Florida College Hockey Classic roundup: Halloran's OT goal gives Colorado College the title

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ESTERO, Fla. — Nick Halloran came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. The right wing started off his college hockey career with four goals in six games for Colorado College.

But then, a drought hit. Goose egg after goose egg followed and when he went into Thursday night’s game against Cornell in the championship of the Florida College Hockey Classic at Germain Arena, he hadn’t scored in 11 contests.

The freshman picked an opportune moment to break out of his slump, though. He scored at the one minute, two second mark of overtime to lift the Tigers over the Big Red 2-1.

His quick release from the top of the left circle beat goaltender Hayden Stewart up under the crossbar for the Tigers’ fifth win of the season (5-12-1) and second in two days.

“I think the goalie just didn’t see it and luckily it found the net,” said Halloran, whose last goal before Thursday was at UNH on Oct. 22.

Halloran admitted he was gripping his stick a little more tightly as a result of his offensive struggles but he was determined to fight through it.

“I find that if things aren’t really going your way, you’ve just got to keep it simple and work hard and play a team game, which is what I kind of tried to do tonight. I thought I played really well throughout the three periods and just got it deep and played a team game and luckily I had my chance in overtime and I buried it.”

After a scoreless first period, the Tigers jumped out in front just over a minute into the second. With Cornell on a power play, the puck squirted out to senior center Luc Gerdes. Gerdes took off on a short-handed breakaway and beat Stewart on a forehand shot through the pads at 1:01. It was Gerdes’ fourth tally of the season.

The Big Red rallied to tie it at 4:19 of the third, just six seconds after the start of a power play. Senior center Jake Weidner cashed in on strong pressure by his team to beat freshman netminder Alex Leclerc from the edge of the crease. It was the third goal of the year for the Cornell captain but the last of the day for his team.

Regulation ended in a tie, setting the stage for Halloran’s OT heroics.

Leclerc had 23 saves and earned tournament most valuable player honors. Although he struggled at the start of the season, the rookie has found his game, earning his first career shutout against Merrimack on Wednesday night to launch his team into the championship.

“We kept the distractions away and we concentrated on business,” said Leclerc, referring to the allure of warm weather in Southwest Florida. “We’re so fortunate to play hockey. There are so many players who would give everything and anything to play college hockey and we’re there. So we just played with our hearts and we got rewarded at the end.”

Leclerc said he was thrilled to see his classmate tally the winner.

“My first reaction was, ‘No way did he score from right there,'” he said. “He has such an incredible shot and he practices that every day. Just quick release and right, high glove side. To see that was such a relief on my end, too. Let’s say the body was tired a bit at that point but the feeling of victory was something that we need to focus on and remember because that’s what we play for.”

As exciting as it was for the young Tigers, for the Big Red, it was a disappointing ending.

“We didn’t do the things we needed to do,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer, whose team dropped to 8-4-1. “[Colorado College] had three power plays in the third period. One, I think, was a great hit and the other two were undisciplined. It seemed whoever was loudest on the bench was the one who got the calls and that’s just kind of unfortunate. We deserved our calls. We had no one to blame but ourselves.”

Merrimack 4, Northern Michigan 2

In the consolation game, Merrimack beat Northern Michigan 4-2 to earn third place.

The Warriors took a 2-0 lead into the final period as a result of goals by senior center Hampus Gustafsson (power-play tally at 18:17 of the first) and senior right wing Chris LeBlanc (even-strength goal at 9:42 of the second).

The Wildcats had just six shots in the first 40 minutes. They cut the deficit in half just 21 seconds into the third during the man advantage. Senior center Gerard Hanson made it 2-1.

But the Warriors potted the next two with junior left wing Brett Seney scoring at 2:03 and sophomore pivot Ludvig Larsson making it a three-goal lead at 4:10.

Senior right wing Dominik Shine closed out the scoring at 13:14 for Northern Michigan.

Atte Tolvanen had 29 saves for Northern Michigan (4-16-2) and Drew Vogler turned back 12 for Merrimack (7-9-3).

The All-Tournament team was Leclerc, Weidner, Shine, Seney, Patrick McCarron of Cornell and Teemu Kivihalme of Colorado College.

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