Injuries and suspensions from last Saturday’s game against CU will have a major impact on the CSU Rams club hockey team’s game against Eastern Washington Eagles Saturday night at Edora Pool and Ice Center.
The Rams (19-8-2) will be missing half of their top three lines and two of their top defensemen.
The second-ranked Eagles (18-3-2), along with top-ranked CU, received an automatic bid to the American Collegiate Hockey Association Nationals Division-II tournament March 12-15.
Rams coach Joe Sharrock’s main goal is to have his team ready for the Western Regional’s tournament in Oakland, Calif., on Feb. 22, but he still wants to set the tone for next weekend with a victory.
“I am resting a number of injured players because, as a coach, my primary focus is on Regional’s,” he said. “I’m looking at this as a chance for some guys who may not be our traditional go-to guys to step it up and show that they can excel at this level.”
Sharrock was disqualified in the third period of the CU game and will be suspended from the bench this week as well. However, he is confident in his assistant coaching staff’s abilities.
“Assistant coaches Kelly Newton and Shawn Edwards are well or more qualified to run the bench in my absence,” he said. “I will stand on the sidelines and give pointers between periods and run my general pre-game activities.”
Doug Robinson, Jake McFarland and Casey Schermerhorn were also suspended from play on Saturday because of disqualifications against CU.
CSU tied Eastern Washington in their previous two games on Dec. 1 and 2, and Sharrock noted that they are a tough team no matter where they play.
“EWU is a good and well conditioned team and play tough no matter if on the road or at home,” he said. “They’ve had a pretty light schedule compared to ours, but regardless are a damn good team.”
Simply protecting the Rams’ home ice is all the motivation Ram junior forward Tim Stiller needs for Saturday.
“Anytime a good team comes into your barn it is a big and important game,” Stiller said via e-mail. “. I think the team is really coming together right now. We have more team depth, size, skill and better goaltending than any team in the Western Division.”
The third-ranked Rams already know that they’ll be playing eighth-ranked Oregon at Regional’s next weekend.
They defeated the Ducks 5-2 on Jan. 12. Despite having Regional’s on his mind, Sharrock is confident in that his team will show up for the team’s final regular season game.
“The players on this team are competitive with whatever they set out to accomplish and take pride in playing well and stomping good teams,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll have to fire them up one bit in the locker room this weekend.”
The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
Sports reporter Brandon Owens can be reached at email@example.com.