COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — One night after a poor performance by its special teams, Colorado College responded in a big way on Saturday.
The top-ranked Tigers converted on their first three power-play opportunities and dominated from the outset in blanking Alaska-Anchorage, 4-1, to sweep their best-of-three playoff series.
Colorado College, now 28-5-5 on the season, advances to the WCHA Final Five for the third consecutive year. The Tigers have won all 14 lifetime meetings with the Seawolves at the Colorado Springs World Arena, where 6,474 watched Colorado College’s final home game of the season.
Anchorage, which has lost all 22 of its Division I playoff contests, completes the worst season in program history with a 1-28-7 record.
“I’m happy, relieved and pleased for the most part,” said Colorado College head coach Scott Owens, who recorded his 100th victory in just his fourth season at the Tigers’ helm. “Selfishly, you’d like to pick up one or two more goals, but we just want to move on.”
The Tigers wasted little time atoning for Friday’s subpar showing on special teams, when they went scoreless on six power plays and allowed two man-advantage tallies. Just 49 seconds following Matt Hanson’s crosschecking penalty, junior Peter Sejna rifled a shot past Anchorage netminder Chris King.
“Friday felt like a loss to us,” said junior Andrew Canzanello (two assists on Saturday) about the Tigers’ lackluster 5-3 victory to open the series. “We were back on our heels, and they probably outworked us (on Friday). It’s a better atmosphere in the locker room tonight.”
The next seven minutes were a clinic in puck possession, as Colorado College won seemingly every loose puck and put constant pressure on King. It resulted in the 21st goal of the season for Tom Preissing, one away from tying the conference record for single-season goals by a defenseman.
Anchorage’s second penalty of the game late in the first period turned into the Tigers’ second power-play goal. Junior James Laux one-timed a shot from the left face-off circle 31 seconds after Joe Garvin’s holding infraction.
King, who stopped 15 of 18 shots, was pulled after 20 minutes in favor of Kevin Reiter. While Reiter was solid between the pipes, saving 27 of 28 shots, he could do nothing to help the Seawolves’ inept offense. Anchorage managed just 14 shots on goal in the game, and only three in the second period.
Sejna, playing perhaps the final home game of his illustrious three-year career, notched his second power-play tally of the night 4:16 into the second stanza. In its first five shots with the man advantage, Colorado College scored three goals.
“Sejna’s been shooting the puck with a lot of confidence,” said Owens. “We were moving the puck quicker (on the power play), and creating better shooting lanes.”
“(Sejna) is shooting the puck really well. He’s on top of his game,” agreed senior Noah Clarke, who notched his nation-leading 45th assist of the season on Saturday. “We’ll need to ride that into the playoffs.”
Anchorage avoided the shutout with less than seven minutes remaining in the contest. Sophomore Lee Green blasted a power-play shot past Tigers’ netminder Curtis McElhinney, the only shot on goal the Seawolves mustered in their five power-play opportunities.
While rarely tested, McElhinney turned aside 13 shots to improve his career record to 29-4-6. It marked the third time in the Tigers’ last four games they have allowed less than 20 shots on goal.
Colorado College will play in the first semifinal contest on Friday against the winner of Thursday’s play-in contest. Whether the Tigers’ opponent is North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud or Denver, that team will be playing its fifth game in eight days.
“Those teams are going to be tired, and for a change it’s kind of nice for us,” said Owens. “We’ll have a chance to enjoy the tournament.”