On Monday night, Colorado College defeated Western Michigan 3-2 in Kalamazoo to finish a 2-1 quarterfinal series win and advance to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff on Friday and Saturday at Xcel Energy Center. There, the sixth-seeded Tigers will join a trio of the nation’s top-ranked teams in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll – No. 1 St. Cloud State, No. 4 Minnesota Duluth and No. 5 Denver.
It’s a challenge Colorado College coach Mike Haviland relishes because of the rugged NCHC schedule.
“It makes you kind of a hardened team because you’ve got to go through these battles,’’ he said during Tuesday’s NCHC teleconference. “We’ve been in playoff mode for a couple weeks now.’’
Haviland and the Tigers (17-18-4) will be tested right away Friday when they meet regular-season champion St. Cloud State (29-4-3) in the 4 p.m. semifinal. The Huskies already have secured the No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament and are 3-0-1 against the Tigers this season. The last two meetings were a 2-2 tie and a 5-4 Huskies win.
“We’ve played well,’’ Haviland said, “and that’s a good thing for our confidence level.’’
St. Cloud State first-year coach Brett Larson agreed.
“We know it’s going to be a huge challenge, we know what they’ve done the last few games and we know tight the games have been when we’ve played them,’’ he said.
In the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m., defending national champion Minnesota Duluth (23-11-2) meets Denver (21-10-5) in a matchup of programs that won the past two NCAA titles. The Pioneers beat the Bulldogs 3-1 last year in the NCHC semifinals. UMD then lost to North Dakota in the third-place game before going on its four-game NCAA title run.
“We’ve had great games. It’s a good matchup for us,’’ said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin, whose team has played seven one-goal games against Denver in the past 10 meetings. “I expect another close game.’’
Added first-year Denver coach David Carle, “We’re excited to play them again in a high-stakes opportunity.’’