Saturday’s 8-2 victory over No. 9 Western Michigan reminded the Tigers they were capable of closing the deal.
Coach Mike Haviland encouraged them to enjoy it - even more briefly than usual.
“Certainly you have to be ready to go,” he said.
This is a big and hectic week for the Tigers. They face No. 7 Denver on Tuesday in a game rescheduled after the Pioneers couldn’t make it through traffic down to Colorado Springs on Jan. 18. Then CC has the usual weekend series against North Dakota.
Freshman Grant Cruikshank, who scored back-to-back goals early in the third period Saturday to put the game away, said although the CC freshmen have faced the Pioneers (17-8-4, 9-8-2 NCHC) just once, they might have an advantage this time.
“For the freshmen coming out of junior, it’s very similar for us,” he said. “We’re used to playing three times a week. It’s probably nothing new.
“For the seniors, they’re probably a little unfamiliar with it. It’s been a couple years.”
Rest, fluids and excitement are ahead.
“I love it,” Cruikshank said. “I love playing games and a lot of the boys do too.”
The freshman class will look to build on a wild showing with six of eight goals, plus two assists, on Saturday. Ben Copeland scored five on the weekend after logging four in his first 29 games with the Tigers. He became the first Division I freshman in more than two years with four goals in a game.
Whether the freshmen have the fresher legs remains to be seen, but confidence will not be lacking.
“Every time we play (Denver), it’s heated,” Copeland said. “We know what they’re going to bring. We have to bring the same level of intensity.”
The Tigers had previously led during the third period in 21 of 30 games, including Friday's 5-4 overtime loss, but struggled to finish teams off and sat 11-15-4 overall and 5-10-3 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. They’re still winless in nine overtime games (0-5-4) but the bigger issue has been temporarily seen to.
Cruikshank said it was good to see all the tinkering pay off. He centered two different lines this weekend, switching places with Troy Conzo between games.
“Competing in all those games this year that were so close … it was big for us to have that turnaround,” he said. “I think it shows a lot about our team that we can rebound like that.”