Monday, March 05, 2007

Tigers Win Gold Pan But Can't Hang On For Season Sweep

Tiger fans were excited last night as CC reclaimed the Gold Pan for the first time in three years, but that excitement faded when the Tigers coughed up a late two-goal lead and lost a chance to sweep the season series against their archrival. With just four seconds left to play, Denver's senior sniper Ryan Dingle completed the improbable comeback as the World Arena went silent. Five minutes later the game was in the books - a 5-5 tie. Disappointing and surprising, to say the least after taking a quick 3-0 lead and holding onto a two goal lead until the final seconds. Not to mention missing an open net in the final minute by just inches that would have put the game well out of reach. But such was the case on Saturday and the Tigers finished the regular season at 5th in the WCHA for the second straight year after a series that was fairly similar to last year's between the two teams. Last year Denver went 3-0-1 against CC after an early season sweep, a win at CC in March, and then a late and somewhat improbable come-from-behind tie in the final matchup. This year, the Tigers went 3-0-1 against the Pioneers after an early season sweep, a win at DU in March, and an enormously improbable come-from-behind tie in the final game.

Chad Rau had another big series against DU, scoring a goal on Friday night and then two on Saturday. Bill Sweatt and Andreas Vlassapoulos kept up their stellar play of late as well with each tallying three assists on Saturday, and Sweatt scoring a nice goal on Friday. Lee Sweatt also continued to lead the Tigers' defense in scoring with a goal and an assist on the weekend. Mike Testwuide tallied yet another goal against his brother's team. Lastly, Matt Zaba had his second shutout of the season with a great effort on Friday.

Overall, the weekend was a good one- but Tiger fans still wanted more after dominating the Pioneers for most of the game on Saturday and squandering a late lead. The weekend results combined with the results around college hockey dropped CC to 16th in the Pairwise Rankings - out of the tournament, for the time being. The one bright spot on the weekend, in my opinion, are the matchups for the first round of the WCHA playoffs. Denver, which finishes the season one point ahead of CC at 4th in the WCHA, will face No. 7 Wisconsin, while the Tigers will host No. 6 Michigan Tech. Technically, of course, Michigan Tech is the better team since they finished ahead of the Badgers, but I still like the Tigers chances more against the Huskies than I would against last year's champs. Michigan Tech is a much improved team this year and is currently on the bubble for NCAA postseason play, but the Tigers record against Tech at the World Arena is impeccable. Add to that the fact that Wisconsin, defending champs of the whole shabang, are desperate to advance and sneak into the tourney, and they have one of the best goalies in the country, and I think they could be a dangerous team late in the season. Wisconsin has already won one at Magness this season - I wouldn't be surprised to see them steal one or even two from DU in the coming series. Michigan Tech, however, is no slouch. The Huskies took three points from CC in Houghton last month and finished the season with an impressive win at Minnesota, which moved them to a tie for 17th in the Pairwise - right on the Tigers' heels. Both teams are playing to extend their season and get an NCAA bid. The Huskies also have one of the country's top goalies - sophomore Michael-Lee Teslak comes into this series with a .913 save percentage and 2.08 GAA. So, I may be wrong to want to face the Huskies, but I have vivid memories of Wisconsin coming to the World Arena last season and putting on a clinic, and I don't think I'd like to see them in a three game series next week.

I like the Tigers chances for next weekend - the boys should be hungry after the debacle at the end of the game on Saturday, and have a great history against Michigan Tech at the World Arena. I'm sure the veteran players on the team remember last year's disappointing playoff loss to St. Cloud State that kept the Tigers out of the Final Five and will be looking to reverse that trend this season. CC could also be playing for another shot at the Pioneers, if they can beat Wisconsin, as the two would play in the Final Five play-in game if they were to advance.


At 4:58 PM, Blogger Peter said...

I agree with you, it would have been awesome to sweep DU but I would much rather play MT than the defending champs. Wisconsin still has too much experience from their run last year and could easily turn it up. Even if we blew the lead Saturday, it's nice to see that we could actually get some goals. We had, what, 2 in the entire Minnesota series and should have had 6 Saturday. Let's hope they are all warmed up and ready for a run at the Broadmoor Trophy!

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When McCulloch's shot on the open DU net went just wide I thought he should have instead passed it to Rau, who was wide open at center ice and would have had a much better shot being closer. Instead the icing call brought the puck back into the Tiger's end where they never did clear it.

At 11:52 PM, Blogger Goon said...

I think you guys got a break by not having to struggle to watch the BADgers they are so god aweful that slow down systems is horrible hockey to watch.

However, MTU isn't much better they are not a slow it down team as well. Yuck, its just not very good hockey. C.C. is run and gun like UND and UMN.

At 4:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good one... thanks fro sharing.....
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