December 16, 2022 | SPORTS | By Michael Braithwaite | Photos by Crosby Williams
After multiple road series and a small homestead over Thanksgiving Break, the Colorado College hockey program returned to Ed Robson Arena last weekend to play in front of CC students for the first time in over a month. The Tigers fed off their classmates’ energy, beating Omaha in both games of the series for their first National Collegiate Hockey Conference sweep of the season.
The weekend series marked CC’s first home games since the tragic Club Q shooting on Nov. 20, and Ed Robson Arena held a moment of silence before Friday night’s matchup to recognize the victims and those impacted by the shooting. The two teams also wore emblems on the back of their helmets for both games in support of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Friday night’s game was an epic back-and-forth matchup that demonstrated the resiliency and determination of this Tiger roster. CC opened the game on fire, scoring just five minutes into the first period on a slap shot from the top edge of the neutral zone by defenseman Connor Mayer ’23. The Tigers then added another score about seven minutes later, when forward Patrick Cozzi ’23 skated up the ice and flicked a shot into the top right corner of Omaha’s net.
With just over a minute remaining in the first period, Omaha struck back with a goal of their own. With the Mavericks on the power play, forward Jonny Tychonick had found his way in between CC’s penalty kill defense and netted a shot past Tiger goalie Kaidan Mbereko ’26 to make the score 2-1.
Despite the fast start, the Tigers lost their momentum in the second period. The Mavericks tied it up early on a shot that was initially saved but then rebounded right to Omaha’s Jack Randl, who sent it past Mbereko for the score. Omaha then scored again after winning a faceoff on CC’s ice, and suddenly a 2-1 Tiger lead had become a 3-2 deficit.
CC head coach Kris Mayotte discussed the dull second period after Friday night’s game and emphasized the poor play to be a coaching blunder rather than mistakes by the players.
“If you want the ‘coach real’ stuff, we came up with a horrible plan of how we were gonna forecheck them,” said Mayotte, chuckling to himself. “We switched it after the second period because we were just way too passive, and it wasn’t working. It’s not our identity, it’s not what our guys want to do.”
The Tigers needed a hot start to the third period to get back some positive momentum and boy did they get one. Less than 50 seconds into the period, forward Hunter McKown ’24 stole the puck in the offensive zone, handled the puck between his legs, and put it past Omaha’s goalie to tie the score up 3-3.
The play sent an eruption of cheers throughout Ed Robson Arena and even landed on the SportsCenter Top 10 the following morning. However, McKown was not done. Less than four minutes later, he scored again; this time right as CC was coming off a power play, putting the Tigers up 4-3 in the process.
Even with this momentum swing, Omaha continued to play hard, and scored again to tie the game 4-4 with just over 10 minutes remaining. However, the Tigers had already rallied against so much adversity in the game, and they were not about to go into overtime.
With 4:35 left in the matchup, Cozzi once again got hold of the puck in the offensive zone and was able to fling a shot from the left side of the ice into the side of Omaha’s net, putting the Tigers back up by one.
CC’s defense was able to hold off Omaha’s attack for the rest of the game, and even added another goal, an empty net score by McKown that completed his hat trick and secured an exciting 6-4 Tiger victory.
“We’ve needed a win like this, where we jumped them, then we lost it, and then we had the resiliency to come back and stick with it,” said Mayotte. “This is big for our group.”
Saturday night’s matchup was almost the exact opposite of Friday’s offensive showcase: a defensive slugfest where one goal was all that it took to separate the Tigers from the Mavericks.
After a bit of a subpar showing the previous night by his standards, Mbereko was excellent in net, matching his career high by saving all 40 shots that were sent in his direction.
“Just a huge credit to the guys – they made it easy for me,” said Mbereko postgame. “Our team has been working hard all week and we really wanted the sweep, so it feels good to get that out of the way.”
CC’s only goal was scored by none other than McKown, who took advantage of a power play midway through the second period to notch his fourth goal of the weekend and NCAA-leading eighth power play goal of the season.
“They put up 32 [shots] in the second and third combined,” said Mayotte postgame. “We had a really good goalie.”
CC’s next game will take place at Ed Robson Arena on Dec. 30, where they’ll take on the Princeton Tigers.