Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Colorado College

Today, we touch on our first "repeat offender" in the Know Your Enemy series. The Engineers and Tigers faced one another last season in a two-game series in Colorado Springs, and this year the Tigers return the favor by coming to Troy for a pair of games. This series, I'm sure, will mark a homecoming for CC athletic director Ken Ralph, who guided RPI athletics from 2002 through 2007 before leaving for the Centennial State.

Colorado College
Nickname: Tigers
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Founded: 1874
Conference: WCHA
National Championships: 2 (1950, 1957)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2011
Last Frozen Four: 2005
Coach: Scott Owens (13th season)
2010-11 Record: 23-19-3 (13-13-2 WCHA, 6th place)
Series: Colorado College leads, 3-0-2
First Game: January 30, 1954 (Colorado Springs, CO)
Last RPI win: Never
Last CC win: October 8, 2010 (Colorado Springs, CO)

2011-12 games: October 28-29, 2011 (Troy, NY)

Key players: F Nick Dineen, sr.; D Gabe Guentzel, sr.; G Joe Howe, jr.; D Joe Marciano, jr.; F William Rapuzzi, jr.; F Rylan Schwartz, jr.; D Eamonn McDermott, so.; F Jaden Schwartz, so.; D Aaron Harstad, fr.; D Peter Stoykewich, fr.

Previous KYE installment:
There's no need to rehash Colorado College's history... if you want a full refresher, check out last year's version of Know Your Enemy. It is worth noting, however, that the omen we discussed last year came true - whenever the Engineers have made a trip to Colorado Springs, they made the NCAA tournament that season.

Expectations weren't exceptionally high in the Springs last year, but the Tigers certainly made do with what they had - including a super freshman who, if not for an injury and the play of T.J. Tynan at Notre Dame probably would have been the national rookie of the year. Jaden Schwartz scored his first career goal against the Engineers at the beginning of the season, and went on to lead the Tigers in scoring despite missing 15 of CC's 45 games due to the World Junior Championship (where he played for Team Canada) and an injury sustained in that tournament.

Schwartz, along with his older brother Rylan and a couple of seniors, lifted the Tigers to a respectable 6th place finish in the WCHA, a finish that ensured that they would be in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid, especially if they could put together a strong run in the WCHA tournament. That's pretty much what they got, taking down Wisconsin in three games in the first round and defeating Alaska-Anchorage in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champions North Dakota in a tight semifinal contest. That was enough deliver the NCAA bid, and the Tigers quite nearly put together a solid run straight to the Frozen Four.

They shocked the college hockey world in the West Regional with four first period goals against defending champions Boston College (after BC had scored just 19 seconds into the game). The Tigers continued putting pucks in the net in the second period with three more, jumping out to a 7-2 lead that became an 8-4 upset win. Against Michigan in the Western final, two first period goals sunk CC's Frozen Four hopes, but Joe Howe made 41 saves, including 30 in the final two periods, to give the Tigers a shot. A late goal by Rylan Schwartz put the Tigers down by just one, but they were unable to find the equalizer.

CC does lose 37 goals between graduated seniors Stephen Schultz and Tyler Johnson, but with both Schwartz brothers set to return, along with solid scorers Dineen and Rapuzzi, the power core of the Tigers does remain intact. Howe did not play as well last year as he did as a freshman, but he proved his worth in the national tournament and remains a top netminder. Although Jaden Schwartz is one of only two NHL draft picks on this team, it's still a team that could be quite dangerous, even in the WCHA. CC presents a solid home challenge for an Engineer squad with a young core that will conclude an October full of western challenges.

This will be Colorado College's first ever trip to Troy, with previous RPI-CC meetings having taken place in Colorado Springs (three), Providence, RI, and Tampa, FL. It's not like you really needed extra incentive to come out to the Field House to watch hockey, but that makes this trip semi-historic, one could say.

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