COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Exhibition games in college hockey are often meant to be friendly warm-ups between NCAA teams and either the stars of the future — in the U.S. National Under-18 team — or our neighbors up north in Canadian university teams.
Sometimes, however, the game gets the feel of a mid-season conference battle.
Saturday night’s game between the Colorado College Tigers and the University of Calgary Dinos was just that, a hard-fought, back-and-forth game the Tigers ended up winning 4-3.
“This is just what we needed. It wasn’t a great, great game as a starting point for us,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens. However, “there were some things you hope for in a game like this.”
The victory was also a little payback for last year, a game CC lost 4-2.
“They’re a good team and we did bring [last year's loss] up a couple times this week,” said Owens. “It’s definitely a different feeling this year and we feel good about our first game.”
Calgary had more chances than the Tigers early on, which resulted in the Dinos taking an early 1-0 lead. With assistant captain Andre Blanchette in the box for holding, teammate Jevon Desautels picked up a pass gone awry from Cody Lampl, skated the puck up along the benches and deked Tiger netminder Drew O’Connell for the short-handed goal.
The rest of the period, however, was all CC.
Seven minutes in, junior Eric Walsky roofed a wrist shot over the left shoulder of Calgary goaltender Jordan McLaughlin to tie the game at 1.
CC extended its lead to two goals off two tallies by senior defenseman Jack Hillen. The first was a power play goal off a nice set-up by junior Chad Rau and second a shot from the slot with two minutes left in the first.
“I know I have [offensive capability] in my game and if the opportunity’s there, I’m going to take it,” said Hillen.
“You don’t expect defensemen to score two goals in a game, ever,” commented Owens before quickly editing himself. “I shouldn’t say ‘ever’; that often, but it was nice to see it. He was moving well, he had confidence, he wanted the puck.”
The Dinos cut the Tigers’ lead by one with the lone tally in the second period and the two teams exchanged goals in the third, with Bill Sweatt getting another power play marker for CC.
The game was also a chance for Owens to evaluate all three of his netminders, junior Drew O’Connell and freshmen Tyler O’Brien and Richard Bachman.
“I would say all three played well and the two freshman goalies looked a little more calm than I thought they would,” said Owens.
“I’m kinda happy we have an exhibition game again next week to fine-tune some of these things that we need to work on and to look at goalies again and get ready for Minnesota.”
The Tigers next face the U.S. Under-18 team on Friday, October 12, while Calgary continues its Colorado tour, facing off against Denver on Sunday and Air Force on Monday.