Colorado College season preview

By DJ Powers

The Colorado College Tigers opened their 2005-06 regular season on Oct. 7, hosting non-conference opponent Union College at World Arena in the Icebreaker Tournament.

The end of the 2004-05 season was bittersweet for Colorado College after having won a share of the MacNaughton Cup, watching Marty Sertich win the Hobey Baker award and making it to the Frozen Four, just to see it all end too soon.

This season, the Tigers are looking to make a return to the Frozen Four with a vastly different result.

The most significant changes that Colorado College saw this offseason was to their defense. Goaltender Curtis McElhinney (CGY) and defenseman Richard Petiot (LA) have graduated. Outstanding defensemen Mark Stuart (BOS) and Brady Greco (TB) opted to forego the remainder of their college eligibility to sign with Boston and Tampa Bay respectively.

With the loss of McElhinney, junior Matt Zaba (LA) will inherit most of the ice time this season. Both McElhinney and Zaba split time in the Colorado College net last season with superb results. McElhinney finished the year with a 21-4-1 record that included two shutouts. Zaba finished with a 10-5-2 record also with two shutouts in 18 games. Both players finished in the top 20 in the nation in winning percentage. McElhinney finished second (.827), while Zaba finished 16th (.647).

Zaba’s new goaltending partner will likely be newcomer Drew O’Connell. The Anchorage, AK native comes to Colorado College from Waterloo (USHL), where he put up some impressive numbers, going 15-12-4 that included five shutouts in 37 games. His outstanding season performance earned him a selection to the USHL All-Rookie team. O’Connell brings some excellent athleticism as well as a fiercely competitive nature to the Tigers team. While it may take some time, O’Connell should be a perfect compliment to Zaba in the Colorado College goal.

The Tigers defensive corps will be leaning heavily on their goaltenders this season with the loss of three of their top blueliners from last season. Juniors Brian Salcido (ANA) and Lee Sweatt will be counted on to lead the Colorado College defense this season. Salcido, a defenseman who saw time both at the defense and forward positions last season, led all Colorado College defensemen in scoring with 30 points (seven goals, 23 assists). The offensive defenseman from Hermosa Beach, CA was instrumental in helping the Tigers win the NCAA Midwest Regional that propelled them into the Frozen Four. In that series, Salcido posted a goal and two assists.

Sweatt has become one of Colorado College’s most consistent and effective defensemen. He finished last season second among Tigers defensemen in scoring with 28 points (three goals, 245 assists) in 42 games. The most telling statistic about Sweatt is the fact that he notched at least a point in 22 of Colorado College’s 42 games last season. While he is only 5’9, Sweatt is very strong and can deliver some bone-jarring hits.

Two newcomers will be battling for ice time on the Tigers blue line this season. Cody Lampl comes to Colorado College from Chicago (USHL), where he had 22 points (four goals, 18 assists) in 55 games last season. He is a small (5’10/165 lbs) defenseman who is noted for his superb skating and great work ethic.

Jake Gannon was a late addition to the Tigers 2005-06 roster, filling the spot vacated by Greco. Gannon comes to Colorado College from Sioux City (USHL), where he had three points (one goal, three assists) in 14 games after being a midseason addition to the Musketeers team.

“He’s a rugged defenseman. We figured that it helped us in a sense when we lost the size that we lost. He has great character, skates well and plays aggressive,” said head coach Scott Owens in a recent interview with Hockey’s Future.

The Tigers will be at their strongest on their forward lines. Colorado College lost just two forwards in the off-season. Scott Polaski (PHO) graduated and Mike Sertich left the team and school due to being unable to fully recover from reconstructive shoulder injury.

The dynamic duo of seniors Marty Sertich and Brett Sterling (ATL) return to lead a formidable group of forwards that helped make Colorado College one of the most offensively explosive teams in the nation last season.

Sertich, the 2005 recipient of the Hobey Baker award, led the nation in scoring with 64 points (27 goals, 37 assists) as well as points per game (1.49). He also led Colorado College with two short-handed goals. In addition to the Hobey Baker award, Sertich also picked up the WCHA Player of the Year honor and was selected to the All-American West First Team. The combination of durability, a great work ethic, and the ability to score and set-up timely goals makes Sertich one of the nation’s must-see players this season. He holds the distinction of being the only returning Tigers player to have never missed a game during the course of his collegiate career thus far.

Sterling, who was the runner-up to his linemate for the Hobey Baker, enjoyed an equally sensational season last year. The Pasadena, CA native finished second behind his teammate in scoring with 63 points (34 goals, 29 assists) playing in all 43 games. Sterling was particularly impressive on the Tigers power play. His 18 power play goals led the nation. Sterling led Colorado College in numerous categories including goals, game-winning goals (7) and penalty minutes (74). Like his linemate Sertich, Sterling was also selected to the All-American West First team as well as the WCHA All-Conference First team.

While Sterling may be small in stature (5’8/170 lbs.), his game is anything but that. Sterling brings intensity, determination along with the uncanny ability to score from just about anywhere on the ice in any situation. An attribute that was particularly noticeable about Sterling last season was the strength in his legs and how it has enabled him to skate with much stronger strides.

With Sertich and Sterling gaining most of the attention at Colorado College last season, one player who seemed to have gotten overlooked a bit was senior Joey Crabb (NYR). Crabb enjoyed and outstanding season finishing third on the team in scoring with 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in 43 games. The Anchorage, AK native made a living in front of the opposition’s net last season and nowhere was that more evident than on the Tigers power play. He finished second on the team and was tied for 12th in the nation with 11 power play goals.

One player poised to have a breakout season this year is sophomore Scott McCulloch (CHI). A shoulder injury abruptly ended his rookie campaign in last November. He played in 11 games, posting seven points (four goals, three assists). The strong skating, power forward from Lacombe, Alberta is one of the players that Tigers head coach Scott Owens is counting on to provide some secondary scoring.

“He’s in great shape and he’s recovered very well. He’s going to be a significant guy. One of the things that we need to do with our team is increase our secondary scoring and he’s one of the guys that we’re looking to do that,” said Owens.

In addition to the excellent group of forwards returning, Colorado College will welcome two talented incoming freshmen in Chad Rau (TOR) and Andreas Vlassopoulos.

Rau comes to Colorado College from Des Moines (USHL), where he almost single-handedly carried the Buccaneers team last season. He led Des Moines in virtually every category, including points (71), goals (31), assists (40) and power play goals (12). His 71 goals led all USHL rookies and helped earn him the USHL Rookie of the Year. Rau is of the pure goal-scorer variety who is also noted for his great hockey sense and quick release.

Vlassopoulos is one of three California natives, hailing from Los Angeles, on the Tigers roster. He comes to Colorado College from the U. S. National Team Development Program, where he had 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 36 games. Vlassopoulos is a player who brings excellent offensive skill, quickness and a nose for the net to Colorado College.

(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 6)

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