CC's commanding 5-2 win over Clarkson was big for three reasons:
1. PairWise. Yes, I know it's only February 1. But the Tigers had slipped out of the top four in the PairWise rankings after the loss and tie at Michigan Tech last weekend, meaning they lost a No. 1 seed for the West Regional. With the win over Clarkson -- which brings CC's non-conference record to 4-3 -- the Tigers zoomed back up to a tie for third with Denver, which lost 5-1 at Minnesota State-Mankato. See the updated PairWise here.
For those who don't know: the PairWise rankings mimic the NCAA Tournament selection process, taking into account strength of schedule and performance against teams under consideration for the tournament. Clarkson has been ranked in the top 10 all season long and leads the Eastern College Athletic Conference standings.
2. Offense. The Tigers had 35 shots against Michigan Tech last Saturday and only two goals to show for it. In the two games before that, they had 30 and 31 shots, respectively. Still, just two goals per night. Not only did CC generate 42 shots, but it scored five goals -- the most it has had since Jan. 18 against Bemidji State.
That increased offensive output came from...
3. Team defense (and some line changes, too, which I will discuss Saturday. But first, team defense). Both coach Scott Owens and left wing Scott McCulloch, who had two goals on three shots in his first game back from a concussion, attributed this offensive resurgence to the forwards' commitment to the forecheck.
"Coach had kind of put the onus on us forwards to take control of the game," McCulloch said. "That's important for us to keep pressure off of (goalie) Richard (Bachman) and our defense. I think we did a great job to night with moving our feet, cutbacks and getting to the net."
Whereas the Tigers had continually been trapped in their defensive zone against Michigan Tech, they were able to confine Clarkson within its zone.
"It was nice to score five goals," Owens said. "It was even nicer to have the puck in their end most of the time. That was something we had stressed, trying to get our forwards to win the territorial battles and keep them bottled up a little bit. The last few weeks, it seems like we've been in our zone a lot and having to defend, so I thought they did a nice job."
Friday Night Links
--North Dakota, which has played 21 WCHA games to the Tigers' 20 games, pulled to within three points of first-place CC with an incredible overtime goal by Evan Trupp. See it here. If you ask me, that should be on ESPN's top 10.
--The Nanaimo Daily News profiled CC's newest recruit, Russell Goodman, a 19-year-old forward from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who tore his MCL in early December. Read it here.