Sunday, April 16, 2006

Colorado College 2005-2006: Season Review

With the Tigers' season having ended last month with a loss to Cornell in the NCAA tournament, it's time to take a look back on the ups and downs of another Colorado College hockey season. The Tigers were ranked 13th in the preseason polls, but most people knew that with returning seniors like Marty Sertich, Brett Sterling, and Joey Crabb, CC would soon be within the top ten. It didn't take long, as CC got off to another fast start this season. The Tigers opened the season with a 6-1 win over Union in the Icebreaker Tournament. Three of the six CC goals in that game came from sophomore Derek Patrosso, and Chad Rau also added his first in a Tiger uniform. The next night, CC took on a very strong Maine team and once again Derek Patrosso was the hero as he scored in overtime to give the Tigers their second win of the season. Chad Rau was impressive again, scoring his second goal in two games. Returning Hobey Baker finalist Brett Sterling also had two goals on the weekend.

The next weekend the Tigers experienced their first loss of the season at the hands of Ohio State. The next night, CC won despite being outshot 34-23, on the strength of a Marty Sertich goal and stellar play from Matt Zaba. The win over Ohio State started a seven game winning streak for the Tigers, as they ran off consecutive wins over Notre Dame and Air Force at home, Minnesota State, Mankato on the road, and then St. Cloud State at home. CC's record at this point was a stellar 9-1-0 and the Tigers were now the #1 ranked team in the country.

It was not to last, however, as CC's next series sent them on the road to Madison to face the #5 ranked Badgers. Things looked good on Friday night as CC took a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Badgers came back, however, and managed to tie the game. The next night, Brian Elliott backstopped the Badgers to a 3-0 shutout victory, and the Tigers run at #1 was over as soon as it had started. CC needed to get back on track, and the next weekend presented the perfect oppurtunity as Michigan Tech came to town. The Tigers held Tech scoreless on the weekend, winning 5-0 and 3-0 as team captain Marty Sertich scored two goals to go with two assists.

The next week, the Tigers were back on the road for games against Massachusetts and Boston University. On Friday night, CC outshot the Minutemen 45-24 but couldn't capitalize on oppurtunities and lost the game 4-3. Massachusetts goalie Gabe Winer was stellar in net, with 42 saves, including 17 in the third period. The next night, the Tigers headed to Boston University's beautiful Agganis Arena with hopes of turning things around. It looked good early for CC, as Chad Rau and Brett Sterling both found the back of the net in the first period, and the Tigers outshot the Terriers 15-4. Jack Hillen scored another one for CC in the second period before the Terriers finally got on the board, striking for two goals of their own before the period was over. With the score at 3-2 heading into the final frame, the Tigers quickly regained control as Brett Sterling scored another one less than two minutes into the third period. 90 Seconds later Scott McCulloch rang up another one for CC thanks to a 5 on 3 oppurtunity due to a bench minor on Boston University. It looked like CC was cruising to an easy victory until the Terriers started an amazing rally late in the period. Down 5-3, Boston University struck for two extra attacker goals in the final 90 seconds to send the game into overtime. The Tigers weren't ready to squander another one, however, as Brett Sterling buried a gorgeous feed from Chad Rau less than a minute into overtime, quieting the Boston University crowd that had been ecstatic after the late comeback. Both teams finished the game with 33 shots on net.

Next up for CC was the hated Denver Pioneers. Denver entered the series with just one win in their last six games and hopes were high that the Tigers would have a good oppurtunity to reclaim the Gold Pan. It looked like the Tigers were on their way to victory halfway through the game, as they led 2-0 on goals from Joey Crabb and Jack Hillen. Paul Stastny, Ryan Dingle, and Matt Carle had other ideas though, and the Pioneers came back to make it 3-2 before adding an empty netter at the end of the game. Stastny had two assists, Carle had three assists, and Dingle scored two goals. The next night, the Pioneers cruised to an easy 5-1 victory at Magness. Drew O'Connell had the start in net and struggled, allowing 5 goals on 30 shots.

The Tigers' next series was against Minnesota Duluth at home, and despite a 7-2 beatdown on Friday, CC could not get the sweep as the Bulldogs took the Saturday contest 4-3. The Tigers then travelled to Anchorage, winning 5-4 and 2-1 (ot) before heading to Michigan for the Great Lakes Invitational over Christmas break. CC put on probably their most impressive performance at the GLI, dominating #6 Michigan 6-1 and then cruising to an easy win over Michigan State, 6-3. Senior Joey Crabb had an impressive seven points on the weekend (four goals, three assists). Marty Sertich set up four goals against the Spartans.

The good times did not last though, as the Tigers got off to a truly atrocious start in 2006. CC's first series of the new year was at home against Wisconsin, and hopes were high that the Tigers would fare better than they did in Madison. It was not to be though, as the Tigers fell 3-2 on Friday before being humiliated 9-1 on Saturday night. The losing streak was just getting started at this point. Next up was the Golden Gophers of Minnesota, and once again CC could not collect any points on the weekend. The Tigers dropped both games, 4-2 and 3-2. With CC basically out of the running for the WCHA title, the focus became on home ice for the playoffs. With that in mind, the Tigers next series was a critical one, with North Dakota coming to town for a series with WCHA standings implications. On Friday night, the Tigers' win streak was extended to five as North Dakota won 4-2. North Dakota freshmen TJ Oshie, Ryan Duncan, and Jonathan Toews each scored a goal in the win. On Saturday, CC finally snapped its longest losing streak since the 90's with a 3-2 comeback win.

Next up for CC were the red-hot Huskies of St. Cloud State. The Huskies entered the series on a six game winning streak, but Bobby Goepfert did not show up for Friday's game and the Tigers scored five goals on 17 shots before Goepfert was finally pulled. The next night, Goepfert was back to his usual self, stopping 40 of 41 CC shots on net and backstopping St. Cloud State to a 2-1 win. After the St. Cloud State series the Tigers had a chance to score some valuable WCHA points with series against the league's two worst teams, Alaska-Anchorage and Minnesota-Duluth. CC took advantage, winning all four games. The Tigers scored 19 goals in the four wins and allowed only five. Things were looking good again going into the final series of the regular season, against Denver.

CC had the chance to get some important WCHA points and solidify NCAA tournament positioning in the series with Denver, but could not get it done. On Friday, the Tigers took a 4-3 lead into the third period before allowing Denver to come back in the third period and eventually win in overtime. Things weren't looking good. The Pioneers had shot up in the Pairwise Rankings, and CC was slipping close to the bubble. Furthermore, Brett Sterling had left the ice halfway through the Friday game with a leg injury and was not expected to play in game two. A road playoff series wasn't looking so unlikely. The next night, the Tigers once again took the lead early thanks to goals from Joey Crabb and Chad Rau. Once again the lead did not last, as Denver scored three straight goals in the third period and took their 3-2 lead into the final minute before Chad Rau scored an acrobatic goal to tie the game with only 47 seconds remaining. Neither team could score in overtime, and CC prevented what would have been an embarrassing season sweep by Denver. The Tigers finished fifth in the WCHA standings and secured home ice for their playoff series against St. Cloud State.

CC entered the playoff series with St. Cloud having won three out of four against the Huskies, but could not solve Bobby Goepfert in game one of the series, and fell by a score of 2-1. CC fell behind 2-0 in game two but was able to come back and even the series at 1-1 thanks largely to Brett Sterling's two goals. In game three, however, Bobby Goepfert shut down the Tigers once again as the Huskies cruised to a 3-1 victory and to the WCHA Final Five play-in game. CC now had to let the NCAA decide if their season would continue.

When the dust had settled and each conference had a champion, the Tigers were awarded an NCAA tournament berth as a three seed. CC was sent off to Green Bay to face Cornell in their tournament opener, with a rematch against Wisconsin likely on the line. Once again the Tigers jumped out to an early lead, and once again they could not hang on. CC was up 2-0 after the first period, in which they outshot the Big Red 11-1, but could not put anything else past David McKee for the remainder of the game as Cornell scored one goal in the second period and two more in the third. The loss capped a disappointing season for the Tigers, who had one of the strongest senior classes in the country and performed well below expectations.


Post a Comment

<< Home