And we’ve reached the home stretch here at TCHB, counting down the top 16 teams in the country. 16 of course because there are 16 teams in the NCAA tournament field. Today’s team is #6 Colorado College
Last year Colorado College finished 6th in the WCHA standings, but scored a tremendous upset, knocking off Boston College in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I am a bit afraid that I am overreacting putting CC at the same rank nationally as they were in conference last year, but they have a lot of talent back and a good group of veterans to try to get CC back to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2005.
Forwards: The big guy back for the Tigers is Jaden Schwartz. Schwartz tied for the team lead with 17 goals and led the team with 47 points despite missing 15 games after being hurt at the WJC. Schwartz was 15th in the WCHA in points, but ranked first in points per game, notching 1.47 per contest. INCH’s Freshman of the year resisted overtures from the WHL and is back on campus for a second year (high five, Jaden) which is a bit of an accomplishment when looking at the high profile kids who defected to the CHL at the last moment over the summer.
CC’s biggest loss is Senior Tyler Johnson. Johnson was probably the most under the radar player in the WCHA last year, scoring 15 goals in conference play, which ranked tied for 5th in the league. Helping to pick up his slack will be Jaden Schwartz’s brother Rylan, who had 10 goals and 38 points last year. I got to see several of CC’s games last year on TV and while the big ice certainly helps, Rylan was one of the best passers I saw all year.
In all, CC returns 7 of their top 9 forwards from last year. Also watch for Nick Dineen (13 goals) and William Rapuzzi (12). To fill in the gaps created by the losses of Tyler Johnson and Stephen Schultz, CC will call on Charlie Taft, who had 17 goals for Muskegeon (USHL) and a pair of Clark Cup winners, Jordan DiGiando and Scott Wamsganz.
Defensemen: CC’s defense was decidedly poor last year, as the Tigers allowed 3 goals per WCHA contest, which ranked 10th out of the 12 teams. A prime suspect in their defensive struggles was their special teams: Their penalty kill killed only 77.4% of opponents power plays, which tied for 10th in the league. They also allowed 8 shorthanded goals in conference play alone, which shockingly was only 2nd most in the league. Last year’s group was fairly young, losing just 1 regular member, so some improvement may be in the works. Gabe Guentzel (6-22–28) provides some firepower from the blueline. Their big recruit on the blueline is Aaron Harstad, who was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets. OK maybe I am just biased saying he’s their big recruit because I am a Jets fan.
Goaltenders: Joe Howe was a darkhorse candidate for the WJC team as a Freshman, but has suffered some down times since then. Last year he had just a .903 save percentage and a .895 mark in conference, which ranked 11th. Josh Thorimbert had a .906 mark as a Freshman last year, and CC brings in Courtney Lockwood, who was a finalist for EJHL goalie of the year and had a .939 save percentage in the EJHL playoffs last year