our season’s over,” senior Mason Bergh said. “A little more motivation than those teams have. But everyone wants to win the tournament.”
Bergh, whose hometown is about a half hour from St. Paul, and Michaud, from Cloquet about two hours away, expect large groups of family and friends offering vocal support for the Tigers. Any advantage will be welcome as the team tries to defy the odds.
St. Cloud State has won 12 straight and lost just four games all season. The only blemish on the top-ranked Huskies’ home record is a tie against CC on Feb. 8.
They’re in the top 10 in nearly all the major stat categories, and were No. 1 in the national polls for 15 weeks this season.
CC started playing its best hockey late with the classic combination of balanced scoring (six players with 20 points or more) special teams (40 of last 42 penalties killed, 26.3 percent on power play since Feb. 8) and consistent goaltending.
“I don’t know if the seeding necessarily shows where they’re at,” NCHC leading scorer Patrick Newell of St. Cloud State said.
While acknowledging that the Huskies are there to win, SCSU coach Brett Larson called the Frozen Faceoff a “great trial run” for the pressures of the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers have no such luxury.
No one’s saying it’s advisable, but caffeinated all-nighters can get you where you want to go.
“If you look at the seeds and want to call us the underdog this weekend, that’s fine with us,” CC coach Mike Haviland said.