DULUTH, Minn. – If playing at World Arena is like swimming in an ocean, skating at Amsoil Arena (above) is the equivalent of taking a dip in a pond. And Colorado College needs to transition from its Olympic-size ice sheet to the NHL-size surface at Minnesota-Duluth.
The No. 16 Tigers (16-12-2, 13-10-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) will make their Amsoil Arena debut Friday against No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth, which is 10-5-1 in the $80 million facility that opened last season. They practiced all week on the NHL sheet in the Ice Hall at World Arena, and 6,726-seat Amsoil Arena looks even smaller in person, featuring tight, rounded corners and very little space to maneuver behind the goals.
“It’s truly one of the smaller sheets in the league,” CC coach Scott Owens said Thursday after his team took a 160-mile bus ride from Minneapolis to Duluth, a result of a missed flight out of Denver because of a snowstorm that jammed traffic along Interstate 25.
With a compressed surface, when CC gets on the power play, it will “try to shoot a little more from the blue line,” Owens said. “There isn’t all the room there is at World Arena to work out of the corner. Just try to be a little bit more aggressive when we’re shooting.” The Tigers rearranged their second power-play unit this week in practice, and they’ve had left wings Alexander Krushelnyski and Archie Skalbeck in center Rylan Schwartz’s spot in the top group – merely as a precaution in case Schwartz isn’t healthy enough to dress.
Schwartz has been on antibiotics since Tuesday in slowly recovering from the flu that has limited his practice time, and left wing Jaden Schwartz is still hampered by upper-body soreness following a home split last weekend against Nebraska-Omaha. Rylan Schwartz “looks better,” Owens said, “so we’ll see how he feels. … He didn’t look bad. For an 11-hour travel day, he held up pretty good.” He added, “I think, in my heart of hearts, they’re both going to play. … By the time the puck drops, they should be good to go.”
CC is 7-7 on the road, having posted sweeps at Minnesota State-Mankato and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; splits at No. 6 Minnesota, No. 9 Denver and Nebraska-Omaha; and a pair of losses at No. 14 North Dakota and Bemidji State. It must minimize its mistakes, “especially with a team that’s this good offensively,” Owens said, well aware of the fact Minnesota-Duluth (20-7-5, 14-6-4) is averaging 3.72 goals, the most in the country.
The keys to winning? “Kind of go about our business,” Owens said. “Take care of things. It would help if you can get on top. But keep the crowd out of it as much as you can.”
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