Monday, February 05, 2007

Sweet Revenge: Tigers Sweep Defending Champs

After suffering one of the worst losses the World Arena has ever seen last year against the University of Wisconsin Badgers, people were expecting the Tigers to come out blazing this weekend. After two periods of play on Friday night, however, one had to wonder if Brian Elliott and his friendly crossbars could possibly be solved. Dre Vlassopoulos answered that question with a little less than seven minutes remaining in the game, and in the process got CC back on the winning track. Vlassopoulos went on to assist Mike Testwuide's game winner in overtime along with Bill Sweatt, who also notched a helper on the first Tigers' goal. The Tigers narrowly missed finishing off Wisconsin in regulation, with Chad Rau putting one off the crossbar with just under two minutes to go. On Saturday, the Tigers had to wait considerably less time to put their first past Brian Elliott - Cody Lampl did it just 21 seconds into the game. Lampl, Chad Rau, and Braydon Cox all had two points on the night as CC finished the sweep with a 4-2 victory.

This series was literally a must-win for the Tigers, as a single loss would have severely hurt CC's tournament chances. The Tigers now sit tied for 8th in the Pairwise Rankings, with what could be the most important series of the year coming up this weekend when the team travels to St. Cloud State for two games. After that the Tigers face another stiff test in Minnesota before facing off against Minnesota State-Mankato and Denver to finish the season. Wins against St. Cloud State, Minnesota, or Denver would strengthen CC's tournament chances in a big way.

In terms of the WCHA, CC remains in 4th, albeit with two games in hand on Minnesota and Denver, who are #1 and T-#2, respectively. St. Cloud State has played the same amount of league games as CC and sits one point ahead of the Tigers. The team to watch out for right now, however, is North Dakota. The Fighting Sioux seem to finally be living up to their potential, and haven't lost a game since they dropped a 1-0 decision right here in Colorado Springs. UND looks to pick up some big WCHA points in their next two series, at home against Mankato and Minnesota-Duluth, but ends the season with two tough away series at Denver and St. Cloud State. Add to that the fact that some of their top players have been getting busted for various legal infractions up in Grand Forks (Let's Go DU has got the coverage), and things could get interesting for the Sioux.


* Matt Zaba is playing spectacular. I was worried going into the third period on Friday that he was becoming the Roger Clemens of college hockey - a guy that keeps his team in games that they still don't win - but thankfully the offense took care of business down the stretch. If he keeps this up the Tigers may just have the right team to make a late run.

* Cody Lampl has really stepped up his game as well. Even when he doesn't appear on the box score, his big hits and overall energy were a big part of the Tigers success this weekend.

* Chad Rau and Dre Vlassopoulos are creating a lot of great scoring chances, and the offense in general is looking better right now than they have at points this season. Once Scott McCulloch gets out of his scoring slump (which I assume that he will), the Tigers should not have many offensive concerns.

* The frosh defensemen have been impressive lately. Kris Fredheim is quietly having a great first season and Brian Connelly, while his offensive numbers may be down lately, has been much more reliable on defense.


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