Team of the Week: Colorado College
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Sure Chad Rau scored the only two goals of Saturday's OT win over Minnesota, giving Colorado College a sweep of the Gophers in the WCHA-opening weekend.
But the story of the weekend was unquestionable Richard Bachman, who went a long way towards answering the seemingly huge goaltending questions the Tigers had coming into the season.
Thanks to the play of Bachman, Rau and teammates, the Tigers broke a six-game losing streak to Minnesota, and were named CHN's Team of the Week.
"We knew we would have better goalies than people thought just after two exhibition games," Rau said. "But we didn't really know what we were going to get, and we were just really pleased.
"Friday night he made some unbelievable saves. He challenged people and played his angles and he didn't look like a freshman. And when we saw how relaxed he was, it rubbed off on the rest of the team."
The 20-year old Bachman, a Colorado native and fourth-round NHL Draft pick of Dallas in 2006, was theoretically going to split time this season with junior Drew O'Connell, who saw limited time behind Matt Zaba last season. And as late as Friday night, the pair were going to split the weekend.
But that changed after Friday's win.
"We had quite a long discussion as a staff, 'Do we want to rush him into that situation so quickly?'" CC coach Scott Owens said. "He only faced 24 shots (Friday). And we thought early in the season he could go back to back."
It turned out to be the right move. Minnesota played much better Saturday and put 39 shots on net, with Bachman stopping all but one. He kept the Tigers in the game until Rau scored the equalizer late in the second on a power play.
Just as impressively, Bachman started the game-tying play with a heady, perfectly-placed breakout pass to Nate Prosser, catching Minnesota in a four-man penalty killing change. Prosser quickly fed Scott McCulloch, who got it to Rau, who scored the goal.
"He saw it and he read the ice, made a quick outlook pass," Owens said. "We'd seen him a fair amount in bits and pieces, but did not realize that he had the vision and was able to make (that) play."
That will certainly help a defense this season which has just one senior and one junior.
"Minnesota had all the momentum in the third. We hung on and Richard made some great saves," Rau said. "It's definitely fun (beating Minnesota). Any time you play a big opponent like that, you're going to get jacked up to play. Especially at our home rink."
Rau, of course, contributed huge to the effort. The Minnesota native, who is friends with so many of the Gophers, scored his first-ever collegiate OT winner.
"Rau has come in lean and fit and excited to start this year," Owens said about the junior from Eden Prairie, a seventh-round pick of Toronto in 2005. "He's been a go-to guy since he was a freshman, in key roles. It was a real nice feed when he scored the first goal. And the second goal was one of the few opportunities he had in the slot area."
Another player of note on the weekend was Eric Walsky, a transfer from Alaska-Anchorage who had to sit out last season. The Anchorage native scored the game winner Friday.
Now Owens' task will be to keep the team focused for the grueling schedule ahead. The Tigers first travel to New Hampshire this weekend, a hostile environment against a strong team that swept CC in Colorado Springs last season. Then it's off to play two at North Dakota.
"And they haven't given up a goal this year, never mind not losing a game," Owens said.
The carrot hanging off the stick at the end of the season is the NCAA tournament, where a Regional will be hosted at CC's World Arena, and the Frozen Four will be in nearby Denver. But you don't need to remind Owens or the players that, the last time CC hosted a Regional, the Tigers didn't even qualify for the NCAAs.
"We've all been reminded about that, from fans, coaches ...," Rau said.
"It's definitely on people's minds knowing. Obviously it's still a long ways away and a lot of games to be played, so you can't really think about it too much."