Colorado College men’s hockey (8-22-4, 4-16-4-1, National Collegiate Hockey Conference) traveled to St. Cloud, Minn last weekend for their final two home games of the regular season against No. 19 St. Cloud State (16-17-1, 10-13-1, NCHC). The Tigers went 1-1 with the Huskies, losing Friday night and taking the victory Saturday night.
The teams last met in the Broadmoor World Arena this past November, when St. Cloud swept CC in the two-game weekend series. However, the Tigers were determined to go into the playoffs with a strong regular season finish.
The Huskies wasted no time scoring the first goal of the game at 2:15 in the first period. Sophomore forward Mason Bergh evened the score less than a minute later with a shot right in front of the net. At 6:36 in the first period the Tigers grabbed a 2-1 lead after a goal from senior forward Luc Gerdes. However, the Huskies had an answer, and St. Cloud cut the deficit with a pair of goals, ending the first period 2-3.
The second period left both teams with 12 new shots on goal but no new points on the scoreboard. The Tigers kept the game close but couldn’t stop the Husky offense. St. Cloud solidified their lead late in the third with two more goals, bringing the final score to 2-5.
The Tigers caught a bad break early in the game Saturday when Gerdes was called for hooking 3:20 into the first period and CC was whistled for too many men on the ice 34 seconds later, creating a five-on-three advantage for St. Cloud. The two-man advantage allowed the Huskies to score the first goal of the night.
At 15:26 in the first period, first-year forward Branden Makara flipped a backhander over the St. Cloud goalie to even the score. A minute later, senior forward Matt Hansen sailed the eventual game-winner into the crossbar where it fell into the back of net.
During the second period, the Tigers showed astounding defensive skills as they killed another five-on-three penalty to keep the lead. After a scoreless third period, CC took home a 2-1 victory.
“I thought we played a well-rounded game,” said Makara. “Coach Haviland could not stress enough how important it is to stay tight in the defensive zone, and how that would lead to offense. That ultimately won us the game, in my opinion. We killed that big penalty and used that momentum to take it to them.”
CC begins their playoffs this weekend against #1-seeded University of Denver. The Tigers have had their best season since 2012-2013, and are ready for a challenge.
“Our group has definitely improved since the beginning of the season,” said Makara. “We’ve taken huge steps together as a program. Managing our defensive zone will be key for us, getting shots through, pucks to the net is all stuff we need to execute in order to be successful in this playoff series. We still have unfinished business to take of this weekend.”
The Tigers will travel north on I-25 to Denver this weekend for the first round of the 2017 NCHC playoffs against the Pioneers. The best-of-three series begins tonight.