ST. LOUIS — Over the last month, the No. 13 Colorado College Tigers have embraced the concept of resiliency. In mid-February, it wasn’t even clear the Tigers would have home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs. On the last weekend of the season, the Tigers clinched home ice with a win against Wisconsin.
However, the Tigers knew they were likely to face Wisconsin in the first round, and Tigers coach Scott Owens prepared his team by talking about thinking of it as a best-of-five series with the Badgers. After losing the last game of the season to Wisconsin, the Tigers lost the first playoff game as well.
“We won Friday to get home ice and we thought we were going to get Wisconsin, so we kind of made it into a best-of-five playoff series like a pro league or a Junior A league,” said Owens. “It seemed to sell, and the guys embraced it, and we went down two games to one, but we found a way through the power play in the fourth game to get it back. I think it kind of hardened us and tested us for these tough games we’ve had to play.”
“We knew it was going to be hard fought, and they gave us a heck of a run,” said Tigers goalie Joe Howe, who finished with 39 saves in an 8-4 victory over Boston College on Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. “That series could have gone either way. Even though they won that game, we knew it was a best-of-five.”
Coming in against a heavily favored Boston College squad, the Tigers immediately had their work cut out for them when Jimmy Hayes scored only 19 seconds into the game. It looked like the Eagles were primed to fly away, but the Tigers regrouped, showing the resiliency that has come to define them.
“It was kind of similar to last week against North Dakota, where they scored two minutes into the game, so we were prepared a little bit, I guess,” said Tigers forward Stephen Schultz. “The team concept is unbelievable right now. Guys are playing as a five-man unit out there.”
The Tigers used that belief and team concept to take the lead in dramatic fashion. After Jaden Schwartz (two goals, two assists) scored to make it 2-1 at 7:47 of the first period, linemate Rylan Schwartz gave the Tigers a two-goal lead just 15 seconds later with a goal from the left slot.
In the second period, after the Eagles got one back, Schwartz struck again with a pretty power-play goal at the 14-minute mark. Within 3:33, the Tigers built that lead to 7-2 going into the third.
“That’s one of the things our guys learned this year, is you can’t get down,” said Howe. “It’s a long hockey game and you have to play for 60 minutes.”