A losing streak in sports is difficult to face, regardless of the quality of the team. However, it is a more frustrating period of time when the team knows it has the talent to be better.
After Friday’s 7-1 loss to Air Force, at home, Colorado Mesa University’s (CMU) hockey team found itself in an unfamiliar territory to many of the program’s players. Last year the team only lost six games total, let alone five in a row in the early stages of a grueling season.
“We didn’t play very well at all,” Head coach Tim Winegard said. “There was no one who played well. And that’s a good team so if you give them chances they’re going to score and they did.”
Entering Saturday’s game Winegard made some changes in the personnel of each line and the team’s system of forechecking. The switches worked as CMU snapped out of the losing streak, with a 6-3 victory over the Falcons.
“I think everyone was just getting on the ice with a purpose,” defender Tony Falcon said. “Everyone knew what they were going out there to do and they went out with an actual intention of bettering our offense.”
Air Force was sloppy, distributing the puck near their own blue line. The Mavericks made sure to capitalize on it. Freshman Maxwell Cavanaugh opened the scoring after a poke check in the Air Force zone. Cavanaugh would also assist on CMU’s second goal, scored by Gage Sealy to give them a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period.
Dave Gionco would fire a slapshot to make the score 3-0 Mavericks, early in the second period. Both teams would trade goals to make the score 4-1 at the end of the second.
With the pressure to finish the game, Cavanaugh stepped up and deked the goalkeeper on a one-on-one chance for his second of the game. Then after a misplaced pass by Air Force near the net, Andrew Endsley scored off a rebound shot to finish the night with a victory for CMU.
“They just turned the puck over a lot in their own zone,” Winegard said. “And we were able to capitalize. I think that had a lot to do with it. I think being embarrassed last night at home had something to do with it. Also, our big-time players stepped up. Max Cavanaugh, he’s a rookie, but he’s one of our more skilled players. I think he played fantastic.”
“The energy in the locker room was a lot better than yesterday,” Falcon said. “You could just tell people wanted to win this game. I think that translates out on the ice and we end up with a W.”
Obviously, a win is important, but Saturday’s win against Air Force is more than just a simple victory for the squad.
“I think yes we get a win against a top team right now and in our conference,” Winegard said. “So that’s a good thing; but at the same time as a confidence builder, this is huge. This is a big deal moving forward just having the confidence to know we can play like this.”
With the new-found confidence, the Mavericks will look to deliver again in front of their home crowd this upcoming Friday and Saturday against Montana State. The games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and 4 p.m. respectively.