Centers Nick Dineen and Rylan Schwartz returned from soreness to practice Wednesday for Colorado College, and even though left wing Jaden Schwartz was still sidelined since he’s battling the flu, he should play this weekend when the Tigers host Michigan Tech in the best-of-three first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
Dineen and Jaden Schwartz missed practice Tuesday – Dineen nursing a tender ankle and Jaden Schwartz feeling under the weather – while Rylan Schwartz wasn’t near full speed, having been dinged up the second half of the season. Neither Dineen nor Rylan Schwartz looked hampered Wednesday at World Arena, as both were full participants in all drills.
The focus for No. 18 CC (18-14-2, 15-12-1 WCHA) has been on refining details in hopes of sustaining momentum from night to night, as the Tigers were dominant Friday in a 5-2 victory, then outplayed by Michigan Tech (14-18-4, 11-13-4) in a 2-0 win Saturday. “We can play better than we did Saturday,” said CC coach Scott Owens, in search of his 300th career win, with his team owning the second-best home record in the WCHA at 10-3-1.
“Most of our issues didn’t have anything to do with Xs and Os or systems,” Owens said. “They had to do with moving our feet and pursuing the puck.” On Friday, CC “came out, and we got after it, and we pursued the puck well. We moved. We put pressure on them,” Owens said. Then on Saturday, “we were easy to play against,” Owens said. “We didn’t move very well. We looked heavy-legged at times. We thought things would take care of themselves. And we didn’t have enough of an urgency” in facing a 34-22 deficit in shots.
Even though CC kept Michigan Tech’s top three scorers – center Brett Olson, right wing Jordan Baker and left wing David Johnstone – off the scorecard, “some of those guys had real good chances,” Owens said. Odds are Michigan Tech won’t go scoreless again on the power play, motivated on the heels of an 0-for-6 performance, and the Huskies “moved better collectively,” Owens said. “They’re more mobile than they’ve been in the past.”
Staying in Colorado Springs was a blessing for CC, which finished the season with losses in its final four road games, swept by Bemidji State and No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth. “We do like playing at World Arena. I like the fact we don’t have to travel,” Owens said, adding that “there’s a certain amount of rest being here. But you’ve still got to play the games.”
WCHA PLAYOFFS, FIRST ROUND
No. 8 Michigan Tech at No. 5 Colorado College
Game 2: Saturday, 7:07 p.m.
Game 3: Sunday, 7:07 p.m. (if necessary)
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