February 11, 2022 | SPORTS | By Michael Braithwaite | Photo by Anil Jergens
The Colorado College hockey team competed in a series against the No. 5 Western Michigan Broncos this past weekend, falling in Friday night’s game 8-2 and losing Saturday night’s game 5-4. The doubleheader had initially been scheduled for three weeks prior until COVID-19 protocols within CC’s program postponed the game.
The two-game series continued a season-long trend of inconsistent play for the Tigers. Coming into Friday night’s matchup, CC had a 3-3 record against their opponents over the previous month. Their quality of play seemed to alternate from weekend to weekend.
This was the case in their recent schedule. The series against the Broncos again showcased CC’s potential for greatness, but in more ways exemplified their erratic play.
Friday night’s matchup was a tough one for the Tigers. CC looked completely unprepared on the ice against Western Michigan’s offense, one that was ranked fourth in all of NCAA Division I Hockey going into the weekend.
In a performance that many CC players and fans would likely wish to forget, the Tigers let in three goals in the first period, two in the second, and three in the third.
Starting goalie Matt Vernon ‘23 was taken out of the game midway through the second period after allowing the first five goals. Dominic Basse ‘24 played out the rest of the game in net, allowing three more shots past him before the final horn.
Despite the lopsided scoreline, the Tigers fought hard all game long. They netted two goals of their own in the third period in an attempt to salvage some positive takeaways from an otherwise brutal game.
While the Broncos certainly played better than CC on Friday night, outshooting the Tigers 50-21, the main culprit for their massive victory wasn’t their dominant play as much as it was questionable penalty calls on the Tigers.
The Broncos ended up scoring six of their eight goals while the Tigers were on the penalty kill. Five of those goals came on interference penalties against CC, all of which were met with a chorus of boos from fans in Ed Robson Arena, who disagreed with the call on the ice.
CC Head Coach Kris Mayotte commented on the interference penalties postgame, highlighting that it is tough for a coach to keep a team mentally in the game when factors beyond their control are preventing them from playing at their best.
“[We had our first] interference call early on, on Pasemko, where it’s a 50-50 puck battle, yet they could do it all night,” said Mayotte. “Maybe I’m watching a different game, but I don’t quite understand [that call].”
The penalty issues the Tigers experienced on Friday night were cleaned up for Saturday night’s contest, and CC’s play on the ice improved as a result. Although they let up a goal less than four minutes into the matchup, the Tigers did not falter against Western Michigan’s offense as they had the previous night.
The Tigers tied up the score about 10 minutes later when a slapshot from defenseman Nate Schweitzer ‘25, initially blocked by goalie Brandon Bussi, ricocheted off a Bronco defenseman and slid into the net.
CC took the lead less than two minutes into the second period when forward Hunter McKown ‘24 sent the final shot in an offensive barrage by the Tigers past Bussi, putting the Tigers up 2-1.
As pivotal as this lead was for the Tigers, it wouldn’t last long. With 11:52 remaining in the second period, a McKown interference penalty was reviewed and upgraded to a five-minute major, giving the Broncos an extended period of time with a man advantage.
Although CC fended Western Michigan off for the first three minutes of the power play, their defense could not handle the Broncos’ top-ranked offense while being a man short. Western Michigan forward Jason Polin flung a shot over the right shoulder of CC goalie Dominic Basse ’24 for his second goal of the night, bringing the score to 2-2.
Although they let in a goal, the Tigers grew more confident towards the end of the power play. Mayotte described postgame how it felt like CC had momentum on their side once they regained full strength on the ice.
“Our bench felt good about how [the] five minutes were over,” Mayotte said. “We felt good on how we killed [the power play] – I thought they did their job.”
The game stayed even nearing the end of the second period when the Tigers experienced a spate of bad luck. From just above his own neutral zone, Bronco forward Josh Passolt sent a shot that deflected off a CC defender and found its way past Basse with only 8.9 seconds remaining until the intermission. The score put Western Michigan up 3-2 going into the third period.
The Tigers found the back of the net again in the middle of the third period when forward Danny Weight ‘24 collected a pass from Brian Hawkinson ’22 and poked the puck behind Bussi to again tie up the score. However, about three minutes later, a Bronco breakaway gave Passolt another easy shot against Basse, putting Western Michigan back up by one.
CC wasn’t finished yet, tying the game up again on a miraculous rebound by forward Logan Will ‘24, bringing the score to 4-4 and causing Ed Robson Arena to erupt into celebration. The festivities did not last long, however, as the Broncos scored yet another breakaway goal with 3:16 remaining in the contest, giving them a 5-4 lead that would end up being the final score.
“We didn’t give up many chances, but the ones we did were big,” said Coach Mayotte postgame. “The last two goals were essentially turnovers … we got caught a couple times.”
Although it was a brutal finish for the Tigers, Coach Mayotte felt like his team played a full 60 minutes, something that they had struggled with in recent games. On the negative side, Mayotte made a point that the play of their goalies, which had been a strength for the team in the past few weeks, was less-than-ideal against the Broncos.
“We gave up 13 goals [over two games],” said Mayotte with a shrug. “I’m not saying it’s on [our goalies], but we had a chance to win tonight.”
The Tigers will be on the road this weekend against No. 12 University of North Dakota. CC’s next home game will be against Miami University on Feb. 18.