Saturday night’s come-from-behind tie against the perennial powerhouse Minnesota Gophers marked the end of a brutal stretch for our Colorado College Tigers. The schedule makers made it difficult for CC in both November or December The Tigers’ previous eight games were all against ranked opponents, seven of which were ranked in the top ten. This difficulty in schedule bodes well for CC. The Tigers have experienced, first hand, the high level of play that they must work towards in order to compete for a title. This schedule will make games against upcoming opponents, #17 St. Cloud State this weekend, and #13 Nebraska-Omaha on Jan. 4, 2013, more manageable.
Last weekend, after two more close games against another top-tier college hockey team, the Tigers remain on bubble watch. The college hockey picture, especially in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), continues to be as confounding as ever. The Tigers dropped out of the United States College Hockey Online (USCHO) Top 20, but I believe if that list included a 21st name, it would read “Colorado College”.
The WCHA is leaving hockey analysts perplexed. Teams such as Minnesota State, Nebraska-Omaha, and St. Cloud State, that all originally looked like pretenders are quickly becoming real contenders. Minnesota was supposed to run away with first place, and Denver with second, but both teams are treading water, just trying to remain ahead of the pack. Others teams, such as Bemidji State and Alaska-Anchorage, are slipping perilously out of contention.
So where does that leave our Tigers? To be honest, it’s hard to tell. We dropped to seventh in the WCHA, which means if the season ended today, we would play North Dakota, away, in the first round of the WCHA conference tournament. Not an ideal position. So far, we’ve beaten the teams we’re supposed to beat, we’ve lost to the teams we’re supposed to lose to, but we are yet to come up with a signature win: a statement game against a top-ten team.
The Tigers offense looks, at times, unstoppable. We have four players among the “Top 20” in the country in points – led by Rylan Schwartz with 24 on the season. With an eminent 3.61 goals per game, Colorado College ranks second in the country in team offense
Our big flaw is defense. The Tigers don’t prevent many goals. We rank 53rd in the country in team defense, allowing 3.5 goals each game. The Tigers have conceded, over the past four weekends, 60 shots in 2 games last weekend, 88 in our games against North Dakota, 97 against Yale and UNH, and 67 against Denver.
Our defensemen are simply giving the opposing teams the offensive zone, and allowing shots when they should be more aggressive. If our defensemen started stepping up at the blue line, and put some kids on their ass, we would give up fewer shots, and ultimately fewer goals. Our team knows how to score goals, which is fun to watch, but until we figure out how to shut down teams on the opposite end, particularly in the first period, the Tigers will remain “on the bubble.”