October 26, 2023 | SPORTS | By Michael Braithwaite
After their season-opening series victory against Union College the previous weekend, the Colorado College Tigers hockey team took on the Long Island University Sharks in a two-game set last weekend. The Tigers swept the series, winning Friday’s game 4-2 and Saturday’s 3-2.
The Sharks, known for their defensive prowess, patiently waited for the Tigers to make self-inflicted mistakes throughout both games. But CC held their own, limiting the number of opportunities they gave to Long Island in their defensive zone, and ultimately doing enough to sweep the series.
But while the Tigers improved to a 4-0 record on the season – their best start since 2011, the last CC team to finish with a winning season record – the way they did so was less-than-ideal. Poor effort getting back on defense, particularly in the second matchup, along with a general lack of buy in, made the pair of victories less of an accomplishment and more so good fortune.
Friday’s game started slow, with neither team able to find the net in the first period. The Sharks’ defense clamped down early, putting up just seven shots on goal in comparison to the Tigers’ 17 in the first frame.
But the tie did not last long. Less than four minutes into the second period, Tigers defenseman Jack Millar ’24 found his scoring stroke, firing a slap shot from just beyond the blue line into the back of Long Island’s net to put CC up 1-0. The goal was Millar’s fourth point in three games, already puting him halfway to his previous season high of eight points.
But Long Island tied the contest just four minutes later after a shot from forward Austin Brimmer who was able to get the puck between the legs of Tigers goalie, Kaidan Mbereko ’26.
The tie lasted until midway through the third period, when Tigers defenseman Tyler Dunbar ’27 knocked the puck in Long Island’s net amidst a scrum of defenders in front of the goal, giving CC the lead with just over 10 minutes remaining in the contest. But less than two minutes later, the Sharks had again evened the score, this time on a goal by forward Josh Zary.
The hard-fought game came down to the final minutes but the Tigers were not done yet. As standout sophomore forward Noah Laba skated down the right side of the ice with the puck, he drew three Long Island defenders to him, opening the middle. And it was in the vacated middle that first-year forward Bret Link skated into.
All Link needed was one shot from what would have previously been the jaws of the Sharks’ defense to give the lead back to CC.
“I found that I got into the open ice, so I just put my stick on the ice; easy,” Link said after Friday’s game.
An empty-net goal by defenseman Nicklas Andrews ’24 would finalize the score at 4-2 in favor of the Tigers.
“They could see we were getting frustrated and trying to do too much,” said head coach Kris Mayotte in his postgame press conference following Friday’s victory. “But that said, you can’t create that type of adversity. That’s part of a team’s journey … I thought our response was great.”
Saturday’s game played out in similar fashion to Friday’s. The Tigers opened the scoring early in the first period on a goal from forward Evan Werner ’27 less than two minutes into the contest, and added to their lead with a second score, this time from Max Burkholder ’27, with under five minutes to go in the first frame.
But Long Island stormed back. Before the horn sounded for the first intermission, the Sharks had eaten away the Tigers’ lead. Zary scored his second goal in two nights after receiving a cross-ice pass less than a minute after Burkholder’s score. Then, forward Chris Pappas found the net through Mbereko’s legs with less than two minutes to go in the frame. The two goals were scored less than five minutes apart, capitalizing on defensive breakdowns from CC.
The 2-2 score line held until just about six minutes into the second period, when forward Zaccharya Wisdom ’27 grabbed a loose puck in Long Island’s defensive zone and buried it into the left corner of the net, putting the Tigers up by one midway through the contest.
“I kind of saw the puck trickling at their feet and I saw they didn’t have full possession of it, so I kind of anticipated the play,” Wisdom said after Saturday’s game. “But a lot of it was just seeing it happen and jumping on the opportunity.”
Wisdom’s goal was the last score of the game. The Tigers were able to hang on – despite inconsistent defensive play – and secure the 3-2 victory and a series sweep at home.
Mayotte, though, was not impressed with the team’s performance, due in part to what he called a lack of humility on the ice.
“We’re happy with the two wins, but those were, I’d say, as fortunate of wins as you could have,” Mayotte said in his postgame press conference after Saturday’s game. “Our week of practice leading up to this weekend was terrible – it might have been the worst week of practice I’d seen of the team since I’ve been here. We’ve got to reset the standard.”
The Tigers’ next home game will take place Saturday night at 6 p.m. vs Augustana University.