What was tougher for Colorado College last season: The campaign’s home stretch or the offseason that followed?
The Tigers stumbled in the final two months of 2011-12, losing seven of their last 10 games. In the end, CC capped its slide with a sweep at home at the hands of WCHA surprise package Michigan Tech in the first round of the league playoffs.
CC’s troubles didn’t end there, though.
At season’s end, Tiger head coach Scott Owens then lost leading scorer Jaden Schwartz (15 goals and 16 assists in 2011-12) to the NHL. Or, rather, to the AHL for now.
Making things worse, Owens also saw star seniors Nick Dineen (14 goals and 12 assists in 2011-12) and Gabe Guentzel (4 G, 22 A) leave Colorado Springs following graduation.
Entering his 13th season as the Tigers’ bench boss, Owens will undoubtedly miss his former captain Dineen’s leadership and Guentzel anchoring the CC defense. With the 2012-13 season about to begin, though, the Tigers must rely on what firepower they do have coming back.
What comes back will be facing a brutal schedule. The Tigers will have to answer the bell four times each against North Dakota, St. Cloud State and arch-rival Denver in 2012-13, and the nonconference slate features three participants in last season’s NCAA tournament.
The returning troops are led by senior forward Rylan Schwartz, older brother of Jaden. Rylan was second on the team in scoring last season, and his 23 goals and 17 assists saw him finish second in the points race by just one.
Junior forward Alexander Krushelnyski will also be relied upon to pick up the slack. The winger from Edina, Minn. scored 10 goals and notched just as many assists last season, but the Tigers need him to raise his game considerably during the new campaign if the depleted CC squad is to compete for home ice in the playoffs.
In the Tiger net, junior goaltender Josh Thorimbert has been many pundits’ dark horse choice for WCHA goalie of the year in 2012-13.
Thorimbert put up solid numbers last season (2.34 goals against average, .924 save percentage). He will have to come up big again, however, in order to carry his teammates and fend off senior Joe Howe (3.48, .882) for the starting netminder’s role.
All of those key remaining pieces will need to step up their games in the new season if CC is to be competitive in its final season in the WCHA. Otherwise, the agony associated with last season’s collapse might carry over into the new campaign.
Head coach: Scott Owens (Colorado College ’79)
2011-12 record: 18-16-2 (15-2-1 WCHA)
Predicted finish in 2012-13: 10th
Home ice: World Arena; Colorado Springs, Colo.
-Average attendance in 2011-12: 6,754