Notes from the West: lessons in losing and winning

What struck me most about Colorado College’s 8-4 win over Boston College was twofold.

First, these Eagles were completely unaccustomed to being on the receiving end of this kind of drubbing and had never had to experience an NCAA tournament loss.

Second, this was not the same CC team that I saw in the Great Lakes Invitational tournament in Detroit back in December.

Boston College

Just the language the Eagles used to describe what they were going through after their first loss in NCAA tournament play since BC lost the national championship game to Michigan State, 3-1, right here in St. Louis Apr. 7, 2007, said a lot about this team and how success has bred success and shaped the Eagles’ experiences.

“Certainly the two shorthanded goals were really difficult for us to accept,” said BC head coach Jerry York.

Difficult to “accept” – not to overcome, not to bounce back from, but to accept, the idea being that the Eagles had a choice in the matter. I heard that and thought of the standard of excellence that York has established at Boston College and the way in which the Eagles thought it unacceptable to have allowed themselves to be scored on shorthanded, twice. Very telling.

Then there were the comments of seniors John Muse and Joe Whitney. I hate when reporters ask players who have just lost in NCAA tournament play to put their game and experience into perspective on the spot. It’s impossible to do, but both Muse and Whitney said something revealing in their immediate, gut-reaction responses to the game they’d just played and lost.

“We’ve been up here a lot of times after big wins,” said Muse. “It’s something new. Colorado played a great game and things didn’t go our way. It’s a learning experience.”

An NCAA loss – the first in Muse’s career – becomes a learning experience, and he has the presence of mind to realize that. Impressive.

“Coming up here and speaking with you guys after a loss like that, I don’t have any words to describe how I feel right now,” said Whitney. “I just uh…um…we lost the game tonight to a pretty good team in Colorado College, and I guess that’s just the way it goes. You lose one and you’re out now, so. I have no words.”

It’s just the way it goes, but it had never gone that way before for these Eagles. Sure, they didn’t make the tournament in 2009, having had an off year before ending their season with a 3-2 loss to Boston University Mar. 20 in Hockey East playoff action, but they won eight straight NCAA postseason games since their title game loss to Michigan State in 2007, resulting in national championships in 2008 and 2010.

Is there any doubt that the Eagles will use this hard-to-accept learning experience to become an even better program than they already are?

Colorado College

I saw CC play in the Great Lakes Invitational tournament in Detroit Dec. 29-30, where they beat Michigan State 5-4 and lost 6-5 to Michigan. My impression of them then was that they were good, quick, but needed to play better team defense and a more focused game without the puck. I thought goaltender Joe Howe was terrific.

In the MSU game, they led 5-2 after two before allowing two in the third period. Howe made 31 saves in that game against a team that wasn’t particularly offensive-minded this season. I thought CC’s team defense looked suspect in that game, and afterward head coach Scott Owens said that he was happy with the way the team came out but that the Tigers “were very fortunate in the end to win the game…if the game had gone another five minutes, we would have had some real problems.”

In the 6-5 loss to Michigan – a very offensive-minded team that’s had a bit of a down season in that department – the game was back and forth with the Tigers taking the 5-4 lead early in the third on the power play before allowing goals at 14:00 and 15:56. Howe stopped 33 in that one.

The team I saw pummel BC last night – and the score of 8-4 doesn’t indicate how much of a runaway win this was for CC – reminded me of what I saw from the Miami RedHawks since late January (before they lost to UNH today, that is), a team whose every aspect is in synch, from team chemistry to every playing system, and with all the focus and accountability required to win a national championship.

It seems that the Tigers found their groove toward the end of the regular season. “The last few weeks,” said Owens, “we’ve been on a quiet little roll here and it’s been kind of the same formula – power play to give us a spark, Joe Howe to make some key saves, and then our penalty killing which has gotten pretty good the last four or five weeks.”

In Candace Horgan’s feature from last night’s game, she detailed how the Tigers used back-to-back 3-1 losses to Wisconsin – the last game of the regular season and the first game of the WCHA playoffs – to focus going into the WCHA Final Five and NCAA tournament. In all, the Tigers played the Badgers five times between Mar. 4 and Mar. 13, winning three games.

“I think it kind of hardened us and tested us for these tough games we’ve had to play,” said Owens.

“I just thought our chemistry earlier wasn’t as great,” said Rylan Schwartz. “When we played Wisconsin, that’s when it kind of all started. We’ve just been playing better ever since.”

Said Owens, “We’ve been able to play four lines. Our four lines are pretty well balanced, and so we’ve been getting a lot of people involved. And obviously Jaden has taken it to another level. He’s back in game shape and is able to make plays to take it to another level. Schultz is shooting the puck really, really well, and the role players are accepting their job and doing a great job of it.”

Jaden Schwartz was missing from the GLI because of the IIHF World Junior Championship, where he fractured his ankle Dec. 28, keeping him out until Feb. 18. In his first series back – a tie and loss against Bemidji State – Schwartz had a goal and two assists. In his last five games, he’s 4-9-13.

Jaden Schwartz back to game shape, improved team chemistry – it all adds up to the one thing that enabled the Tigers to come back from an early 1-0 deficit and blow away the Golden Eagles. “Guys are playing together as a five-man unit out there,” said Rylan Schwartz.

And that’s a dangerous thing.

  • Rambwildcat

    Other than UMD, the WCHA stinks this season.

    • GeauxSioux

      Then you must think the rest of college hockey is brutal.

    • Bulldog Fan

      I bet UMD, UMTC, UND, CC and DU will all make the NCAA tourney. 

      • Molde David

        What is umtc?

        • It’s what Duluth people call Minnesota, it makes them feel more of a part of the Minnesota system rather than just being a branch of the University of Minnesota.

    • you are a moron, the ignorance in your post shows it. A word of advice, check the polls; in fact check all the polls. (WCHA leads every conference in ability and votes, thus cannot be considered what you call “stinks”.

    • SUEH8TER

      DID’NT umd GET SWEPT BY THE GOPHERS???  ENOUGH SAID!!!!!!!!

      • Dumbhockeyguy

        You’re an idiot

      • Superdave7333

        yeah, that was two and a half months ago, and if you actually watched the game you’ll know that the only reason umtc won was because of patterson….you are a real nimrod if you think the goofers are better than them now

        • Anonymous

          We scored 10 goals in 2 wins against UMD in their own house all because of our goalie Patterson. He’s amazing.

          • Alkat07

            Patterson gave up 8 goals that weekend. Really amazing. Sure you won and that really is all that matters. No college hockey fan can deny that the Friday night game that weekend proved that these are two GOOD teams. Too bad the two teams don’t meet again… especially with Reiter playing better after that weekend it would be great hockey.

        • SUEH8TER

          SWEEP!!!  I COULD CARE LESS ABOUT SHOTS ON GOAL.  WHEN THEY START GIVING POINTS FOR SHOTS ON GOAL THEN YOU CAN BABBLE ON ABOUT HOW THE bulldogs OUT SHOT THE GOPHERS.  UNTIL THEN, ALL THAT MATTERS IS THE SCORE!!  AND THE GOPHERS WON BOTH AND IN THEIR BUILDING. I DON’T CARE THAT IT WAS TWO MONTHS AGO. THE dogs GOT SWEPT BY THE GOPHERS………………..

          • SUEH8TER

            AND BY YOUR LOGIC, IF MY AUNT HAD BALLS, SHE WOULD BE MY UNCLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • nogofer

            When does your junior high begin classes again so we might read these boards without your constant drivel, dribbling and babble-fests?

          • WCHAfan

            You can yell all you want about how you swept UMD at home but an early October sweep of UMD isn’t going to matter much in March if your gophers keep splitting with unranked and bottom half WCHA teams. UMD will see you again in the Final Five… provided the gophers actually win a friday game.

          • SUEH8TER

            A sweep is a sweep is a sweep.  If the dogs would nave swept the gophers, that is all we would have heard.  But guess what??  They didn’t and only time will tell.  You must have a crystal ball to see that the dogs and the gophers will meet in the final five, provided umd actually gets there.

        • Lol at all the UMD fans trying to convince themselves that they didn’t lose those games. Oh and I’m sure Patterson scored all 10 goals that weekend too….

      • sueh8ersux

        What is with you and the stupid all capital letters? does that make you feel special or something? You sound like a real tough guy living in mommy’s basement.

        • sueh8ersux

          oh yeah, having the 8 in your retarded name takes care of the need for the T…….moron.

        • SUEH8TER

          There, is this better for you??  I must have struck a nerve.  You keep worrying about me living in your mom’s basement, you should be.  She and I get along real well. And your name really bothers me.  NOT!! hahahahahahahah

  • Ridingtimes

    Wow the WCHA must really be good at playing bad and have so many teams in the top 20 in the nation…Rambwildcat,,WCHA stinks this year..wake up..when it comes to the NCAA tourney mark my words there will be atleast one team in the Frozen Four if not more…

    • Localba

      The only reason there isn’t more wcha teams in the frozen four is because they pair all of them in the same regionals. I remember a few years back when all the east coast fans were crying cuz it was an all wcha final 4.

  • Guest

    Bemidji State’s freshman goalie’s name is Andrew Walsh, not Adam.

  • Gma loves hockey

    I would assume UMTC to be University of Michigan Technical College?

  • Lenn

    I was there to fill the bowl and, believe me, there were 12,402 people in attendance, as fans stretched into the third balcony.  Great atmosphere.

    • Lenn

      Actually, it would have been the second balcony, as there is the main bowl, plus two levels above that.  But you get the point.  To get 12,402 fans, people had to be in all three levels of the Kohl Center.

  • Anonymous

    A great picture of the record crowd (I assume) on the women’s main page. I’ve never seen a crowd like that at a women’s hockey game and frankly, had a hard time imagining that size crowd, until now. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if a much larger number of games everywhere got that kind of crowd.

  • Ms London

    Hahaha you crack me up Arlan.
    Candace, I think the split of UND vs BSU is a good call but I would switch the days. UND has shown this season that they give up on the first but they try to make it up on the second game. I also think you are underestimating what the Terriers become when they play home. Even though this is an across town game for the Beanpot final, the crowd will be 75% BU and boy have I seen how this fires up the team! It would be a close game but I can tell you if they do go to shout out.. NU will be in trouble.
    I’m going to go for a split on UMD and OSU but I will pick UMD to get the first one at home. They seem to bring it quite a bit on the first meeting and then just play drained on the second while home.
    I’m going with Arlan on this one, BC had a hard time with PC last meeting at home. Lacasse probably wants a second chance for allowing that five-hole winning goal. She’s not an easy goalie to score on. Regardless, BC is very well aware of what this game means in HEA.
    And Lenn, why bother? Even with the struggling last four games the Badgers have had, I don’t see them not sweeping MSU.
     
     

    • Arlan Marttila

      I hear you on UND, but BSU has also been better on the second day. I get the sense that both teams understand the importance and will play well both days. There didn’t seem to be an obvious choice, so I’m just trying to get one point.

      • Ms London

        I understand. I haven’t watched BSU that much this season but what I’ve seen is that they play hard on the first and even harder on the second. UND on the other hand really seems two different teams. But you might be right. WCHA is a conference too far from me to follow closely.