OMAHA, Neb. — This is the third week for seven of the eight NCHC teams in the Pod in Omaha. If the players on those teams are getting a bit homesick or tired of being in a hotel, they should keep their feelings to themselves around members of the Colorado College team.
The Tigers are in their second week of games at the Pod and, like the other seven teams, are staying in a hotel in Omaha. But before the team left Colorado for Nebraska, it was in a hotel and in a quarantine for two weeks in Colorado Springs because a player tested positive for COVID-19.
"We were completely shut down for 14 days, quarantining in a hotel and didn't have any access to ice and couldn't leave the hotel," Tigers junior captain Grant Cruikshank said. "Definitely not the most ideal situation coming into the Pod. I think we tried to rally around it and we're not using that as an excuse at all.
"It was something that happened and we had to deal with it. It was unfortunate and we had try to find other ways to be ready for the Pod."
The Tigers got to Omaha on Dec. 4 and had four practices before playing their first game against Western Michigan on Dec. 8. The other seven teams had been practicing for several weeks and already played at least three games in the Pod.
"It's a little crazy and I think we're looking forward to getting back (home), hopefully with a winning record," Cruikshank said. "We will get back and enjoy the holiday season a little bit and maybe rest some. The past four weeks have been in a hotel or on the road. It will be nice to let everything out of the gas tank here."
The Tigers (2-2-1) play ninth-ranked St. Cloud State (4-3) at 7:35 p.m. Friday at Baxter Arena. Colorado College is coming off back-to-back 4-1 wins over third-ranked MInnesota Duluth (Dec. 13) and Miami (Dec. 15) and are two points behind fifth-place Denver (3-4), which has played two more games than the Tigers.
Those wins came after back-to-back losses to Western Michigan (5-2, Dec. 11) and Nebraska Omaha (6-1, Dec. 9).
"We're feeling confident," Cruikshank said. "We had a pretty long video session after the first couple games. We were looking at our details of the game and more of the smarts. We felt like we were working hard, but weren't maybe working the smartest.
"It was great to see it on film and show some of the younger guys and new guys to the system," said Cruikshank, whose team has 12 freshmen on its roster. "I think we cleaned that stuff up and it showed the last couple games."
- Grant Cruikshank leads Colorado College with his Olympic parents as his role models
- Josiah Slavin emerging as top power forward as Colorado College wins second straight
- Bulldogs refuse to blame fatigue for first loss of NCHC Pod, a 4-1 defeat against Colorado College
The win over UMD was perhaps an eye-opener to some because the Bulldogs are the two-time defending national champions and it was their first loss of the season.
"I thought we've done a great job of adapting and getting used to the speed and pace of play and I'm really proud of those younger guys," Cruikshank said. "I think we're starting to get our legs here. It's definitely a whole different pace from practice.
"I thought our practices had been super high-paced and we had tried to be as physical as possible to try to get ourselves ready. Obviously, game shape is totally different than practice. Then you add 14 days of quarantine to that.
"It was tough, but we tried to work through as best we could and I think we've done a good job of that. I think five games in, we're starting to get our legs here."
Cruikshank (4 goals, 1 assist), junior forward Ben Copeland (Edina, Minn., 2-3—5) and sophomore forward Josiah Slavin (1-4—5) have leading the Tigers offensively. Slavin is a seventh-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Defenseman Jack Millar (2-1—3) is the team's top-scoring freshman and freshman Dominic Basse has the two wins in goal, has a .932 save percentage and 1.80 goals-against average for the Tigers. Basse, who is from Alexandria, Va., is a sixth-round draft pick of the Blackhawks.
"You take 14 days off from skating and it's a lot," Tigers coach Mike Haviland said. "They went through it and they were great about it and kept themselves in great shape.
"But you had to get back your timing and I'm not making any excuses. I like the way they're going," he said of his team. "The detail meeting that we had — and to execute in back-to-back games now — that I think the big thing now is to play consistent. To win games, you have to be consistent."
The Tigers were 11-20-3, including 1-4-1 in their last six games, last season.