COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Before an announced attendence of 5,781 at the World Arena, the No. 19 Colorado College Tigers won an ugly, sloppy game 4-1 over the Michigan Tech Huskies. Senior Bill Sweatt had a goal and three assists and freshman netminder Joe Howe made 33 saves.
“He looks like a man out there,” said Tigers’ coach Scott Owens of Sweatt. “He’s strong, he hits hard. He’s using his speed effectively, he’s finishing. That was a blast, that one-timer, and he’s been playing like a senior for us all season long.”
Both teams started slowly in the first period, with neither generating strong chances. However, the Huskies took the first and only penalty of the period at 9:13 when Mike Vanwagner was whistled for hooking. The Tigers wasted no time making the Huskies pay. Right off the draw, Tyler Johnson took the puck near the left circle and fed a cross-ice pass to Bill Sweatt in the right circle, and Sweatt one-timed it high glove side past Josh Robinson at 9:22.
“We were just moving the puck really well the entire night,” said Sweatt. “Both units were getting good shots. It was a really good night for our power play.”
The Tigers used their superior speed to good effect for the rest of the period, generating several good chances, but couldn’t beat Robinson a second time. Their best chance came with about five minutes left when Sweatt fed a cross-crease pass to linemate William Rapuzzi standing alone near the far post, but the puck hopped over Rapuzzi’s stick.
Both teams struggled with poor play and turnovers in the second period. At times, it looked like no one on the ice could make or catch a pass, and the feel of the game was akin to a high school contest.
“They’re a really good defensive team, in the neutral zone and especially the defensive zone,” said Sweatt. “They really bottle you up pretty well. We have to continue to cycle and get pucks moving and keep moving our feet. In the second period, we got away from our game and didn’t move our feet, and they kind of took it to us the entire period.”
Vonwagner got called for a penalty again at 9:18, this time for holding. The Tigers couldn’t get anything going for the first half of the penalty, but Brett Olson took an ill-timed cross-checking penalty at 10:17, giving the Tigers a minute of five-on-three power play. Standing in the slot, Sweatt managed to knock the puck over to Rylan Schwartz standing at the right post, and Schwartz knocked the puck into the open net at 10:55, scoring his first collegiate goal.
“Penalty kill sucked, didn’t it?” Huskies’ coach Jamie Russel wryly commented. “You’re not going to win many hockey games giving up three power-play goals. First one, we had a forward cheating to offense before the puck was out of the zone and we left Billy Sweatt alone for a one-timer. We took a retarded penalty to put us down two men short, and we had a system breakdown where we allowed a defenseman to walk from the wall all the way to the middle of the rink by the circle to shoot it, so obviously that’s an area we’ve got to tighten up.”
Olson made up for his error shortly thereafter however. Coming out of the box, he streaked down the right side with the puck and sent a pass to Malcolm Gwilliam coming up the left side, and Gwilliam fired the puck in near side at 12:25.
“I thought five-on-five we did some good things,” said Russel. “They’re a transition team so the biggest thing is when they have the puck you have to take away their time and space, and when we have the puck, you can’t turn it over to them.”
The teams continued to struggle in the third period, with players overskating the puck, falling down on each other, and missing passes and shots.
“We were sloppy, especially in the second period, and I didn’t think we were tenacious enough,” said Owens. “We gave up a goal right after we got a power-play goal to go up 2-0. I was pleased with the way we played in the third period. I thought we started to take the play to them a little more. They were good. They were strong, and they were quicker than I remembered them. We just hung in there and persevered.”
The Huskies had an early power play when Ryan Lowery got called for hooking at 1:35, but they couldn’t generate any sustained pressure, passing around the perimeter and trying unsuccessfully to work the puck down low. CC’s Matt Overman actually had a good short-handed chance when he carried the puck down the slot and let a wrist shot fly low stick side that Robinson got a pad on.
At 8:04, Deron Cousens got called for tripping, and the Tigers power play again went to work. Right off the draw, the puck came back to Lowery at the left point, and he skated to his right and down towards the right circle, where he fired a wrist shot that beat Robinson high glove side just inside the post at 8:11.
With Robinson pulled, Tigers’ goalie Joe Howe made a big stop at 17:25 when he got a pad on a rebound stuff attempt by Vonwagner, who was camped at the left post.
“He’s been great,” said Sweatt of Howe. “Every game he’s played in, he’s played really well. He’s been pretty lights out back there, and that gives our entire team confidence. Going into this year, everybody thought it would be a big question mark at goalie, and I think Joe Howe has answered that question.”
Off the ensuing faceoff, the Tigers cleared the zone and Rapuzzi won a footrace to the loose puck near the right side of the Huskies’ blue line and fired it into the empty net for the insurance goal.
“It’s still a long ways to go and we’ve got some holes, but I’ve been happy with the team concept as much as anything,” said Owens. “I think the guys have been pulling for each other and they’re all on the same page and working hard and for the most part, I think it’s been good. The team is close, and we have different people contributing, so hopefully that is something that can continue.”