February 26, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Team of the Week: Colorado College

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

It's been quite the roller coaster season for Colorado College. Much more was expected coming in, especially with wunderkind Richard Bachman back between the pipes.

But inconsistency, injuries, a tough schedule, and a dip in play throughout the WCHA has combined to make Colorado College struggle just to stay alive in the NCAA race.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have only lost once in the lost eight games, and last weekend, despite not necessarily dominating for two games, they did sweep Minnesota in two games to earn CHN Team of the Week honors.

"It's been up and down and somewhat frustrating at times," said CC coach Scott Owens. "But ... we're quietly — we're not hot, not playing great hockey — but we only lost once in the last eight games (4-1-3), which might surprise some people.

"(Minnesota) played desperate Saturday and they were better. We had two good third periods. I think that was enough."

Saturday, CC was outshot 37-19, but scored three goals in the third period to win. Friday, Minnesota scored twice in the third to tie, but Mike Testwuide won it with a late goal, 4-3.

In all areas, though, things haven't been quite what CC wanted. Scoring has been down, the power play is down, and Bachman has allowed far more goals than anyone expected this year, especially after such a hot start.

Sophomore jinx? Owens has other explanations.

"Richard was really good early, and has been really good the last three weeks," Owens said. "There was a middle time there, December, early January, where he wasn't as sharp. But I'll say this — we were scoring so little early, that we played Richard more than we anticipated. We anticipated playing the senior (Drew O'Connell) a little more to lessen the load, because we played 22 games before Christmas.

"So we had a little wear and tear issue, and we haven't been great at sustaining pressure and taking the load off. We've been in our own end a lot. So at the start of the year, we didn't factor that in — and we had such high expectations, it can drain you and suck the life out of you when playing 12 straight weeks and things aren't going well. We were giving up too many high quality shots."

Chad Rau, a Hobey Baker Award finalist a year ago, came out of the gate strong, lulled in the middle, and has rallied lately. He has 14 goals, a team high, but hasn't had a two-goal game this year. Junior Bill Sweatt does have a career-high 11 goals, but hasn't exploded as was hoped this year. Andreas Vlassopoulos and Scott McCulloch have been in and out of the lineup with injuries.

"Early in the year, it was secondary scoring, and in the middle, it was primary scoring," Owens said, of the scoring troubles. "We thought we'd generate a little more from our blueline, a little from our top end, and more of a push from our secondary scoring. We're usually top 15 in power play, and I think we're around 35th. So every game is a battle because we're not able to open it up offensively.

"It's (not) having a hammer on the blue line and just not being able to finish."

A big boost lately has been the return of Cody Lampl, a senior who had been suspended by the school for a year, and missed over 40 games, because of a disciplinary issue.

"It was kind of a piece we were missing," Owens said. "He plays with passion, plays hard. He's converted defenseman that plays power forward at 167 pounds. He's team oriented, and he's picked up seven points since he's been back. ... He jumped right back in, he was eager at a time we needed a lift."

You'd think things were a disaster, but far from it. The Tigers are fourth in the league, and 16th in the Pairwise. The league's struggles this year — relative — non-league, have hurt everyone in the quest for the NCAAs, but things are far from over. CC also could've helped itself had it not tied Clarkson twice early in the season, tied Sacred Heart and lost to Air Force (which was unbeaten at the time)."

"The league — it's reflected in the Pairwise — and it is what it is," Owens said. "If you're a fan it's a great year for the league, because we could conceivably go 1-to-7, and more realistically 4,5,6."

There are three regular-season games left, including two at North Dakota this Saturday and Sunday. The Sioux are 11-1-2 since Christmas. After that, the Tigers conclude their season series with one game against Denver.

"If we are able to pick up a win or two, it's going to help us tremendously in the Pairwise," Owens said. "Otherwise, we think we're going to have to do something in the (WCHA) tournament, if we get there. We put ourselves in that position, and nobody understands that better than us."

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