Helped along by superb net play from freshman Doug Lesch, the Rams (21-3-2) took care of business against the overmatched Wyoming Cowboys (8-10-0) this past weekend. Lesch, getting his first ice time of the season stopped every shot he saw, including a handful of breakaways.
"It's all about practice, that's what I got," Lesch said. "Keeping warm and taking one shot at a time."
Assisting on a 6-0 shutout Friday night, Lesch did everything a coach can ask for out of any goaltender, much less the depth chart anchor.
"He doesn't get the time as the other two, but he stays with it so he will get the time," said Head Coach Joe Sharrock. "The best thing a player can do is be dedicated."
For the Cowboys, the weekend was all about frustration. In the third period on Saturday night, goaltender Kenny Ainsworth decided to get involved in a scrum in the corner, involving all 10 skaters on the ice. Having already allowed seven goals on the evening in a 7-2- loss, he tossed his helmet and dog piled on the mass of bodies. Head Coach Scott Wiseman then removed Ainsworth from the game, replacing him with Robby Kerch.
"It showed on the ice, when things get sloppy, people get frustrated," Sharrock said. "But we buried the puck all night and played well."
Now for the Rams, all attention will be focused on Rochester, N.Y., where they are potentially five wins away from their first national title since the 1994-95 season, when they were the host team.
"Our defense is playing well, same with our goaltending and even our offense right now," said sophomore center Tim Stiller. "If we play our game we'll be tough to contend with."
The Rams will have regular practice this week and will fly out to Rochester on March 7. They'll play their first game on the morning of March 8. The tight travel schedule does not seem to worry the team or the coach.
"On long trips it's key to get into a routine," Sharrock said. "For these guys that's in bed by 4 (a.m.) and up at 11 (a.m.) after missing the first class, so we're about normal."
Pool play opponents for CSU starting on March 8 include: Bryant University (8-7-3, No. 9 in northeast region), Central Michigan University (12-12-1, No. 8 in central region) and Wagner University (27-5-3, No. 1 in southeast region). The Rams ended the regular season as the number two seed in the west region, and along with San Jose State (26-1-1) got automatic bids to the tournament.
Also headed to New York from the west are Denver University (12-6-1) and Colorado University (12-10-1), both of whom played their ways in through the regional tournament.
Follow the Rams in nationals starting March 8 at www.achachampionships.com