December 17, 2021 | SPORTS | By Michael Braithwaite | Photo by Anil Jergens

This past weekend, after over a month on the road, the Colorado College hockey team returned home in a doubleheader matchup against the #7 North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

While they were away, the Tigers had faced back-to-back top-10 teams, competing hard in their doubleheader with #4 Minnesota Duluth and splitting a series with #10 Omaha.

In their previous game against #10 Omaha, CC shutout its opponent for the first time in over three years. Forward Brian Hawkinson ’22 had two goals and forward Hunter McKown ’24 had a career high six shots in the 4-0 Tiger victory.

Senior Brian Hawkinson finds himself in a brief moment alone in the center of the rink, photo courtesy of Anil Jergens

On Friday night, CC got on the board early, with a goal by forward Noah Prokop ’23 after he fielded a pass from behind North Dakota’s net and flicked it past goalie Zach Driscoll.

However, sloppy play and penalties by the Tigers at the end of the first period allowed the Fighting Hawks to score twice, putting North Dakota up 2-1. Both goals came on plays in which the initial shot was deflected off CC goalie Dominic Basse ’24 and rebounded in by a North Dakota forward.

The second period started with the Fighting Hawks on the power play, and they capitalized on the opportunity with their third goal of the game, a shot by forward Jake Schmaltz past Basse and into the right corner of the CC net that made it 3-1 North Dakota.

The Tigers had opportunities throughout the second period to decrease their two-goal deficit, but ultimately could not capitalize on multiple power play opportunities and went into the third period still losing 3-1.

In the third period, the Tigers finally looked like the team that held even with number one St. Cloud State just over a month earlier. Ultimately their newfound energy came too late in the game to make much of a difference in the final score: a 5-2 CC loss.

“We didn’t handle the emotional swing [of the first allowed goal] very well,” said head coach Kris Mayotte postgame. “I thought for the most part we watched the last 40 minutes [of the game].”

Although the Tigers came into Saturday’s matchup reeling from the previous night’s defeat, the team had some positives to take into the game. Namely, despite facing two top-10 teams in the previous two doubleheaders, the Tigers had not lost either Saturday night game.

Furthermore, it seemed as if the adjustments that CC had made on the morning of those matchups corrected most of the mistakes made the previous night, as the team generally had been more competitive in the Saturday games compared to the Friday ones.

One such adjustment that both teams made going into Saturday night was to their starting goalie, as both teams started their backup goalies for the game. CC’s Matt Vernon ’23 got the start in net over Basse, and North Dakota’s Jakob Hellsten got the start over Driscoll.

Goalie Matt Vernon ’23 defends the net, photo courtesy of Anil Jergens

The game began in a similar way to the previous night’s matchup, with CC scoring a goal coming under  10 minutes into the game. This time, the score came courtesy of forward Matthew Gleason ’24, who poked the puck past Hellsten upon receiving a pass from forward Tyler Coffey ’24.

Just as the night before, the Fighting Hawks quickly responded with a goal of their own. Second-line center Louis Jamernik was able to maneuver his way through the lackadaisical Tiger defense and threw the puck past Vernon to tie the score at one.

After the goals, both teams seemed to settle into the game. The Tigers showed more life. They were far more aggressive on the forecheck than they had been in the previous night’s matchup.

Vernon, in particular, was a pivotal piece for the Tigers, as he repeatedly kept CC in the game through multiple highlight-reel saves towards the end of the first period.

The second period was defined mostly by penalty calls, with an astounding seven power plays occurring over the course of the 20 minutes. North Dakota forward Gavin Hain was able to take advantage of one such power-play opportunity nine minutes into the period, when he was able to flick a shot past Vernon to put the Fighting Hawks up 2-1.

Sophomore forward Logan will takes on the face-off for the Tigers, photo courtesy of Anil Jergens

Like the previous night’s game, the Tigers went into the third period on the losing end of the score. Unlike the previous night’s game, however, the Tigers remained competitive in the matchup and were generating opportunities to tie the game all the way until the final buzzer rang.

Up to the final minute, it seemed as if CC could tie up the score at any point and send the game into a three-on-three overtime period.

However, even with a pulled goalie and an extra attacker, the Tigers were never able to draw even with their opponent. CC let in two empty net goals in the final minute of play, turning their valiant effort into a disappointing 4-1 loss.

Although the result may have been disappointing, CC head coach Kris Mayotte made it known postgame that his disappointment wasn’t in the game’s final score, but because the team wasn’t living up to its potential.

“I really believe we have a good team,” said Mayotte postgame. “We gotta get back to work because we’re too good of a team to not be winning.”

Coming off four consecutive doubleheaders against top-10 ranked teams, CC will look to get back on their feet this weekend in a doubleheader against Arizona State University.

The team, however, will be without head coach Kris Mayotte, who will be serving as an assistant coach at the Team USA 2022 World Junior Championships training camp.

The Tigers will next take on the ASU Sun Devils on Friday, Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Ed Robson Arena.

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