GREEN BAY, Wis. - Colorado College coach Scott Owens would have been lying if he had said he was surprised his team lost an NCAA Tournament opener Saturday against Cornell. “You could see it coming a little bit,” Owens said, referring to CC’s 7-10-1 finish and loss to St. Cloud State in a first-round Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff series. During the second half of the season, No. 10 seed CC never came close to matching the consistency it showed in a 17-6-1 start, and its 3-2 loss to eighthseeded Cornell in the NCAA Midwest Regional was painstakingly predictable. The Tigers (24-16-2) blew a lead for the eighth time in 16 losses. They couldn’t find the killer instinct that carried them to last year’s Frozen Four. And defensive breakdowns forced goaltender Matt Zaba to be nearly perfect. Defenseman Jack Hillen’s three shots were one more than senior forwards Marty Sertich and Brett Sterling had combined. Sertich and Sterling typically get most of their scoring chances on the power play, although Cornell committed only three penalties, none in the second and third periods. Zaba (20-14-2) played well enough to win his first NCAA Tournament start, making 19 saves in the second and third periods after he faced one shot in the first period. Defenseman Lee Sweatt was backpedalling in the left faceoff circle when left wing Topher Scott scored Cornell’s first goal. Miscues by defenseman Brian Salcido led to Cornell’s final two goals, and the Big Red erased a 2-0 deficit. Sterling’s lone shot came from between the circles midway through the third period. Goaltender David McKee, who made 20 saves, batted it away and didn’t face a shot the final minute with Zaba pulled for an extra attacker. “There’s no excuse for a team that has been here to give up a two-goal lead when you have such great momentum in the first period,” said center Brandon Polich, who figures to assume a larger role next season in part of an eightperson senior class. “It’s almost like we quit after the first. We thought the game was over.” An Owens-coached team never had lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In fact, CC had won its past eight NCAA Tournament openers since losing 5-2 to Minnesota in 1995. Owens said his team’s six seniors — Sertich, Sterling, forwards Joey Crabb and Trevor Frischmon and defensemen Weston Tardy and Jesse Stokke — shouldn’t have ended their careers with such a “methodical loss.” Sterling finished with 184 points, including 108 goals, the third-most in CC history behind Ron Hartwell (112) and Dave Delich (111). Sertich had 61 goals and 121 assists for 182 points. Both are top 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award that Sertich won last season as college hockey’s best player. “To have that lead and let it slip away, and that’s the way we end our season, it’s rough,” Sterling said. “We played well in the first. We just didn’t keep it up all game.” In a brief postgame speech, Owens said he told his players, “That was a game we should have won.” Polich said he and his teammates then shook hands with each of the seniors. “There were plenty of tears,” Polich said. “I don’t think anybody expected to be one and done.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0256 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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