March 17, 2023 | SPORTS | By Michael Braithwaite, Co-Editor-In-Chief
On Feb. 22, 1980, the Miracle on Ice occurred. Any self-identifying sports fan, regardless of their age or their familiarity with Olympic Hockey, knows the famous call by broadcaster Al Michaels as the final seconds of the third period ticked away of Team USA’s miraculous win over the USSR in the gold medal game of those Winter Olympics.
“Do you believe in miracles? YES!”
On March 11, 2023, another miracle on ice occurred.
Now, it would be an absurdly far reach to equate Colorado College’s upset road victory against No. 7 Western Michigan University in the first round of the 2023 National Collegiate Hockey Conference Tournament to the famed ‘Miracle on Ice’. The social, political, and national effects of defeating the Soviet Union’s best players on a hockey rink in Lake Placid, N.Y. are just too impactful to apply anywhere else.
However, the CC victory also featured an incredibly shocking result in a series with a clear favorite coming in and featured another distinct radio call, one that hockey fans in Colorado Springs may remember for a long time.
As Ken Landau, the longtime radio announcer for Tiger Hockey on KRDO, watched the series-winning overtime shot of forward Matthew Gleason ‘24 go into the net on Saturday night, his call encapsulated just how unexpected the sweep was for a team very few figured had a chance of even getting out of the first round.
“SCORE! GLEASON! GLEASON! GLEASON! HOW SWEET IT IS!”
While those CC students who do not stay up to date with the performance of our Men’s Division I ice hockey team could have overlooked the gravity of the game, as well as the context behind the emotive nature of the radio call, it was a stunning result that any Tiger fan could have only dreamed of in the week leading up to the series.
CC came into the two-game playoff round desperately needing something positive to hang their hats on upon the conclusion of the regular season. A year that started with so much promise and positive momentum had ended in a sour manner, with the Tigers winless in their last 13 games.
In fact, four of those 13 winless matchups had come against Western Michigan. The Broncos, who were ranked No. 10 and No. 8 in the country in each respective series, had dominated those four matchups, winning all of them by a combined score of 14-4.
To make matters worse for the Tigers, they came into the series not having scored more than two goals in a game in any of those 13 winless games. The last time they had eclipsed the three-goal mark was in their last win on Jan. 13, in which they scored four goals to best No. 3/4 St. Cloud State University.
The lack of offense coupled with the lack of success against WMU throughout the season, and the fact that they had to play in Kalamazoo, Mich. away from the friendly (and energizing) confines of Ed Robson Arena all continued to a feeling throughout the week that the Tigers wouldn’t make much noise in the NCHC tournament.
However, a 3-1 victory on Friday night followed by a 3-2 overtime victory on Saturday was a testament to the tremendous resiliency of the team, as well as the continued faith that, despite their late-season struggles, the program they initially bought into was as strong and as focused as ever.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” said head coach Kris Mayotte in an interview with Colorado College Athletics after Saturday night’s victory. “I’m proud for the program, I’m proud for the fans, I’m proud for our seniors … We believed that we could be this type of team right from June.”
“We believe in that locker room,” said Gleason in an interview with Colorado College Athletics after Saturday night’s victory. “We’ve been playing good hockey [and] haven’t gotten the results, but we know we can play good hockey with anybody in the country and that’s what we showed this weekend.”
The Tigers made history as the first No. 7 seed in the conference to advance to the league’s final four, and will play the University of Denver Pioneers on Friday, March 17 in St. Paul, Minn. While CC is winless against Denver in their last 14 games, they gave the Pioneers everything they had in their last contest on March 4 and nearly took a victory from the No. 3 team in the country in the process.
The matchup will take place at 3:07 p.m. MST, with fans in Colorado Springs able to attend a free watch party in Ed Robson Arena. While it is again easy to count the team out against such a daunting opponent, after last week’s unexpected upset, there is little question that this Tiger squad not only has the capacity for, but also the drive to, execute pure miracles on ice.