February 4, 2022 | SPORTS | By Michael Braithwaite | Photo by Anil Jergens
The Colorado College hockey team got back to form this past weekend with a split series against the No. 16 Omaha Mavericks with far more dynamic and efficient play than they had in their dismal series vs. No. 5 University of Denver the weekend before. The Tigers won Friday night’s game 4-1 but lost Saturday night’s game 3-2. Both games took place in Ed Robson Arena.
In his usual postgame press conference after Friday night’s victory, Head Coach Kris Mayotte gave some insight on what happened over the course of the week to drive CC’s drastic improvement on the ice.
“When you lose the way that we lost, it allows you to really reflect, and we did that,” Mayotte said. “We had a really good week of practice … and [we] really got back to what makes us good.”
Despite facing a top-20 team in the country on national television for the second consecutive week, the Tigers took what they experienced in their previous series and applied it to their play. CC was able to do many things against Omaha that they had failed to do the weekend before: pass the puck, control the puck, and, most importantly, put the puck in the net.
The Tigers got on the board midway through the first period when forward Brett Chorske ‘25 tapped a pass from teammate Danny Weight ‘24 past Omaha goaltender Isaiah Saville to put CC up 1-0. The goal came on a CC power play after Omaha forward Jack Randl was penalized for a trip, giving the Tigers not only their first lead in a game since Jan. 7 vs. Miami University, but also their first goal scored in almost three weeks.
CC kept up the pressure going into the second period, holding strong against Omaha’s offense. The Tigers initiated multiple big hits. 6’0” forward Cooper Fensterstock ’25 executed a devasting check on a Maverick forward in only the second game of his CC career. The hit was met with cheers of enthusiasm from the Tigers’ bench, something that Mayotte remarked about postgame.
“This is the stuff that’s fun, this is the stuff that matters,” said Mayotte. “[Cooper] goes out there in his first shift … lays a kid out and the entire bench erupts. Our guys are excited for him when he gets out there and makes an impact.”
The energy the Tigers gained from their physicality on the ice kept momentum on their side towards the end of the second period and culminated in CC’s second goal of the game: a slap shot from forward Tommy Middleton ’25. CC went up 2-0. Middleton’s second career goal as a Tiger (the first also having come against Omaha) put the Tigers in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game. They did not look back.
An Omaha power play goal by forward Matt Miller early in the third period cut CC’s lead to one but did not stall their momentum. A shot by Captain Brian Hawkinson ‘22 found the upper left corner of the net, and the Tigers were back up by two. They added another goal with 1:17 left in the game when Captain Bryan Yoon ‘22 flung a shot from CC’s defensive area which slid into Omaha’s empty net.
The dominant 4-1 victory by the Tigers not only showed that CC has the ability to compete with the top teams in the country, but also the potential they have as a team with a first-year head coach and an incredibly young roster.
The Tigers kept up the previous night’s momentum early in Saturday night’s game, scoring less than two minutes into the contest on a rebound by Hunter McKown ‘24. However, after scoring the first goal, CC took a backseat for most of the next two periods. The Tigers committed numerous bad passes and turnovers that kept them from being as dominant as they were the previous night.
Omaha tied it up with 7:54 remaining in the first period on a score by Brannon McManus that danced along the topside goalpost before just slightly crossing the blue line. They took the lead midway through the second period on a shot from defenseman Kirby Proctor that just barely cleared the left shoulder of CC goalie Matt Vernon ‘23. The Mavericks went up 2-1.
CC’s offense came back to life midway through the third period on a slap shot by defenseman Connor Mayer ‘23 into the right corner of Omaha’s net, sending Ed Robson into a frenzy and generating hopes of a miraculous CC comeback.
Omaha quickly dashed those hopes less than two minutes later when Miller used his breakaway speed to skate past Mayer on the backhand to put an easy shot past Vernon. Omaha took the lead back and did relinquish it for the rest of the matchup.
Mayotte, visibly frustrated, found many issues in CC’s close 3-2 loss during his postgame press conference. He said the Tigers only played 20 minutes of a 60-minute game and that they have a lot of work to do before their next matchup.
A large factor in Mayotte’s frustrations were the multiple power play opportunities that CC failed to take advantage of throughout the game. Not only were the Tigers unable to capitalize on any of their three power play opportunities, but the team seemed to lose energy every time they played with a man advantage.
“Your job on a power play is to at least gain momentum for your team,” said Mayotte. “Right now, [the power play] literally deflates us, that’s how bad it is.”
Even with the less-than-ideal result on Saturday night, Mayotte was still able to draw some positives from the matchup. He cited his continued confidence in Vernon, commenting that his play consistently keeps the team competitive in games against powerful offenses. Mayotte was far from the only one to recognize Vernon’s performance on the ice. He was named NCHC goalie of the week on Monday for his play against Omaha.
The Tigers will look to build on this productive series against No. 5 Western Michigan this weekend. The first game will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night at Ed Robson Arena.