Howe It's Done
Colorado College Netminder Guides Tigers to WCHA Title Game
by Matthew Christians/CHN Reporter
ST. PAUL, Minn. Continuing its underdog success, Colorado College shut out Minnesota, 2-0, in the WCHA Final Five semifinal.
The player of the game wasn’t Colorado College’s Rylan Schwartz, even though he put one by Gopher goalie Adam Wilcox after displaying an amazing toe-drag. Nor was CC’s Charlie Taft, who also scored after converting on a Gopher turnover.
No, Friday star was CC’s senior goaltender, Joe Howe.
Howe stood on his head Friday for the Tigers, making 35 saves. He made saves that should have been goals. He exhibited unreal reflexes, and most importantly, he helped his team to the WCHA Final Five championship game. The Tigers will play equally hot Wisconsin for the league's title Saturday night.
Although Howe has now played into the starting role for the last 17 games, earning that job was not necessarily an easy feat.
Howe plays along side of Josh Thorimbert, who was on the all-WCHA third team last year. Going into the season, the goaltending role was going to be a hard position to warrant.
“I didn’t come in with expectations. I had a really good summer, and I told myself that I’m going to get better every day and be the best goalie I can be,” said Howe. “I was confident that if I got back to my game and kept getting better, good things would happen.”
CC coach Scott Owen knows his players better than anyone else. He was aware of what Howe was capable of and knew about the hard decision he would have to make.
“I knew Joe wouldn’t lay down. I knew he would battle and compete because that’s what kind of kid he is,” said Owens. “He hung around, hung around and hung around, but he continued to work hard and he waited for his opportunity and made the most of it.”
Howe had put in the hours for practicing and done what he had to do to improve his game. Through his determination, he’s given Colorado College the backbone it needed to keep advancing in postseason play.
“He’s put a lot of belief in our team,” said captain William Rapuzzi. “Having a real strong netminder behind you is obviously one of the biggest components of defense, so having him back there has really helped us down this stretch.”
Every spectator that was in the sold-out Xcel Energy Center captured just how amazing Howe played, especially when he stopped two shorthanded breakaway attempts by Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad and Erik Haula.
“It’s such a backstop for us,” said Owens on Howe's playoff performance. “It gives everybody confidence that allows us to take some chances and do some things. You just know you’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
Even while knowing that winning the league championship is their only path into the NCAA tournament, the Tigers are still playing with their original "no regrets" motto. That mindset has allowed the Tigers to play their most relaxed hockey of the season, thus giving Owens the playoff hockey he could have only wished for earlier in the season.
Colorado College will battle Wisconsin Saturday night in the championship of the last WCHA Final Five with will play in. Both teams have played a numerous games to get to this point, but CC’s mentality may just give the Tigers the edge in tomorrow’s skirmish for the Broadmoor Trophy.
“At the end of the day you have to control what you can control,” said Howe. “This time of the year we just want to go out and have fun. The hard work is done. Playing in buildings like this in front of that many people is just a blast.”