March 7, 2014 PRINT Bookmark and Share

St. Cloud Battles for First Against CC

by Dave Starman/Columnist

(The NCHC on CBS Sports Network regular season finale goes tonight at 9pm EST with St. Cloud visiting Colorado College. St. Cloud comes off an impressive win over North Dakota Saturday night after getting beaten 5-2 the night before. The Tigers were somewhat emotionally spent after a Gold Pan weekend sweep of arch rival Denver and were flat last Friday at UNO. They rebounded and lost a close one Saturday. This could be a preview of a first round matchup next weekend. Ben Holden, Shireen Saski and Dave Starman on the call).

In pro hockey you lose a game or two and your next one is usually a day or two away. In college hockey you lose a game and the next one is either the next night or six days away. For both teams in tonight’s game they were thrilled to have a next game the next night last week.

CC has been resurgent lately and you can see by watching that it has turned a corner. Its sweep of Denver to win the Gold Pan Trophy two weeks ago was an emotional and exhilarating weekend in a tough season. The Tigers did it on what would have been former teammate Scott Winkler’s 24th birthday. Winkler, a Tiger last season, passed away suddenly last summer.

Last weekend they came out flat to a UNO squad who was all charged up after a good weekend at WMU and a crazy week on campus that included a dorm fire that left a few of the freshmen on the team homeless. The Tigers were beaten convincingly Friday night but rebounded with a terrific performance in all areas in a 2-1 OT loss. Their lack of scoring, their acknowledged achillies heel, was again a factor but goalie Josh Thorimbert was teriffic.

The Huskies, home on a Friday night under the lights of a national TV audience had arch rival North Dakota in town for a game to decide first place in the NCHC. Their first period was ok, their second period was actually decent when you go back and look at it but they made mistakes that all wound up in their net. They won the third period en route to a 5-2 defeat . Saturday they were a different team and it was due to a philosophy discussed between periods 2-3 that made the difference.

Talking with the players and staff this morning to a man they said that between periods they felt they could not undo period 2 but could control period 3. It was about winning the period, about re-establishing Huskies hockey, about pride in the program. It worked. They won the period and Saturday they won the game.

For both teams, CC and St. Cloud, they rebounded from being on the wrong side of an emotional pitch and regrouped to play to their potential on Saturday.

Don’t take CC lightly. It has a tremendous compete level and two outstanding defensemen in Gustav Olafsson and Jaycob Slavin. Its top line with Senior Alexander Krushelnyski and freshmen Sam Rothstein and Alex Roos can defend and play in the offensive zone, and senior Archie Skalbeck and his linemates have proven a dependable grind line that can keep you on your heels.

St. Cloud is still without Andrew Prochnow, and David Morely is not with the team on the trip. Morely got banged up Friday night and did not play Saturday. With Morely’s injury history you can understand St. Cloud being cautious with his status.

This is a possible first-round matchup — CC is locked into 7th place and St. Cloud, UNO, or North Dakota will lock up the 1-3 seeds this weekend. St. Cloud knows that and while winning the game is paramount, if it is to draw CC at home next weekend, it would like to send a message to the Tigers that this will be no easy weekend upcoming.

For CC, if it gets St. Cloud next weekend it would be the third time in five seasons it finished the season with its eventual first-round opponent. Wisconsin and Michigan Tech were the others.

Both teams play on big sheets and know how to handle the dynamics of an Olympic-sized arena, so don’t expect an adjustment period. These are two teams focused on one game at a time at this point. It should be highly competitive from the get go.

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