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Tigers just short in final try at WCHA playoff title

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It seemed unlikely, improbable, and possibly impossible a week ago. But how close it really was. The Colorado College Tigers' postseason run came to an end on Saturday night in the championship game of the WCHA Final Five tournament in St. Paul, MN. The Tigers fell to Wisconsin 3-2, ending CC's season. Wisconsin will get the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins this coming Friday. This is their first conference playoff title since 1998.

Both teams needed the win to get into the big tourney. The Badgers get in with a nice run that includes 21 wins since the beginning of December. CC finishes with an 18-19-5 record.

What looked like a scoreless first period suddenly changes when the Badgers' Tyler Barnes put a rebound past Tiger goalie Joe Howe with just 17 seconds left. Howe was again excellent in what would become his last game in a Tiger uniform.

The second period saw most of the excitement. Sean Little tipped a dipping shot from Jake McCabe past how at the 3:28 mark for a 2-0 Badger lead. CC then came back to notch their first goal at 7:19. Charlie Taft, who got the series winner against Denver last Sunday, tipped a Rylan Schwartz pass past Wisconsin goalie Joel Rumpel.

A big moment came with 5:43 left in the period when a Wisconsin goal was disallowed, as it was determined that the puck went in off the left hand of Little. But Wisconsin would retake a two-goal lead anyway two minutes later, when Nic Kerdiles scored on another rebound. But CC trimmed the margin again on Rylan Schwartz's 20th goal of the year, beating Rumpel just under the crossbar. That goal came with 28 seconds left in the period, and just seconds after Howe stopped Barnes on a breakaway.

The third period was very tight checking, with neither side getting many quality chances. Howe made a big save on Kerdiles with 2:10 left, keeping Tiger hopes alive, but they could not get the equalizer after pulling Howe with 1:09 left.

So CC will now leave the Western Collegiate Hockey Association without, unfortunately, ever winning the Broadmoor Trophy, given to the conference tournament champion. Next season the Tigers will be part of the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which will carry over six teams from the current WCHA.

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