COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Friday, the Colorado College Tigers kicked off their season at home against the Thunderbirds of the University of British Columbia, overcoming youth and unorthodox goaltending in the opponents’ net to take a 3-0 exhibition win.
The T-Birds, having lost five straight games, came out hard in search of their first win of the season, but the Tigers drew first blood, with a power-play goal 2:48 into the first period. Sophomore forward Aaron Slattengren deflected Andrew Canzanello’s shot from the point past Robert Flic in goal.
Flic was far less accommodating for the remainder of the period, stopping 13 shots, many in spectacular fashion. Flic, who transferred to UBC from Northern Michigan University, played with a style reminiscent of fellow Czech netminder Dominik Hasek.
Relying on reflexes more than positioning, Flic dove down and kicked his legs skyward to cover the upper part of the net. His unusual methods stymied both Slattengren and senior Tyler Liebel on breakaways early in the second period.
“[Flic's] unorthodox style definitely threw us off. He kept them in the game,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens.
With Flic’s acrobatics, the second period became a scoreless battle, with each team effectively killing penalties, including a long 5-on-3 chance for UBC.
CC broke through again just 18 seconds into the third period as defenseman Brady Greco lasered a shot from the top of the faceoff circle into the upper-right corner of Flic’s net. Marty Sertich tallied his second assist of the game on the play.
As the third period played on, Colorado’s speed began to wear at the Thunderbirds’ defense, causing them to take three obstruction penalties.
When not mired in penalty-killing, the scrappy UBC forwards managed to generate several scoring chances, but each was gobbled up by solid play from Curtis McElhinney in goal and dedicated backchecking from the young CC lineup.
With 23 seconds left to play, Colin Stuart took a pinpoint pass from Liebel and one-timed it home to seal the victory. Jesse Stokke also contributed an assist on the play.
The game featured new-look rosters for both teams, as UBC recruited several transfers, including Flic, in hopes of rising to the top of the Canada West league. CC, on the other hand, lost All-Americans Tom Preissing and Noah Clarke, along with 2003 Hobey Baker winner Peter Sejna, to the NHL.
Owens saw his inexperienced group demonstrate some unexpected maturity in avoiding retaliatory penalties and having patience on the power play.
“One of our points of emphasis this year was to avoid penalties because we took a lot last year,” said Owens. “[The win] is a good starting point. We learned a lot about our team tonight, but there is always room to improve.”
Each team will have time to work out some kinks before facing off against conference opponents. The Thunderbirds will make the rounds in Colorado, playing Denver and Air Force on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. They will face their first Canada West opponent, the University of Lethbridge, at home on October 17.
CC will play an exhibition on Saturday against the U.S. National Under-18 team. The Tigers’ conference schedule begins at home on Halloween versus Minnesota State.