The Colorado College men’s hockey team (6-16-2, 2-10-2, National Collegiate Hockey Conference) went head to head with #10 -ranked Western Michigan University (13-6-3, 7-6-1-1 NCHC) last weekend looking to build some momentum.
Despite a spirited effort from the Tigers, they were overwhelemed by a home crowd and a tough opponent. Western Michigan delivered a 2-4 Friday night loss to the Tigers, and crumbled a struggling Colorado College defense for a 0-3 victory Saturday night.
The Broncos came out with strength Friday night, scoring at the 3:25 mark of the first period. Despite three consectuive power plays and a 27 second stretch of five-on-three play, the Tigers could not captalize on the stingy Western Michigan defense. The second stanza brought luck for the troubled Tigers. Trailing 2-0 after a goal from sophomore forward Griffen Molino at the 5:18 mark on a power play, CC finally found the back of the net. Sophomore forward Mason Bergh scored his team high 12th goal of the season with an assist from fellow sophomore defenseman Cole McCaskill.
The much-needed break for the Tigers cut the Bronco lead in half, but trouble was not far. 16:33 into the second, sophomore Tanner Ockey was called for a facemask major penalty and a game misconduct, resulting in five minutes of power play time for the Broncos. CC was succesfully able to fend off a determined Bronco offense during Ockey’s major. As the clock ticked down, the Tigers picked up their pace. 21 seconds before the close of the second period, senior forward Matt Hansen rifled a shot past WMU goaltender Ben Blacker to even the game at 2-2. Bergh assisted on the play.
Any momemtum the Tigers built up in the second was soon dissipated by a determined Bronco offense. Sophomore forward Colt Conrad broke the Tigers scoring run just 2:04 into the third, giving the Broncos a 2-3 lead. The Tigers’ power play curse continued as they failed to convert on a final power play opportunity at the end of the third period. In total the Tigers missed six man-advantange opportunites, a recurring theme in the CC season. The Broncos kept control of the match and wristed in an insurance goal at the 15:58 mark of the third period, ending the game with a 2-4 lead.
First-year goalie Alex Leclerc kept the Tigers in the game with a few fantastic saves, including stuffing Molino on a clean breakaway attempt with 7:20 left in the third.
CC came into the Saturday night match looking for some redemption at Lawson Arena. The Tigers fought an evenly matched and physical game but could not find the net. Throughout the game, CC struggled against a Bronco defenive corps that forced them away from solid scoring chacnes.
Senior forward Sheldon Dries was able to slip the puck past Leclerc on a solo breakaway at 9:04 in the first period. Another tally at 14:28 gave a Broncos a 0-2lead. Senior forward Aaron Hadley added to the Bronco’s lead with the team’s first shorthanded goal of the season, solidfying the Bronco lead at 0-3. Colorado College’s biggest blunder in the matchup was failing to capitalize on their power plays. On the night the Tigers were 0-for-3, including a pair of two man advantages.
The final score overshadows a brilliant performance from Leclerc, who continued to showcase his strong play this season. Leclerc had 28 saves on the night.
Despite their recent struggles, the Tigers are still continuing to improve as a team. The talent in the program is certainly stronger than the record. The road certainly does not get any easier for them, though. CC still has ten games to go in their regular season, with eight against top-ranked teams. CC will face off against their familiar foe #3-ranked DU in the home stretch in what is always a highly anticipated matchup.
This weekend the Tigers are at home to face off against #12 North Dakota (14-8-3 overall) tonight at 7:37 p.m. and tomorrow night at 6:35 p.m.